One of Central California’s oldest family farming operations has turned a new leaf.

Firebaugh-based Oro Loma Ranch has formed Ruby Fresh, a marketing firm that will focus solely on selling pomegranates and pomegranate seeds, also known as arils.

“We’re looking at shipping about 250,000 cartons of fresh pomegranates this season,” said George Neves, who will handle domestic marketing for Ruby Fresh.

The company plans to market only wonderful variety pomegranates with the picking scheduled to begin about Oct. 14, Neves said. Ruby Fresh anticipates it will have enough fruit to ship pomegranates into next year.

The California-grown fruit will be harvested on Oro Loma Ranch farmland and on other San Joaquin Valley farms represented by Ruby Fresh, Neves said. The orchards cover about 4,000 acres, but Neves said most of the trees are young.

“We anticipate our volume in 2011-12 will double,” he said. “It could exceed 500,000 cartons,” he said.

The fresh pomegranates will be packed under the Ruby Fresh label at Enns Packing Co. Inc., Dinuba, where Ruby Fresh has established sales offices.

“We’ll pack the fruit however the customer wants it,” Neves said.

The bulk of the volume, he said, will probably be packed in one layer Eurocartons, two-layer cartons and display bins.

The arils will be processed at Ruby Fresh’s own packing facility in Mendota, Neves said.

“They will be packed-to-order in 5-ounce and 8-ounce containers,” he said. “We guarantee them to our customers for 15 days after day-of-pack providing the retailers maintain the cold chain.”

Neves is a veteran fresh fruit salesman. He was with now-closed Ito Packing, Reedley, for 15 years. Joining Neves in the Ruby Fresh office will be John Early, another marketing veteran who will oversee the company’s export sales.

Ruby Fresh may be reached by telephone at 559-351-5855.

The company’s long-range goal is to offer pomegranates and arils on a year-round basis.

“This is a young company on a very quick growth path,” Neves said. “We’re developing offshore sources, and in 2011 we’ll be one of the largest importers of Chilean pomegranates and arils.”

Ruby Fresh is scheduled to begin selling Chilean pomegranates in April, Neves said.

Owners of Oro Loma Ranch represent the fifth generation of the family that founded the company. It also grows almonds, asparagus and olives for olive oil.