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TRAVER, CA -- When Louis Scattaglia, managing member of Scattaglia Growers & Shippers LLC in Traver, CA, and an owner of Scattaglia Farms in Littlerock, CA, first began putting together a small group of growers to form SGS, he had in mind a "very deliberate underlying strategy" with respect to the geographical locations of the orchards, according to Dave Parker, marketing director for SGS.

"Strategically, this company was put together to give the retailer a way to differentiate in his marketplace" with great-eating fruit "weeks earlier than his competition is going to put it out on the shelf," continue supplying the same quality product through the season and then continue supplying retailers with similar fruit "that is picked fresh for an additional month or six weeks after everybody else has finished harvesting and is shipping out of storage, if they are shipping at all," Mr. Parker said.

Scattaglia Farms itself is located not in the San Joaquin Valley, where most California stone fruit is grown, but on a high desert plateau in Southern California, where, due to the elevation, warm days and cool nights prolonged the maturation of the fruit and enabled the company to harvest a given variety for several weeks after the same variety was finished in the San Joaquin Valley.

When SGS was formed, two other growing areas were added to the Scattaglia Farms' high desert production: the Traver area in the central San Joaquin Valley, which produces fruit through the main part of the season; and the Maricopa area at the extreme southern end of the valley, where fruit comes on earlier than other regions in the state.

Maricopa meets the needs for the early start, as early as the first week in May, Mr. Parker said. "There is a special little microclimate there that enables the same varieties that we have here in Traver to mature a couple of weeks earlier with full flavor," full maturity, "and all of the attributes that they have two weeks later when they start up here in the main growing region."

It is the latitude of Maricopa that accounts for its earliness and the altitude of Littlerock that accounts for its lateness, compared with the main season in the Central Valley, Mr. Parker said.

Mr. Scattaglia referred to the concept as "seasonal geographic strategy," which just happens to have the same initials as SGS, Mr. Parker noted. "We know that retailers are always looking to get started earlier in the stone fruit deal," he said. "They are also looking for extra revenue at the end of the deal."

Added to the company's original three growers this year are two new growers, both in the Central Valley. They are Keith Kosart, a plum grower in Exeter who packs the "Arboleda" label, and Ito Farms in Delano. "We are packing 60 percent of the [stone] fruit that Ito is still growing," Mr. Parker said.

The other fruit is packed under SGS's "Sun Disk" label.

With production in the three different geographic areas, "we can have a run of a particular variety for a very long time," Mr. Parker said. If the growers in each district agree on "just the very best varieties, ... you can have a very long run of a very desirable variety," providing much more consistency to a program.