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FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, based in Yakima, has added a new apple packer to its supply mix. Columbia Valley Fruit, a premier Yakima Valley packer of conventional and organic apples, will begin marketing its fruit through FirstFruits Marketing this season.

"We are responding to the marketplace," Orlin Knutson, co-owner of Columbia Valley Fruit, said in a Sept. 8 press release. Customers are telling us that they prefer to have direct access to the producer. This new marketing company creates that direct link between our customers and the grower.

In addition to Columbia Valley Fruit, the marketing company will also sell apples grown and packed by Broetje Orchards in Prescott, WA, making it one of the larger suppliers of organic apples in the state.

Mr. Knutson has been growing organic tree fruit since 1982, five years before the creation of an organic certification program in Washington state, and he understands the necessity to apply different strategies to different situations.

We believe this is the right time to transition to an independent sales desk that is owned and operated by producers and focused on delivering quality products, he added in the press release. This is a terrific opportunity for Columbia Valley Fruit and our base of dedicated growers.

FirstFruits Marketing of Washington will have an organic footprint that totals more than 1.5 million boxes of apples, pears, cherries and stone fruits. The company will also have an additional 5 million to 6 million boxes of conventional apples.

The marketing company is also focused on giving back to the community. Suppliers joining FirstFruits Marketing are pledging to donate at least 10 percent of their share of the profits from the marketing company to non- profit charities, focused on the under-served.

Columbia Valley Fruit is a natural addition to FirstFruits Marketing, Ralph Broetje, owner of Broetje Orchards, added in the press release. We are like minded in growing the best quality fruit possible, using sustainable practices that protects and returns value to the land.

FirstFruits Marketing staff includes sales specialists Matt Miles, Tim Cavanaugh, Chuck Zeutenhorst, Rich Roberts; Sales Manager Robbin Erickson; Marketing Manager Andy Tudor; Production Coordinator Jeff Weidner; and interim General Manager Jim Hazen.