Good Fruit Grower

January 15

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Page 24 of 47 Good Fruit Grower JANUARY 15, 2015 25 Holly focused on finding customers for the fruit, and they all worked on keeping them coming back for more because of its high quality. "We were brand new," Jill said. "Stone fruit was our forte. That's what we started out with, and that's what we were known for." Stemilt However, they soon realized they couldn't just pack stone fruits for three to four months and leave the facility idle for the rest of the year, so they began packing apples and now pack about 3 million boxes annually. Their relationship with Stemilt Growers began when they started hydrocooling cherries for Stemilt's Tri-Cities-area growers. Then, they decided to have their cherries packed at Stemilt rather than run a line themselves for just a couple of weeks. Later, Douglas supplied stone fruits and apples to Stemilt as needed, packed under the Stemilt label. In 2004, Stemilt took over the sales and marketing of all Douglas's fruit, though Douglas Fruit still has a small sales department that works under the Stemilt umbrella. And Douglas gave up its label to pack every- thing under the Stemilt brand. "That was a big decision for us," said David. "Once you give up your marketing department, you're not going back. But we made the jump." The timing was right. As retail buyers had consolidated and grown larger, they were looking for suppliers who had the full range of fruits to offer, including apples and pears. And, after the Washington Apple Commission had to stop promoting apples in the domestic market, suppliers who were big enough to have their own merchandising PHOTOS BY TJ MULLINAX/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Douglas Fruit Company is the largest stone fruit packer in Washington. Below, a peach ripens at Graystone Orchard, which is owned by Douglas Fruit Company.

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