Wish Farms Owner Gary Wishnatzki Discusses Florida Strawberry Market
PLANT CITY, FL - With a strong strawberry market leading us from fall into winter this year, Florida strawberries will be a welcomed addition to the country’s supplies as we look to the New Year. As berries across the board continue to see growth in demand across demographics, Wish Farms is ramping up its Florida season to meet the holiday push all the way through Valentine’s Day.
Owner Gary Wishnatzki stepped out of the field for a few moments to share the latest on the Florida strawberry season with me, and what we can expect as we move into 2017.
“We began harvesting in early November with both conventional and organic production which will continue to increase as we make our way toward the New Year. Our team shipped about 65,000 crates out of Florida last week, and are looking to ship about 120,000 crates in the coming week,” Gary said, noting that weather has been great so far this season bringing on great flavor and quality. “We’ve had a warm fall this year, but nothing like last year. The cold temperatures have been much more frequent this Florida season, than in 2015. At this time last year, we were not seeing blooms coming out until nearly January.”
Last year, the plants were not as productive for Wish Farms, due to the consistently warmer temperatures for that time of year, causing many of the plants to slow production or shut down, Gary adds.
“Strawberries need some chill to keep them in a productive cycle to stimulate plant growth and put on flowers,” he shared.
While Wish Farms is shipping mainly out of Florida, they are also still harvesting organic strawberries in Santa Maria, California. Organics have been a huge area of growth for Wish Farms, as the team continues to identify opportunities to grow its acreage and respond to the rising retail and consumer demand. Currently, about 10% of Wish Farms’ strawberry program is organic, but continues to increase year-over-year.
The Florida fresh season will be running full steam ahead into March and April, with the first push coming on in late December and into January. Production is slated to ramp up again in early February and into March, with a peak just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“Our big push is mid- to late-February for Valentine’s Day promotions. Retailers should plan ahead this year and create big displays around both Florida and California strawberries to increase traffic through the produce department and drive sales in the lead up to the popular holiday,” Gary shared.
It looks to be a sweet start to 2017 for strawberries lovers, and produce departments across the U.S.