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WATSONVILLE, CA -- For the last 16 years, Fritz Koontz has been a partner in Beach Street Farms LLC, a grower-shipper of strawberries based here. He recently decided it was time to branch out on his own and will open the doors on a new strawberry growing and shipping company.

Santa Cruz Berry Farming Company will be based here and will specialize in organic but will also grow conventional strawberries utilizing both university and proprietary varieties.

"For the last 16 years, I have seen my dream of being part of successful, innovative strawberry farming and shipping organization realized," Mr. Koontz said in a Jan. 24 press release. "But now I want to focus my efforts in a different direction. I will continue to grow and ship organic as well as conventional strawberries but in addition will work more closely with my partner Dr. Beth Crandall to develop, grow and market proprietary varieties. Beth is one of the premier strawberry researchers, and I have been a partner with her in Kanaka Peak for 10 years but was unable to give the program the attention that I wanted to. We will work with growers and customers on the development of new more flavorful varieties."

In order to supply customers throughout the year, Santa Cruz Berry said that it will form collaborative partnerships with high-quality growers statewide.

"I am very excited about the potential that exists for Santa Cruz Berry,” Mr. Koontz added in the release. “After 25 years in the strawberry industry, I felt it was time for me to pursue my own ideals and goals. I have a strong commitment to both my customers and consumers to supply the highest quality and most flavorful strawberries. I am excited about the prospects for Santa Cruz Berry Farming and look forward to a successful inaugural season."