- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2017

MILTON-FREEWATER, Ore. (AP) - A family-owned fruit company in Washington has purchased Oregon’s largest grower and packer of fresh apples.

Wenatchee, Washington-based Foreman Fruit Company has acquired Earl Brown and Sons of Milton-Freewater, Oregon, the Capital Press reports (https://goo.gl/WmzXSq). The deal allows the Browns to remain and manage local operations involving more than 1,000 acres of apples and 115 acres of wine grapes.

Ron Brown, whose father started the company 40 years ago, says the families worked out a partnership that allows his business to keep its name and its employees. It gives the Browns access to more money for continued growth; the company is already planting another 60 acres of apples and 10 more acres of grapes.

“Nobody lost their jobs. We’re moving along just like we did before,” Brown said.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Earl Brown and Sons has also spun off several other businesses, including Blue Mountain Cider and Watermill Winery in Milton-Freewater, though Blue Mountain Cider was not included as part of the sale. Earl Brown and Sons employs about 160 people.

Foreman Fruit Company was founded in the early 1980s by Dale Foreman, a Wenatchee attorney and former chairman of the Washington Apple Commission. The business started out primarily growing pears before branching into apples, cherries and grapes.

Alan Groff, president and CEO of Foreman Fruit Company, said they first heard Earl Brown and Sons was up for sale in April 2016. Though Wenatchee is 200 miles away from Milton-Freewater, Groff said they drove down for a meeting, and the two families immediately hit it off.

“They’ve created a number of businesses, and a number of very excellent orchards and vineyards,” Groff said. “There’s a nice intersection of our capabilities.”

Earl Brown & Sons is Foreman’s first Oregon acquisition.

“We share a common set of values and purpose in business,” he said.

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Information from: Capital Press, https://www.capitalpress.com/washington

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