Breaking from its longtime marketer, Delta, British Columbia-based Houweling Nurseries is starting its own sales organization.

The greenhouse grower-shipper began the process of moving into its own sales from The Oppenheimer Group with the late September hiring of Southern California produce sales veteran Bill Wilber as its vice president of sales. Wilber was director of sales for Oceanside Pole, the marketing arm of Harry Singh & Sons, Oceanside, Calif., which closed in April.

Houweling grows greenhouse tomatoes in Delta and Camarillo, Calif., according to a news release.

Casey Houweling, chief executive officer, lauded Vancouver, British Columbia-based Oppenheimer’s assistance and said Houweling wouldn’t have achieved its success without Oppenheimer’s help. Oppenheimer marketed for Houweling since 2002.

“Houwelings had kept us apprised of their plans to make this transition over the last few years, and we congratulate them on their efforts,” said David Smith, senior vice president of North American sales at Oppenheimer. “We look forward to working with them to support their success over time, and help assure continued excellence in customer service.”

Wilber said Houweling, which calls itself the third-largest U.S. greenhouse operator, is moving into the new model to better serve its customers through reducing distribution costs.

“The hope is to try to bring the customer closer to the grower,” Wilber said. “With everything going on in the environment now between sustainability and locally grown and all those things, this is a tremendous opportunity to tie it closer together and be more efficient and more productive.”

Though Houweling plans to focus on retail sales, Wilber said it is exploring opportunities to sell to foodservice distributors which service white tablecloth restaurants.

Houweling, which grows beefsteak, tomatoes on the vine and other specialty tomatoes plus smaller volumes of cucumbers, expects to ship 9 million equivalent cartons this coming year.

Wilber, a 30-year produce sales veteran, formerly worked in the Coachella Valley grape industry at places such as Sun World International Inc., Coachella, Calif., and sold for Oceanside Pole for 11 years.