(Web Editor’s Note: This article is updated, extended coverage of a story we first posted on Dec. 19)

(Jan. 5, 11:10 a.m.) Rick Eastes, whose produce industry career spans more than three decades, is the new vice president of sales and marketing for Fruit Patch Sales LLC, Dinuba, Calif.

The move to Fruit Patch, which was effective Dec. 8, comes about a year-and-a-half after Eastes returned to the San Joaquin Valley as director of special projects for Ballantine Produce Co. Inc., Sanger, Calif.

Eastes and Glen McClaran, president of Fruit Patch, were out of the office and unavailable the week of Dec. 29.

“At Fruit Patch we look forward to enhancing those elements that promote stone fruit consumption to the benefit of all stakeholders, be they our buyers, growers, or our employees who work so hard to produce a truly fine eating stone fruit experience,” Eastes said in a news release.

The valley is familiar territory to Eastes. Prior to joining Ballantine Produce, he was director of global sourcing for Sunkist Global LLC for 3 ½ years. The company is a division of Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., and Eastes maintained an office at the parent company’s national sales office in Visalia.

Before Sunkist, Eastes had several positions during 15 years with The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, and was periodically based in Visalia. Before that he worked for DiMare Fresh Inc., Dallas, Texas.

Eastes’ arrival marks another major change at Fruit Patch in recent years. American Capital Strategies Ltd., Bethesda, Md., acquired 80% of Fruit Patch from the Balakian family in 2006. Late that year, McClaran was made president of the company Leo and Rosalie Balakian founded in 1975. Their sons, Anthony and Vance Balakian, remain active in the company.

Fruit Patch grows and markets a wide variety of commodities. Among them are kiwifruit, pomegranates, cherries, Asian pears and persimmons in addition to stone fruit and citrus.

Forrys depart

Eastes’ arrival at Fruit Patch coincided with the departures of John Forry, director of marketing, Dewey Forry, export manager, and salesman Mike Forry.

A year ago, John Forry closed the doors to the Reedley office of J.D. Forry Co. Inc., Novato, Calif., and took his entire staff to Fruit Patch after the majority of the Dinuba company’s sales staff had scattered to other grower-shippers. The future for Forry is not yet determined.

“I want to sit back for a little bit and kind of smell the roses and then make the decision on what direction I’m going,” Forry said. “All I can tell you is that we’re in the produce business. I like it. I like the people, and I want to continue to make a difference if I can.”

Among the possibilities, he said, is resurrecting the business his father founded 37 years ago.

“If I do revive J.D. Forry to perpetuate my father’s good name, that will be an honor,” Forry said. “It was a tough call to pack it up a year ago."