Produce industry veteran Jim Gallagher has been named chief executive officer of Fruit Patch Sales Inc.

Gallagher, who most recently worked as general manager of Salinas, Calif.-based Organicgirl Produce LLC, a subsidiary of Salinas-basee NewStar Fresh Foods, was scheduled to begin at Fruit Patch April 30, said Wil Garland, Dinuba, Calif.-based Fruit Patch’s board chairman.

Gallagher succeeds Scott Wallace, Fruit Patch’s former chief executive officer and president, who left the company in December 2010.

Fruit Patch is a leading shipper of California-grown stone fruit, grapes, citrus and other fruit.

Gallagher’s sales experience played a major role in his hiring, Garland said.

“We wanted someone with significant experience and with specific talents in sales and marketing,” Garland said. “We felt we needed to shore up our sales and marketing.”

The need for a strong sales presence at Fruit Patch had been keenly felt since the 2010 departure of Sheri Mierau, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, Garland said.

Gallagher, Garland said, has a strong record of building revenue and establishing new retail business.

“Jim’s high level of experience doing that with premium salads we felt was a perfect fit for us.”

Before joining NewStar in 2007, Gallagher was vice president of global sales for Cincinnati-based Chiquita Brands International. He also has worked for Kraft, Procter & Gamble and other food companies.

Since 2006, when a majority interest in Fruit Patch was purchased by Bethesda, Md.-based venture capital firm American Capital Strategies Ltd., the company has struggled with executive turnover.

Wallace, CEO and president for less than 18 months, was the company’s third president since the American Capital buy-in. Mierau, who served for less than a year, was the fourth person to hold v.p. of sales and marketing since the buy-in.

And in November, Bill Byers succeeded Doug Reader as the company’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer.