Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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28 MAY 15, 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER O regon Cherry Growers, Inc., is on a path to take fresh and pro- cessed cherries to new territory. The grower cooperative is test marketing fresh cherries packed under a leading berry consumer brand this season and launching new maraschino-type products to spur consumption. The cooperative, with about $65 million in annual sales, processed over 27 million pounds of cherries last year that came from grow- er-members and offline fruit from Northwest packing houses. The roots of Oregon Cherry Growers go back to the tough economic times of The Great Depression when many coop- eratives were organized to help improve returns for grower-owners. Today's cooperative, headquartered in Salem, is the result of a 1984 merger between two coopera- tives, The Dalles Cherry Growers, which dates back to 1924, and the Salem-based Willamette Valley Cherry Growers that began in 1932. The co-op's membership of about 60 grow- ers is equally split between the Willamette Valley, where most of the processed cherries are grown, and The Dalles region, where fresh and some processed are produced. Tim Ramsey, president and chief executive officer, has been the head of the cooperative for two years. Ramsey, who has three decades of marketing experience in the food and beverage industry, believes growth opportunities for the co-op are in value-added products. He's putting his belief into action as Oregon Cherry Growers launches several new products this year. Fresh The cooperative sends its fresh cherries to Wapato, Washington, for packing by Pacific Coast Cherry Packers, a joint venture between Sage Fruit Company and Oregon Cherry Growers. Sage Fruit markets the cooperative's fresh cherries. Oregon-produced cherries are hydro-cooled at The Dalles facility and trucked to Wapato for packing. The Washington-Oregon partnership, cre- ated nearly ten years ago, allowed both the cooperative and Sage Fruit to pool resources to upgrade cherry packing equipment. Last year, about 700,000 boxes of cherries were packed at the Wapato facility, with about half coming from Sage Fruit orchards and half from the cooperative's grower-members. New optical sorting technology installed at Pacific Coast Cherry Packers will make its debut this season. "The optical sorter will allow us to sort and size more accurately," said Ramsey. "The technology will allow our grow- ers to get all the ups for size premiums and be paid fairly for what he or she grew." And while optical sorters, with sophisticated cameras and computers that sort for specific size, color, and defect are becoming more widespread on West Coast cherry packing Cherry Oregon Cherry Growers is focused on expanding value-added products. by Melissa Hansen positioned for CO-OP OREGON CHERRY GROWERS Oregon Cherry Growers recently launched this package of maraschino cherries for food service. A similar line for retail also has been developed. Cherries GROWTH "This is really about looking after growers' fruit and doing everything I can to provide the grower-owners with the highest return possible." —Tim Ramsey

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