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OPN Connect Newsletter 332 · August 10, 2023

Rainier Fruit Increasing Organic Envy Apple Crop


A family-owned company representing fourth- and fifth-generation Washington growers, Rainier Fruit is looking to continue the success of its organic Envy apple crop this upcoming season.

“We’ve seen great success with the Envy variety overall and are excited to increase our organic availability,” said Blake Belknap, vice president of sales for the Selah, Washington-based company. “Constant improvement in our products and how we do business is at the heart of our company philosophy. Within that, we really believe that growing organically is the right way to farm despite the extra costs and hurdles.”

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Blake Belknap, Vice President of Sales, Rainier Fruit

The roots of Rainier Fruit go back five generations to the late 1800s, beginning with the Zirkle family growing apples and hay in the Yakima Valley to make ends meet. In the ’50s, the company’s founder, Lester Zirkle, committed to growing apples full time, building the foundations of Zirkle Fruit as it’s known today.

“The benefit of our deeply rooted family ownership is not only a foundation built on lifetimes of experience but also a long-term focused mindset to stay ahead of the curve from farm to table,” said Belknap. “We believe our fruit reflects this company-wide passion and care for growing and packing quality fruit that brings consumers back for more.”

“Constant improvement in our products and how we do business is at the heart of our company philosophy. Within that, we really believe that growing organically is the right way to farm despite the extra costs and hurdles.” - Blake Belknap

Vitalis February 2024

Rainier Fruit Company was founded in 1974 by Lester and his son Bill to bring their fruit together with a small group of other growers under a single-marketed brand. Today, Rainier Fruit is still proudly owned and operated by the Zirkle family, maintaining a mission of providing quality fruit grown, packed, and shipped with care.

Zirkle Family

“We currently provide a full menu of US-grown organic apples, pears, cherries, and blueberries,” Belknap said. “Specifically, we’ve supplied organic apples year-round for five seasons now, which is something we’re really excited to offer again this season as well despite a shorter crop.”

Fox Packaging January February 2024

In addition to the Envy, other apple varieties that do well for the company include Honeycrisp, Lady Alice, Gala, Pink Lady, Cosmic Crisp, and more.

Envy organic apples

The modern consumer has made it clear that they are willing to spend a little more for products that align with their values, such as supporting produce grown with the environment and their health in mind. Therefore, Rainier Fruit is continuing to push the boundaries of what it means to provide an organic product through initiatives designed to save, reduce, and reuse resources. The company maintains a permanent pollinator habitat in its fields and goes above and beyond organic growing standards.

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“We believe our fruit reflects this company-wide passion and care for growing and packing quality fruit that brings consumers back for more.” - Blake Belknap

In fact, Rainier Fruit’s growing operations have extended a lot of organic farming methods to its conventional blocks in the name of increasing quality despite not being able to sell the fruit as organic.

“Some may think it’s a waste of money, but we do it because it works and believe it translates to a better-tasting product with less impact on the environment,” Belknap said.

Rainier pollinator habitat

Rainier Fruit also utilizes high-density plantings, with up to 3,000 trees per acre as opposed to the 112-245 trees on traditional sites. The company noted that these types of orchards have numerous sustainability features including saving labor, reducing total land use, improving water efficiency, and making it easier and safer for employees to prune and harvest.

“Some may think [extending organic farming methods to our conventional blocks is] a waste of money, but we do it because it works and believe it translates to a better-tasting product with less impact on the environment.” - Blake Belknap

Thanks to more than 20 years of experience with the latest in organic farming and storage practices, Rainier Fruit is able to confidently ship domestic organic apples year-round.

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Rainier organic Envy apples

“Additionally, our blueberries are 100 percent organically grown, and we offer a full selection of organic pears and cherries,” Belknap said. “Our goal is to continue driving the consumption engine by increasing the availability of tasty organic fruit. We’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and capital into building our organic programs from field to pack so that we can keep shelves stocked with quality Washington fruit throughout the year.”

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