Allied Grape Growers Helps Lake County Wine Growers Get a Fair Deal
Small and medium-sized winegrape growers in Lake County can face a number of challenges when selling fruit. In addition to finding buyers and getting accurate market information, they must negotiate prices, execute contracts, and collect payment. Few growers have the staff resources for these important tasks.
The nearly 600 grower-members who are a part of Allied Grape Growers know they can focus on the harvest and trust Allied to handle the sales and marketing. Allied Grape Growers is a grower-owned marketing cooperative that markets its members’ grapes and administers the sales and collection process. The cooperative serves growers from the Central Valley all the way up to the North Coast, selling a wide array of grapes statewide from vineyards of varying sizes, at all price points.
Altogether, Allied growers farm 28,000 acres comprised of more than 40 major varietals, and they produce 285,000 tons of grapes with a gross farm receipt value of more than $80 million.
Supporting and Promoting the Lake County Region
Jeff Bitter is a fourth-generation grower who, as Allied’s Vice President of Operations, is responsible for reviewing and writing sale purchase agreements for the cooperative’s members. Bitter joined Allied about 20 years ago when there were only two Lake County growers in the cooperative. As Lake County has grown in supply and acreage, Allied has grown right along with it. The cooperative now has more than two dozen Lake County growers as members.
“Our services are a great fit for many small and medium-sized Lake County growers who need a voice in the marketplace,” says Bitter. “Combining with other growers to market their grapes provides them with market exposure and leverage.”
Allied became a sponsor of Lake County Winegrape Commission because it believes in the area and the quality and value of Lake County grapes.
“Lake County is a region that produces quality above what has historically come out of California, helping make California a premier winegrowing region of the world,” Bitter says. “Having said that, the county is still not as widely recognized as other regions in the state. It has an opportunity to impress people, and we would like to be a part of that effort.”
Providing Critical Cash Flow for Small Growers
Allied supports and benefits Lake County wine growers in the cooperative in several ways. The organization has established relationships with more than 100 outlets, opening doors to its members. In addition, the organization is known for having accurate, first-hand market information—more than most growers can get on their own. Once Allied finds a buyer for a harvest, it negotiates a fair market price (in consultation with and on behalf of the grower). It then executes the contract and provides the grower with 90 percent of the price 30 days after delivery. This means growers get payment fast, even if buyers don’t pay for several months.
Allied Grape Growers also offers Lake County wine growers with bulk wine and custom crush services. The organization contracts with both Redwood Valley Cellars and Yokayo Wine Company for custom crush.
“Many buyers don’t have experience with Lake County grapes, but when they taste the wine and see the quality first hand they are impressed,” Bitter explains. “Our custom crush and bulk wine programs go hand in hand with our efforts to introduce Lake County growers to buyers who wouldn’t otherwise venture into Lake County.”
Offering Access to Valuable Industry Data
One of Allied’s key services is providing market information to growers and the broader industry. The cooperative shares this data on its website. In addition, Allied employees are often asked to speak at industry events regarding the marketplace, supply and demand, and others subjects. In fact, Allied President Nat DiBuduo will be speaking at a general session at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium in Sacramento in January.
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