Now in its third season growing in Florida, Watsonville, CA-based Well-Pict
Inc. again increased production acreage this year and continues to move
toward growing nothing but proprietary strawberries in Florida.
Well-Pict prefers to grow proprietary varietals, but its original California
nursery stock proved unsuitable for Florida's hot, wet climate. The company
had some success with a new cultivar last year which represented about one-
third of its crop, with the rest comprised of Festivals, Treasures and Radiance.
This year, Well-Pict increased the percentage of its proprietary cultivars in a
process that ideally soon will have it growing nothing but its own berries in
Florida’s sandy soil.
"It’s still a work in progress, with some promising cultivars, but it will take
several growing seasons to develop a commercially successful proprietary
variety," said Sales Manager Dan Crowley. “It will happen. ... It does take time
to develop a berry that’s specific to that climate. We’ll solve the puzzle, [but]
it does take time to build up the population. If you’ve got a cultivar you like,
it’s seven years before it gets to market. You have lot tests, road tests, you
clean up the genes, build up the plant population at the nursery level.”
Well-Pict researchers are searching for a variety suited for Florida that has a
good flavor profile, appearance, aroma and yield.
“Wouldn’t that be nice to hit all those at once?” Mr. Crowley asked. “The first
and foremost thing we look for is the taste, the flavor profile; if you don’t
have that [in a cultivar], you close down that particular variety. Appearance,
aroma and the yield — those are the things we look for next. We are grower-
based, farm-based; that’s where it starts and ends. If you can’t make yield, if
you can’t make profits at that level, you don’t belong in the business.”
Well-Pict is partnered with Wimauma, FL-based Jaymar Produce, a long-time
Florida produce grower and shipper. Jaymar is shipping berries from
Wimauma with the “Well-Pict Florida” label, Mr. Crowley said. “We have an
excellent working relationship; they’re straight shooters, as are we, which
That relationship is also in its third year and has “worked out very well,” he
said. “The deal with us is, we’ve got trading partners we try to supply 12
months a year. We do produce 12 months a year out of California, but it’s
very, very light in December, January, February. That’s why we figured it
would be a good match to partner up in Florida with a legitimate partner. It
tends to be a geographical distribution.”
Well-Pict’s Florida experience has to-date been “absolutely positive,” Mr.
Crowley said. “It has been very well received by our trading partners, and the
partnership we’ve formed there has been very, very beneficial for us and for
The wintry December that brought a half-dozen nights of sub-freezing
weather to Florida strawberry fields in a span of three weeks was difficult to
deal with, but Well-Pict’s fields came through in good shape, according to
“Whenever you grow a crop to harvest in the middle of winter, you’re going to
have crop interruptions, be it rain and/or cold. Rain is easier to deal with,
since it only affects ripe fruit, so you strip off colored fruit and fresh-pack the
next round. With a freeze, you have potential for more damage, as you can
have damage to all fruit stages as well as the plant itself. Fortunately for us,
we were able to get 'iced over’ and have suffered minimally.”
Mr. Crowley estimated that no more than 10 percent of the December crop
was lost despite the abysmal cold.