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With FAS Support, California Prune and Walnut Exporter Thrives

Members of the Wilbur family (from left to right) John Friend, Rick Wilbur, Richard Wilbur and Emily Friend, gather on their farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. As the owners and operators of the Wilbur Packing Company, they have had great success exporting prunes and walnuts to international markets with assistance from the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) export programs.

Members of the Wilbur family (from left to right) John Friend, Rick Wilbur, Richard Wilbur and Emily Friend, gather on their farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. As the owners and operators of the Wilbur Packing Company, they have had great success exporting prunes and walnuts to international markets with assistance from the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) export programs.

Little did the Wilbur family know when they first settled on a farm in the Sacramento Valley in 1869 that they were laying the foundation for what would become one of California’s premier prune and walnut producers.

Today, the fifth generation of Wilburs continues to farm the soil of the Yuba and Feather River bottoms in California. They are now the owners and operators of the Wilbur Packing Company.

Established in 1992, the medium-sized business not only ships its prunes and walnuts nationwide, but – thanks in large part to support from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) – has also had enormous success exporting their products around the world.

From the start, the Wilbur family had their sights set on international sales. When the company first opened, they began exporting to Canada. Soon after that, Wilbur Packing turned to FAS for help expanding their international business.

To date, the company has participated in a dozen FAS events including international, USDA-endorsed food and trade shows.  Through the Western U.S. Trade Association (WUSATA), which is their local state regional trade group (SRTG), they have had help acquiring booth space in U.S. pavilions at these shows.

By participating in food shows, Wilbur Packing meets with high-profile customers and introduces their products to thousands of prospective consumers. They estimate the revenue resulting from trade show participation alone generates at least $5 million annually.

Beyond trade shows, Wilbur Packing receives support from FAS every time they begin exporting to a new market. FAS sets up meetings with potential buyers, provides information about trade restrictions and regulations for each trading country, translates packaging material and more.

With the support of WUSATA, Wilbur Packing Company has also had access to Market Access Program (MAP) funds, which FAS awards to U.S. agricultural exporters to help with the international marketing of products, offsetting the cost of international trade shows and more.

After almost two decades of exporting, Wilbur Packing Company’s overseas business is booming.  Their markets now include Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, Russia, Japan, Korea and others. They are currently working to expand their presence in Asia.

Today, more than two-thirds of Wilbur Packing’s total sales come from exports.

An aerial view of the Wilbur Packing Company in California’s Sacramento Valley shows the company’s production site. As fifth-generation California farmers, the Wilbur family has successfully exported prunes and dates internationally for nearly 20 years.

An aerial view of the Wilbur Packing Company in California’s Sacramento Valley shows the company’s production site. As fifth-generation California farmers, the Wilbur family has successfully exported prunes and walnuts internationally for nearly 20 years.

While the high-quality of Wilbur Packing Company’s prunes and walnuts are key to their worldwide popularity, the Wilbur family says they would not have achieved such great export success without help from FAS.

Strong U.S. farm exports will be a key contributor to building an economy that continues to grow, innovate and out-compete the rest of the world. U.S. agricultural exports this year are projected to be at a record $137 billion and support more than 1.1 million jobs in the United States. Every billion dollars in agricultural exports supports over 8,400 jobs in the United States, while every dollar of exports creates another $1.31 in supporting activities.

Increasing export opportunities for small- and medium-sized agribusinesses like Wilbur Packing is one of FAS’ top priorities. In doing so, FAS is helping achieve President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) objective of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

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