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Kevin Andrew, who has been with Sun World Inc. for 26 years, including the last half dozen as chief operating officer, recently left the organization to take a similar position with Columbine Vineyards, one of the older California grape producers and shippers.

Headquartered in Delano, CA, Columbine Vineyards is the marketing arm of M. Caratan Inc., a third-generation table grape grower with roots dating back more than 90 years. In fact, Martin Caratan, president and chief executive officer of Columbine, said that the company's founders were among the original Delano grape growers. The company was founded in 1919 as a growing operation and began shipping under its own label in 1926.

"We are extremely pleased to welcome Mr. Andrew at this stage of our company," Mr. Caratan said in a Nov. 30 prepared statement. “We are very fortunate to find an executive of Kevin’s caliber. His knowledge, background and values make him a key addition to our management team. His experience in helping to grow one of the most respected agricultural companies in the world will be invaluable to us in our pursuit to become one of the leading organizations in the industry.”

Mr. Caratan told The Produce News that Columbine Vineyards was in an expansion and growth mode for the last several years, and it needed more firepower in its senior management ranks. “The timing is right for us,” he said.

In the prepared statement, Chris Caratan, Columbine Vineyards vice president and director of sales and marketing, as well as Martin Caratan’s cousin and a partner in the operation, said, “Kevin will be an important asset to our continuing success. We are very excited that Kevin has come on board. Columbine Vineyards is serious about the commitment to produce high quality, and Kevin’s responsible leadership will greatly assure our imperative of delivering that quality consistently.”

Still another member of the firm’s management team, Matt Surber, senior partner and director of agriculture, added in the statement, “Kevin’s viticulture and agribusiness expertise greatly increases our growing capabilities. Working with Kevin to strengthen our operation is going to be invigorating. Having an accomplished veteran like Kevin to help chart the course is thrilling, and collaborating with him will unleash untapped potential.”

Mr. Andrew grew up in the San Joaquin Valley, the son of an executive for Superior Farming. He went to college at Fresno State University, where he played basketball and earned a degree in viticulture. He began his produce industry career in 1979 managing field operations for a California grape grower, where he remained for five years before joining Superior Farming as an area superintendent. He has been with the firm ever since, surviving a number of changes in ownership, including the purchase by Sun World in 1990.

In a Nov. 30 e-mail announcing his move, Mr. Andrew said, in part, “Though I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to work for M. Caratan, leaving Sun World and the people I have become so close to is making this a very tough and emotional time for me. Sun World is truly family to me, and I leave knowing they are in a great position to continue being a leader in the produce industry. I realize the company I helped to build will be a staunch competitor now, and I look forward to the competition.”

He joined Columbine Vineyards Dec. 1.