(April 15) GEORGE, Wash. — An alliance of growers, packers and marketers plans to ship 1 million packs of certified organic produce from an organic-only packinghouse.

Sustainable Organic Family Farms is a group of about 50 growers, seven marketers and a packer that is marketing organic fruit from family farms in Washington and New Zealand.

Members include marketers King Blossom Natural, King Organic Sales, CDS Distributing, Pacific Organic Produce, AltaFresh, Peshastin Hi-Up Growers and Snokist Growers and packer PAC Organic.

The group expects to ship about a million cartons of organic apricots, cherries, peaches, plums, nectarines, apriums, pluots, pears, and apples this year. Even fingerling potatoes will be offered.

Under the alliance, growers will pack their fruit at PAC Organic in George in their own labels and eventually in a Sustainable Organic Family Farms label.

Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Greenfield, Mass.-based Organic Trade Association, said growers have long found it useful to come together in ways like this to achieve their goals.

“It’s a useful tool for farmers to market their products,” she said. “If their message resonates with customers, I think groups like this are always a welcome addition to the marketplace.”

PAC Organic is one of the only year-round certified organic packers and shippers in Washington, said Harold Ostenson, founder and grower liaison for PAC Organic.

As such, the 8-year-old company serves as an organic distribution point for organic growers in the Pacific Northwest and surrounding states.

For example, some small growers in northern Colorado send their organic fingerling potatoes to PAC Organic, where they fit into a mix that allows buyers to conduct one-stop shopping, he said.

The participating marketing companies will have access to sell the fruit from any of the labels, said Nancy Dudney, marketing manager for Wenatchee-based King Blossom Natural and King Organic Sales.

“The problem with being an independent operation is that customers now want one-stop shopping,” Dudney said. “The alliance will allow the marketers to offer the whole range of organic fruit and varieties to their customers while giving sustainable organic family farmers the chance to sell their products more efficiently.”

Domestic organic storage apples already are available.

Buyers in mid-April will be able to purchase organic galas from small New Zealand growers through the alliance. Soon thereafter, organic braeburns will appear as well.

By mid-June, the alliance will offer organic Washington cherries.