In the two years since Tim Ramsey’s hiring as president and chief executive, Oregon Cherry Growers has developed several new value-added products, returned profits to grower-members, and expanded growth in dried and frozen products.
Ramsey, with more than 30 years in the food and beverage industry, learned about produce and value-added products early in his career when he worked for Fresh Express Farms and then River Ranch.
“My time at Fresh Express was really when packaged salads and value-added produce started,” he said. “At first, consumers stumbled over the concept, but then it took off like fire. It was really a wild ride.”
As marketers were learning about value-added produce, growers, too, were grappling with what value-added meant to their bottom line. Lettuce growers, who were used to commodity market booms and busts, now had a fixed price, he explained.
“They quickly learned to plant half of their acreage for packaged salad and play the market with the other half.”
In 2001, he joined Pacific Foods of Oregon, a natural and organic food company that makes aseptically (germ-free) packaged products like chicken broth, soymilk, soups, and other items. As vice president of sales and marketing, Ramsey helped transition and grow the company from $35 million annual sales from private label products to its own label worth $200 million in annual sales.
After spending a decade there, he worked for Clairidge Food Group, a Canadian company. His division was La Terra Fina, a line of refrigerated foods (dips, quiches, sauces) headquartered in northern California and sold at places like Costco.
Ramsey replaced the retiring Ed Johnson at Oregon Cherry Growers in 2013. “The board was looking for someone to grow the business and accelerate growth,” he said. “Ed was more of an operations man while my background is in marketing.”
Although Ramsey was looking for a way to return to the Northwest, he says the main attraction of the new job was the chance to work for a grower cooperative.
“When you spend 30 years in the food business like I have, most of it involved in buying product from someone else, the ability to represent the growers who produce the ingredients—the farm to fork concept—that’s what resonated with me with this job,” he said.
Ramsey added that he’s at a point in his career where he wanted to do good things. It may not be the Red Cross, but he feels a connection with helping sustain multi-generational family farms. “This is really about looking after growers’ fruit and doing everything I can to provide the grower-owners with the highest return possible.”
It’s a vision that aligns perfectly with the cooperative’s mission statement of “sustaining the family farms of our co-op members by returning optimum value for their fruit.”