(Sept. 25) YAKIMA, Wash. — Columbia Reach Pack and Eakin Fruit Co., both of Yakima, have signed an agreement with Oneonta Trading Corp., Wenatchee, to market product under the Starr Ranch label, beginning with the 2003 harvest.

The two companies join two other Yakima-based companies, C&G Orchards and Voelker Fruit & Cold Storage Inc., that have been marketing under the Starr Ranch label for several years. Oneonta will serve as the exclusive sales agent for the group.

Columbia previously had a marketing arrangement with Sage Marketing LLC, also of Yakima, but left that agreement to sign with Oneonta.

Sage was founded in 1999 as the exclusive sales and marketing arm for Columbia; Olympic Fruit Sales Inc., Moxee; and Valley Fruit III LLC, Wapato. Sage recently signed a partnership agreement with Inland-Joseph Co., which will replace Columbia.

Eakin, on the other hand, has always done its own marketing. Ron Eakin, co-owner of the company, said that fact has made this season a bit of a change for his company.

“This is the first time an Eakin hasn’t been selling fruit since 1966,” he said. “We’re changing roles a little bit from our end of the deal.”

Eakin said part of the reason for the change is that John Eakin, the company’s president and general manager for 20 years, retired in June. His absence has left a lot of roles to be filled by the remaining family members, including that of marketing.

“Oneonta is a nice fit for us,” he said. “They’ve got the horses, so we’re going for the ride.”

Scott Marboe, sales manager for Oneonta, said that under the terms of the agreement, Oneonta will be responsible for marketing everything that Columbia and Eakin pack out of their warehouses, including apples, pears and stone fruit.