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Life returns to old packing house
Facility to hire 60 workers
A packing house at Orange Avenue and E Street that has sat vacant the past four years is coming to life this week under new ownership.
The old Nash de Camp house that dates back at least to the 1930s has been purchased by Jim Reed and will pack under the Sunburst label. Fruit should begin moving through the wooden packing house next week, said Reed.
The opening of another packing house is good news for those seeking work. Reed said they had more than 250 applications in the matter of a few hours for the 60 packing house jobs they will need to fill. Applications are still being accepted.
Reed, who has owned and managed packing houses in the past, is excited about his new facility and says it will run basically 365 days a year, minus a few holidays and short breaks between citrus varieties. He said they will pack navel and valencia oranges, tangerines and lemons. He expects the first arrival of navel oranges next week.
“We’ll run some valencias through it first to test it,” he said of the old facility that is in excellent shape. He said they fired up much of the equipment in the past week and found only a few repairs were needed.
“Just a lot of cleanup,” he said of the facility that he estimated is about 50,000 square feet of space, including a large basement where oranges were stored before their was refrigeration.
Today, the facility has cold storage for more than 33 truckloads.
Sunburst will join more than a half of a dozen other independent orange packing houses in the Orange Belt. Reed estimated that about 50 percent of the packing houses are affiliated and the rest are independent houses.
“We will do our own marketing,” he said, explaining his years of experience and the contacts he has made will make him successful. “I have a big, long list of customers. We’re entrenched in the local citrus industry,” he said, adding he has a very experienced staff, most with more than 20 years of experience.
Reed was general manager of a packing house in the northern portion of the county last year, but that old stone fruit plant that had been converted to citrus was not well-suited for their needs. Plus, he said, Porterville has a much better labor force for packing houses.
“We love being here,” he said of his new home.
The packing house was Nash de Camp for a number of years, then was run by Dexter Goodell and for one year by Booth Ranches.
Reed has citrus in the Edison-Arvin area of Kern County and the Terra Bella-Ducor area of Tulare County. He has been in the citrus business for 44 years.