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Oregon Potato Company makes a move into Lynden raspberries and blueberries

A Rader Farms raspberry harvester emerges from a row of berries in a field on Birch Bay- Lynden Road , west of Lynden, June 26, 2015. The assets of the farm are being sold to the Oregon Potato Company, with the deal expected to close in the next few days.
A Rader Farms raspberry harvester emerges from a row of berries in a field on Birch Bay- Lynden Road , west of Lynden, June 26, 2015. The assets of the farm are being sold to the Oregon Potato Company, with the deal expected to close in the next few days. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

The Lynden community may be breathing a little easier as it appears some financial certainty is coming to a major agriculture employer.

Last week it was announced that the business assets of Rader Farms was sold as part of a package to the Oregon Potato Company.

The seller was Inventure Foods, which also sold the Willamette Valley Fruit Company brands and assets to Oregon Potato. According to a news release, the sale of the combined assets totaled $50 million.

The deal is expected to be finalized in the next few days, said Frank Tiegs, president of Oregon Potato Company.

Rader Farms is just north of Lynden near East Badger Road, operating on about 800 acres of land. Rader Farms is important to the local economy because of the way it adds value to the blueberries and raspberries picked in the area, said Gary Vis, executive director at the Lynden Chamber of Commerce.

The company has a berry processing and quick-freeze facility at its operations north of Lynden and it leases 35,000 square feet of space at Bellingham Cold Storage’s Orchard Drive facility for use as a packaging center.

The Lynden quick-freeze facility processes approximately 55 million pounds of berries a year, Inventure reported in 2016.

By having processing and packaging operations, it means steady, year-round jobs that go with the large influx of part-time work that comes during the summer harvest, Vis said. A farm that size has a big impact on the Lynden economy not just in terms of wages, but in farm equipment sales and maintenance, Vis added.

There was some concern earlier this year about how Rader Farms would fare because of the financial struggles of its parent company, Inventure Foods, which purchased Rader’s business assets in 2007. According to an article on the website 24/7 Wall St., Inventure’s stock was down 66 percent between January and just prior to last week’s announcement of the sale – the stock was at $3.35 a share prior to the sale announcement last week; on Sept. 20 it was trading at $4.56 a share.

In the news release, Inventure CEO Terry McDaniel noted the sale proceeds would be used to “reduce our debt and improve our overall financial flexibility in order to allow us to focus on continuing to grow our leading snack business.”

For Oregon Potato Company, acquiring Rader Farms’ business assets is a strategic move to strengthen its fruit division, Tiegs said. The company is already involved in processing apples and cherries. Tiegs sees blueberries and raspberries as a good growth opportunity.

While Oregon Potato Company will own the business assets, the property itself remains under the ownership of the Rader family.

After the deal finalizes, Tiegs said things will be business as usual at Rader Farms, with the overall goal of growing that market. Tiegs estimates the Rader Farms operations near Lynden and Bellingham employ around 100 people year-round.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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