Dalton Thomas Retires from Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers After 52 Years
WENATCHEE, WA - Owner and president of Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers Dalton Thomas has announced that he plans to retire after more than 50 years as a leader in the Northwest treefruit industry.
Since beginning his long and successful produce career in 1965 as a USDA inspector of apples, pears, cherries, potatoes, and onions, Thomas has made an impression on a number of industry operators. Not long after his start, Thomas began working for Oneonta in 1966.
The youngest son of the company Founder, the late Paul “Tommy” Thomas, Dalton acquired his father’s interest in the operation and took on the responsibilities of Owner/President in the 1970s, according to a press release.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to work for, work with and learn from one of our industry’s great leaders,” Marketing Director Scott Marboe, associated with the company for 30 years, said. “Dalton leaves a legacy behind, but he also leaves the company in the hands of individuals poised to take it to the next level for the future.”
“Dalton built a very successful company through the strength of his vision and then hiring the right people to execute that vision. He has assembled a great team of professionals who are at the top of their game,” said Kevin Moffitt, President and CEO of Pear Bureau Northwest in Milwaukie, OR. He added that one of his biggest impacts in the pear industry was partnering with Diamond Fruit Growers in Hood River, OR, one of the oldest and largest pear packers in the country.
“This move helped Oneonta fill out their apple portfolio with a strong mix of all pear varieties. Dalton and his sales and marketing team’s partnership with Diamond has been very successful and beneficial to the coop’s grower members,” Moffitt concluded.
Todd Fryhover, President of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, said, “I have known Dalton since I started in the business in 1985. We often competed against each other during the charter days when the industry loaded break-bulk vessels for the Middle East and Europe from Pier 90/91 in Seattle.”
Fryhover also said that Thomas would be missed as a board member with key insights who saw the value of increasing international promotional activities for the benefit of the entire industry. He added that his international expertise can’t be replaced.
“Dalton is 100% dedicated to the Washington tree fruit industry, his growers and employees,” Fryhover added. “He has no expectations of others that are above what he comes to expect of himself. When you consider the known names of the industry like Grady Auvil, Bill Zirkle, and Bill Evans, Dalton Thomas is on par in the development of international tree fruit business for our industry.”
Reggie Collins, VP and Director of Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan, WA, who Oneonta named as a “worthy competitor,” said he’s known Thomas for over 40 years. “My father and Dalton had a business relationship decades ago when Oneonta sold fruit for Beebe, and my father had the utmost respect for him. You can use all kinds of words—generous, loyal, trustworthy, wise, and insightful—to describe him. But one thing’s certain: He’s the one you’d like to be in the trenches with. I mean that both personally and from a business side. I could always go to Dalton and get the true story about what was going on in the industry. He’s benefited this industry with his wisdom and strength. I can’t say enough good things about Dalton.”
Collins said that both he and the industry will certainly miss him, and as a parting thought, added, “I never could figure out why Dalton wouldn’t hire me.”
As Thomas closes out a successful career, the company said that its ownership will remain within the family. Congratulations to the outgoing leader on this newest chapter.