Editor’s note: This story was edited to include Gebbers Farms as a co-owner of the SugarBee apple.

Chelan Fruit Cooperative, a Washington-based grower, packer and shipper of apples, cherries and pears, announced in a news release it has been acquired by International Farming. 

Founded in 1921, Chelan Fruit is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a grower-owned cooperative. The vertically integrated tree fruit producer currently includes 1,100 acres of apple and cherry orchards and state-of-the-art packing facilities, controlled atmosphere and storage assets. Chelan Fruit is also a worldwide owner of SugarBee, a proprietary apple variety co-owned with Gebbers Farms.

IFC is a privately owned institutional asset manager that partners with farmers to help maximize farm profitability through progressive farming and preventive farming techniques. Founded in 2009, IFC has family roots in agribusiness dating back to 1827 and has been a trusted partner for Chelan Fruit for six years prior to this transaction. According to the release, IFC will continue to work with Chelan Fruit’s grower base and preserve their legacy in the next phase of the business. 

“We are very pleased and excited to be part of IFC. Their heritage and performance demonstrate their commitment to the agribusiness community, as evidenced by our affiliation through Monument Hills and Ice Harbor orchards in Quincy and Pasco, Washington,” Chelan Fruit CEO Ed Johnson said in the news release, also noting that 90 percent of Chelan Fruit’s members voted in support of the acquisition. “Just having reached the 100-year mark as a cooperative, this transaction is bittersweet. It will take time to mentally adjust to a new, private culture, but it is made easier by a partner in IFC whose focus is on what’s in the best interest of growers and, in the end, their success ensures our success and sustainability.” 

Combining Chelan Fruit’s grower base and IFC’s nearly 5,000 acres of existing Washington state tree fruit production provides an opportunity to enhance grower economics through economies of scale and providing a consistent high-quality fruit supply, according to the release. 

“We are excited to partner with Chelan Fruit and its growers to help build a leader in growing, storing and packing premium fruit,” said Charlie McNairy, CEO of IFC, in the release. “Chelan Fruit can only succeed when its growers do. We are committed to supporting growers and reestablishing Washington state’s North District as the world leader in providing premium fruit.”

—by Jonelle Mejica