Gary Wishnatzki: 'We've got a lot of new things going on’
by Chip Carter | January 03, 2011
As the new year rang in, Plant City, FL's Wishnatzki Inc. was readying for a
deluge of strawberries. Company President Gary Wishnatzki told The Produce
News Dec. 29 that the company was about to enter its heaviest production of
the season for a two-week period that would run through the middle of
The company’s fields survived the freeze events scattered over three weeks of
December; production was expected to be frantic the first two weeks of the
new year before tapering off for a couple of weeks in a planned lull before
ramping up again sometime in February. From there, the company will stretch
the season for its "Wish Farms" label berries “as long as there’s a market,” Mr.
“Right now we’re on the verge of busting loose,” he said. The company’s
growers did terrific work protecting the crop in December and had “a little
luck, too — the weather conditions weren’t the type where we would get
massive damage. We had light winds most of the time and were able to
freeze-protect. Those temperatures could have really hurt us if it has not
been as calm as it was. Mother Nature had a lot to do with it.”
One side benefit of the cold weather is that production of large, long-
stemmed Camino Real berries was delayed, meaning there should be plenty of
suitable product available for Valentine’s Day.
“We’re anticipating that volume to come on in late January and February and
should be able to do a lot of long-stems for Valentine’s Day,” Mr. Wishnatzki
said. “The timing should be good for long-stemmed promotions for
Valentine’s — that’s unique to us; we’re the only ones to have that variety.”
In January 2010, the company rolled out its “Wish Farms” brand after years on
store shelves with the Wishnatzki name (and even more years as Wishnatzki &
Nathel from a previous partnership). The move was an instant marketing hit
and “we’re really getting good feedback from consumers and chainstore
customers,” Mr. Wishnatzki said.
The company also has expanded its organic program to 100 acres of
strawberries, as well as organic blueberries in season. Wishnatzki has also
moved into the year-round blueberry business, with imports of Chilean blues
from a new partnership with a grower in that country.
Wishnatzki also partnered with a grower in California in the Salinas area and
for the first time will extend its season with strawberries from that 100-acre
farm as the Florida season winds down.
The company also produces winter and spring vegetables, and those
categories are growing. After freezing weather in January and February 2010
wiped out Florida row crops, Wishnatzki sought and purchased 600 acres in
southwest Florida on Pine Island in Charlotte Harbor, naturally protected from
“That’s a very warm location — its very insulated against freeze problems —
and we’ve got our first vegetable crop down there this year, bell peppers and
grape tomatoes, that will start harvesting in early February. It’s going to give
us year-round supply — winter-time supply we can count on that’s
domestic,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. The first planting weathered December’s
freezes with no problems, and “the fact that we’re making it through this
winter speaks volumes.”
The company continues to receive accolades for its “Fresh QC” quality control
system, which is gaining fans throughout the produce industry. And its newly
developed “Firetag” laser product marking system will soon receive its first
real-world testing on a significant level from a major grower-shipper out
“Our 'Fresh QC’ traceability system is continuing to be successful and be very
beneficial to our customers and us for maintaining quality and traceability.
The ‘Firetag’ model should be up and running in the next few weeks. People
who have seen it really believe it’s a very viable solution for solving some of
the issues in doing field packs with labels and PTI marking,” said Mr.
Wishnatzki. “We’ve got a lot of new things going on.”