Dalton Thomas, owner and president of Wenatchee, Wash.-based Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers, has announced plans to retire.

He started his produce career in 1965 as an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and has been with Oneonta for 52 years, according to a news release.

Oneonta will remain under family ownership.

The company included in its release numerous tributes to Thomas from others in the industry.

Todd Fryhover, president of the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, gave an endorsement about his knowledge of export markets.

“Dalton was a stalwart supporter of our programs, seeing the value of increasing international promotional activities for the benefit of the entire industry,” Fryhover said in the release. “He was always in attendance, and I frequently sought his insights into markets and importers looking into future direction. It was difficult to see Dalton leave the WAC board because his international expertise can’t be replaced.”

David Garcia, president and CEO for Hood River, Ore.-based Diamond Fruit, whose pears are marketed by Oneonta, also complimented Thomas.

“We’ve been with Dalton for about 10 years — prior to that we had our own marketing desk and worked to get our pears and cherries into stores,” Garcia said in the release. “We’d heard some very good things about Oneonta and especially about Dalton. I was struck by what a genuine, down to earth person he is.

“That’s one of his best traits,” Garcia said. “And the quality that ties us to him most is his honesty. Everything he’s ever told us he’s lived up to.”

Reggie Collins, vice president and director of Chelan, Wash.-based Chelan Fresh, has known Thomas for more than 40 years and also had kind words to share.

“I can’t say enough good things about Dalton,” Collins said in the release. “He’s competitive to the hilt. He does not like to lose, and he doesn’t lose very often. I’ll miss him in business, but this might give us more time as friends to do things. The industry will certainly miss him.”