(Nov. 22) DINUBA, Calif. — New Leaf Tree Fruit Co. LLC has dissolved its sales operations and will sell through Fruit Patch Sales LLC.

Traver-based New Leaf will add about 800,000 packages of stone fruit to Fruit Patch’s volume. Fruit Patch expects to handle more than 8 million packages of stone fruit during the 2005 season, said managing partner Anthony Balakian.

New Leaf will continue to operate its own growing and packing operation, said owner Mike Jost. New Leaf, owned by the Jost family, will pack under Fruit Patch’s labels, Jost said. New Leaf orchards are adjacent to Fruit Patch in Dinuba.

In 2002, New Leaf reported it handled more than 2 million packages of stone fruit and 800,000 packages of table grapes from its own orchards and outside growers.

Balakian said the New Leaf agreement involves only fruit from its own orchards.

According to Red Book Credit Service, Lenexa, Kan., owned by Vance Publishing Corp., publisher of The Packer, New Leaf’s sales desk included Eddie Hedstrom, Larry Olson, Jim Lamb and Kathy Wilson. None is still employed by New Leaf.

Jost said the sales office was closed this year. He declined to elaborate on when the personnel changes were made.

In 2003, New Leaf entered into an agreement to market California tree fruit and grapes for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Westlake Village, Calif., and packed under the Dole label. In February, The Sholl Group stated it planned to market New Leaf’s stone fruit under the Green Giant label.

Jost said New Leaf is no longer involved with either.
The sales accord between New Leaf and Fruit Patch is an example of the increasing number of California stone fruit grower-shippers becoming involved in agreements and partnerships in the last few years.

Dinuba-based Summeripe Worldwide Inc., Parlier-based Ripe N’ Ready and Fruit Patch are among the larger shippers comprised of several grower-shippers.

In June 2003, Ito Packing Co. Inc., Reedley, joined Ripe N’ Ready. The corporation is composed of five members who farm more than 20,000 acres. The company expected to ship 15 million boxes of stone fruit this season.

Family Tree Farms Inc., Reedley, joined Summeripe in April.

Summeripe shipped about 10 million cases of tree fruit in 2003.