It was almost 90 years ago when Starr Ranch Growers sprung up in the heart of Washington’s apple country, shipping apples in wooden boxes and old whiskey barrels. The company began with just 15 growers packing out of a single shed, but over the decades has grown to more than 7,000 acres of orchards and multiple plant locations, remaining a trusted fruit grower, packer, and shipper since 1934.
“Here at Starr Ranch Growers, we pride ourselves on growing more than just fruit—we’re growing families, communities, and a better planet,” said Dan Davis, director of business development for the Wenatchee, WA-based company. “Our orchards belong to multi-generational farming families who grow premium, wholesome fruit.”
Dan Davis, Director of Business Development, Starr Ranch Growers
Over the past two years, Starr Ranch Growers has worked hard on sourcing sustainable packaging for both its conventional and organic varieties. The results of those efforts have been a new pouch bag that is recyclable with store drop off and a 100 percent-recyclable corrugated box.
The HiC2 (Hi Clarity 2) pouch bags, which will eventually replace the bulk of Starr Ranch's inventory, are made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic, which is much more environmentally friendly.
This year, Starr Ranch will debut an organic version of its proprietary apple variety JUICI.
“It has been a huge success on the conventional side and well received by our retailers and consumers, so we're excited to be able to offer organic JUICI for the first time,” Davis said.
The company knew early on that organics would be important and has invested in the segment over the years to keep up with demand.
“We have developed strong partnerships with organic growers here in Washington State and around the world, which has allowed our organic supply to be available year-round to our customers,” Davis said. “We have heavily invested in one of our core partners—Gilbert Orchards in Yakima, WA—who is a big organic grower in the area.”
“It has been a huge success on the conventional side and well received by our retailers and consumers, so we're excited to be able to offer organic JUICI for the first time.” - Dan Davis
Being forward-thinking has always been a big part of the Starr Ranch way—starting with the founder and original owner, the late Paul “Tommy” Thomas. He believed in the power of hard work, honesty, and treating others with respect, and those same values continue to this day, with team members using these traits as a guide in daily operations.
“In all stages of our business, from growing to packing and shipping, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity,” Davis said. “The company is proudly rooted in the traditions Thomas started back in 1934.”
Back then, the majority of the fruit was grown on the original 300-acre Starr Ranch, south of Pateros on the beautiful Columbia River. But in the 1960s, the orchard was flooded with the construction of Wells Dam.
That led Thomas and his partners at the time to acquire two additional 100-acre ranches near Brewster, giving rise to the company’s first packing plant, which continues on as one of Starr Ranch Growers’ warehouses today.
“In all stages of our business, from growing to packing and shipping, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of integrity.” - Dan Davis
Starr Ranch Growers is currently owned and operated by Paul “Tommy” Thomas’s grandson Jim Thomas, who continues to run the company with the same philosophy as his grandfather.
“We grow fruit with more than just taste in mind,” Davis said. “We’re passionate about using sustainable farming, shipping, and packaging practices that will keep our orchards plentiful for generations to come.”
While the company continues to find success, like most Washington apple growers and shippers, Starr Ranch has been dealing with a short apple crop, which was the result of extreme weather last year.
Still, the folks at Starr Ranch Growers remain optimistic and continue to provide their customers with the best fruit around, regularly harvesting and shipping close to 750 million fresh apples annually.
“New varieties are constantly being developed, and each year will offer an opportunity to see these hit the marketplace and consumers being able to try them,” Davis said.