Company History

Chelan Fresh Marketing, LLC.

Chelan Fresh Marketing was established in August 2004 and holds the sales and marketing responsibilities for Gebbers Farms and Chelan Fruit Cooperative.

Today, Chelan Fresh has grown to become one of Washington state’s largest marketers of fresh fruit with an estimated annual sale of 12 million boxes of apples, 1.3 million boxes of pears, 3.3 million boxes of cherries. Through volume and diversity of product offerings, Chelan Fresh continues to effectively provide quality fruit, outstanding levels of service, and appropriate technology that results in consistency every day of the year at competitive prices to retailers and consumers.

While serving as the link between the growers and the retailers to move fresh fruit, Chelan Fresh Marketing provides the vehicle for over 400 growers to market their fresh products under one roof.

Chelan Fresh Marketing shares roots with the oldest operating apple businesses in Washington State. Gebbers Farms has been established over 100 years and remains 100% family owned. The 9,000-acre apple and cherry farm is located in Brewster, Washington.

Gebbers Farms

With pioneering tenacity, the Gebbers family has built one of the world’s greatest sources of cherries and apples.

In 1885, Dan Gamble, great-great grandfather of the Gebbers Farms family, walked west from Nova Scotia to settle in Brewster, Washington. Within a few years he began growing fruit and running a local sawmill near the Columbia River in northern Washington.

Now in their fifth generation at Brewster, the family has become one of the largest apple and cherry growers in the world and also controls over 30,000 acres of timber land.

They farm 5,400 acres of apples and cherries, including a 4,000-acre block that is one of the largest contiguous apple orchards anywhere.

Large tracts of orchards are planted with uniform parent varieties, allowing the company to produce uniform grades of apples. Over 70 percent of their Red Delicious apples grade out as Premium or Washington Extra Fancy #1.

In 1968, the family planted some of Washington’s first Granny Smith apple trees and is now one of the leading sources of that variety, as well as Fuji, Red Delicious, Gala and Golden Delicious apples.

Over 20 years ago, Dan Gebbers foresaw the opportunity to expand the cherry marketing season by planting late-ripening cherry varieties at high elevations above Lake Chelan. “High and dry” is a good combination in the cherry business, as rain at harvest time is detrimental to cherry production. Dan’s chosen location was so rain-free that the wheat farmer who previously occupied the site went broke hoping for summer precipitation. Dan went to work building a 3 ½ mile pipeline that pumps lake water 1,600 vertical feet up the mountain. Gebbers Farms now picks cherries in late-July and early August and has expanded the highly successful cherry orchard to 300 acres. The family also owns additional cherry orchards near Brewster and Bridgeport.

The Gebbers family has prospered and expanded, even when others were having trouble.

During the Depression, while other farmers were going bankrupt, Martha Gebbers issued her own scrip to pay her employees and vendors and continued to grow her operations.

During difficult fruit sales years of the late 1940s, the Gebbers family used their logging trucks to deliver apples to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Phoenix where family members went to sell the fruit directly to the public.

While many fruit growers in the Northwest lost their trees to severe winter cold in 1969, the Gebbers’ trees were fortunate to survive, allowing the family to expand their acreage.

During the mid-1980s, the family secured water rights and land holdings that allowed them to add hundreds more acres of Granny Smith and Fuji apples.

In the 1990s, the company pioneered one of the earliest produce supplier relationships with Wal*Mart. Through this long-term partnership, the company was among the first group of produce vendors to initiate vendor-managed supply chain replenishment.

In 2001, following two difficult pricing years, the Gebbers family assumed full ownership of the Brewster Heights Packing facility where they had delivered much of their fruit to be packed and were shareholders. Working closely with BHP’s lenders during a three-year workout period, the family took over management, refinanced the company, and recently changed the name of the packing operation to Gebbers Farms. The name reflects the family’s long-term commitment to the fruit business.

In 2003, the Gebbers combined marketing forces with other neighboring shippers to organize the AltaFresh marketing agency, which sold fruit for their own company, as well as for MAGI, Gwinn White and Prince, Apple House and Obert Cold Storage.

In 2004, Chelan Fruit Company joined the marketing venture, and AltaFresh was renamed to Chelan Fresh Marketing.

Gebbers Farms is 100 percent family owned and managed. Currently, brothers Cass Gebbers and Mac Gebbers, and sisters Jody Crane and Sonya Taylor manage the company. John Gebbers, the oldest son of the next generation has stepped into the leadership role in fruit packing and customer service.

Now in its second century, Gebbers Farms is focusing on customer service, productive farming practices, and sharp management to prosper for the next generations to come.

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Gold Digger

Oroville, Washington, was a turn-of-the-century gold mining town in Washington State’s Okanogan Valley. The origin of Gold Digger’s name stems from the name of its home town. “Oro” was the original name for the town which is Spanish for Gold. In 1938, a local company named Oroville United Growers needed a label for their fruit.

Because of the town’s gold mining history, they thought “Gold Digger” would be an appropriate name for the label. In the early 70′s, the name of the company was officially changed to Gold Digger. Gold Digger has since remained a viable Grower’s Co-Op and fruit packing establishment, holding one of the few accounts in the State with the world’s largest retailer.

Gold Digger has also since established retail gift and outlet stores, a vineyard with a 10,000-case winery, and also has branched into providing Internet service to the Okanogan Valley.

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Chelan Fruit Cooperative

Chelan Fruit is a 359-member, grower-owned cooperative based in north central Washington.

Its roots are in three former regional cooperatives: Trout, Blue Chelan, and MAGI. Currently, the Cooperative receives bins of apples, pears and cherries from 15,000 acres located from the Canadian border south to Central Washington, and from the Lake Chelan Valley and east 60 miles past the Columbia River. A 13-member Board of Directors set policies and procedures that are administered by the president. The staff is made up of approximately 600 administrative and warehouse employees.

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Trout-Blue Chelan, Inc.

Trout was incorporated in July of 1921 as Lake Chelan Fruit Growers by eight growers. Blue Chelan, Inc. was established in 1942 by 26 local growers. At that time, they brought in approximately 160,000 boxes of Trout apples at each warehouse.

It took nearly 100 days to pack the total Trout apples produced. Each year’s crop had to be packed and shipped in a maximum of four months because apples could not be kept and stored beyond that time. Therefore, from January to August each year, the warehouse would virtually shut down until the new crop was delivered.

In September of 1995, Trout, Inc. and Blue Chelan, Inc. merged to form the largest apple packing cooperative in the world. From the original eight and 26 growers, these two companies have merged and increased their membership to approximately 250 members who farm 11,000 acres of apples and pears to produce 4,000,000 packed boxes of fruit.

Because Trout-Blue Chelan, Inc. is a cooperative, it is owned and controlled by the growers with whom it does business. They elect a Board of Directors which guides and directs the management of the warehouse. Trout-Blue Chelan is a marketing cooperative where fruit returns are pooled.

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Mutual Apple Growers, Inc. (MAGI)

MAGI’s roots go back to 1937 when a dozen growers got together and formed Brewster Cooperative Growers. In 1969, a merger of Brewster Cooperative Growers together with Omak Fruit Growers formed “Brewster Mutual Growers Association.”

In 1974, Omak Fruit Growers merged in to the Brewster Mutual Growers Association which resulted in the official name change to MAGI INC. MAGI continues to bring into the fold, Caribou Growers in 1987 and Star Crisp Growers, Inc. of Okanogan in 1989, and in 1998 Crisp N’ Spicy Growers joining the unit, resulting in the largest crop of 240,000 bins. MAGI’s mission statement: “Provide our growers superior fruit returns via low cost packaging and aggressive sales while at the same time providing our customers the quality they seek-making the MAGI brand a preferred label of Washington State Apples, Pears and Cherries,” has contributed to their success.

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Blue Chelan, Inc.

Blue Chelan, Inc. was established in 1942 as Chelan Manson Fruit Cooperative by 26 local growers. At that time, they brought in approximately 160,000 boxes of apples at each warehouse.

It took nearly 100 days to pack all the apples produced. Each year’s crop had to be packed and shipped in a maximum of four months because apples could not be kept and stored beyond that time. Therefore, from January to August each year, the warehouse would virtually shut down until the new crop was delivered.

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Trout, Inc.

Trout Incorporated was incorporated in July 1921 as Lake Chelan Fruit Growers by eight growers. In 1921, the fruit was picked into one-bushel wood boxes.

After being sorted, it was shipped in one-bushel boxes with labels glued on the ends informing others whose fruit was in the box. They selected Trout as their label. These labels are now a popular collector item. This initial cooperative was the foundation for today’s Trout-Blue Chelan, Inc. K.J. Hendershott was appointed manager of Trout, Inc. in 1921, and led the organization until 1966. To recognize his years of service, a scholarship fund to further education in the agriculture industry has been established in his name.

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