(Sept. 25) YAKIMA, Wash. — Inland-Joseph Fruit Co. has become a partner in Sage Marketing LLC, replacing the recently departed Columbia Reach Pack.

The move came after the Yakima-based Columbia Reach Pack’s agreement with Oneonta Trading Corp., Wenatchee. Starting this year, Columbia will market its fruit under that company’s Starr Ranch label.

Sage Marketing was founded in 1999 by Columbia along with Olympic Fruit Sales Inc., Moxee; and Valley Fruit III LLC, Wapato.

Peter Verbrugge, general manager of Sage Marketing and owner of Valley Fruit, said Columbia announced its decision to leave in June, prompting Sage to search for a new partner.

“We started looking around at different packing operations in the state and who would be a good fit for us in partnership,” he said. “Inland-Joseph was at the top of our list.”

With the addition of Wapato-based Inland-Joseph, Sage will market more than 5 million cartons of apples for the 2003 crop, including 300,000 cartons of organic apples. Verbrugge said Sage marketed about 4 million cartons of apples for the 2002 crop.

Inland-Joseph also offers more than 1 million cartons of pears and half a million boxes of cherries, along with a full line of stone fruit and organic tree fruit, all of which are new to Sage.