By Keith Loria
Starr Ranch Growers started as a trading company in 1934 to broker goods from the U.S. to export destinations all over the world. Based in Wenatchee, WA, its orchard holdings and offerings became the principal business along with packing, and today the company is a vertically integrated entity from field to market.
Dan Davis, Director of Imports and Organics, Starr Ranch Growers
The company has long-term, strategic partnerships with some of the top fresh fruit growers in the world and a big part of its success is from its rise in the organic category.
“Starr Ranch has evolved in the organic category fairly rapidly,” says Dan Davis, director of imports and organics for the company. “A decade plus ago we sold a small portion of the organic manifest of one of our core partners, Gilbert Orchards. They were pioneers in organic farming, dabbling in newer and softer techniques before the NOP was even established.”
With increases in demand from the retail sector, Starr Ranch moved rapidly over the last decade from selling a part of their manifest side by side with others, to taking on their whole manifest as its preferred partner, to adding a second packer in Apple King.
“With that, we have two fully dedicated organic apple lines packing every day through the season to meet our retail demands, and looking for further growth with the two of these partners in the coming seasons,” Davis says. “This year, we have great opportunities to expand our presence in the organic market with the addition of organic cherries. This will be our first year as a certified organic cherry packer and adding that to our arsenal of products for our retail partners completes the picture of being a full-service organic provider.”
In 2019, Starr Ranch will work with the core Washington tree fruit commodities of apples, pear, cherries and stone fruit, with its organic stone fruit program growing by leaps and bounds the past two seasons.
“Organically our company philosophy is to provide the best fruit to market year-round,” Davis says. “We want to be the singular partner for our retailers every day of the season, and have them count on us to put the best fruit in front of their customers every day.”
One of the key challenges for Starr Ranch is providing the best organic product to market on a year-round basis.
“With the limits of what can be done to store organic product, we have a two-hemisphere approach to supplying the market,” Davis says. “Our core belief is that to continue the organic drive we have to provide the organic consumer with the best possible product and not hold fruit beyond its capacity. The logistics and coordination of having a supply base across multiple continents is a large challenge, but gives us the ability to put great eating fruit in front of the consumer every time they pick it up.”
Looking to its 2019 crops, things are looking strong and those at Starr Ranch are excited about what’s to come in the months ahead.
“This season marks a large increase for us with our organic apple tonnage, and all of this fruit is the best strains of the varieties retail has demanded,” Davis says. “With 50 percent growth in supply we’re poised to provide our partners with exactly what they need to grow the category. It’s a fun time to be a part of our organic efforts, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see the vision of the last two years come to fruition at Starr Ranch.”