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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Hundreds of apple jobs at risk as Oroville fruit co-op files for bankruptcy

By Gary Devon Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune

OROVILLE – One of Oroville’s largest employers, Gold Digger Apples Inc., filed for bankruptcy last week in Spokane as U.S. Bank seeks repayment of an $18 million loan.

“We filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy to protect the growers. We are still somewhat in negotiations though,” said Peg Callaway, the attorney representing the growers’ cooperative.

U.S. Bank is demanding loan repayment and has not responded to the co-op’s latest offer that includes a lessor purchasing the loan, according to Callaway.

“They’ve been working with this group for 18 years and Greg Moser has killed himself for the last five months trying to follow every lead,” Callaway said.

Moser is the co-op’s general manager.

U.S. Bank National Association filed a lawsuit May 20 against Gold Digger Apples Inc. and others demanding repayment of about $18.6 million. Other defendants included Kernan Orchards Inc., Carbon Cycle Crush LLC and Oroville Reman & Reload, according to the filing.

“This is a devastating blow to the community, seasonably Gold Digger employs up to 800 employees,” Callaway said, calling the bank’s actions “hideous.”

The bankruptcy could result in the sale of Gold Digger’s assets to pay creditors – including the bank – rather than attempting to restructure the co-op and give it a fresh business start.

While there were once a dozen warehouses and fruit packing facilities in Oroville, eventually they all merged into one under the Gold Digger name making it the sole fruit packing, storing and shipping facility in Oroville and the last grower-owned co-op in Okanogan County.

Gold Digger has many members and non-members that bring their fruit to be stored, packed and shipped at their facilities. The co-op specializes in apples, cherries and pears, and also manages 700 acres of fruit.