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Well-Pict adjusts varieties to stagger production peaks in different districts

Well-Pict Inc. in Watsonville, CA, which grows strawberries in several districts in California as well as in Baja California, Mexico, has developed a family of proprietary varieties that not only have desirable characteristics, but are also particularly suited to the districts in which they are grown and to the desired market timing.

According to Sales Manager Dan Crowley, the company’s 269 variety has long been “our horse in Oxnard, and we continue to have it that way.” But there have been some changes this season in the varieties being grown in Baja and in Santa Maria.

006-SoCalStraw-WellPictMembers of the sales team at Well-Pict: Mark Yotsuya, Brad Peterson, Dan Crowley and Adam Crowley.“We have switched varieties in Baja to the 324,” Mr. Crowley said. “It gives us an earlier harvest profile, which we needed down there.” Growing the 269 in both Baja and Oxnard tended to cause the production increases in the two districts to collide with each other, he said. With the Baja heavy production period and the Oxnard heavy production period coming at about the same time, it created something of a marketing challenge.

Now, with the change in varieties in Baja, “we get a good portion of the yield off earlier, which is wonderful. We like to see distinctive production peaks from one district to the next.”

The Santa Maria district, which is mid-way between Oxnard and Watsonville, “has always been a challenge,” Mr. Crowley said. For the 2013 crop, “we have completely gone away from the variety we had there last year.” This year, Well-Pict is growing its 1975 variety in Santa Maria and is also trying a new one, the 125.

In the past, “we typically had Santa Maria and Watsonville on the same variety program,” but now “we have differentiated that” with varieties that are different from those grown in Oxnard and different from those grown in Watsonville, he said. That “gives us an earlier harvest profile than Watsonville” but still “allows Oxnard to get the big push out of the way.” When the varieties are combined with climatic differences among the districts, it should “really separate the peaks,” he said.

The different Well-Pict varieties the company is currently growing do have similar characteristics, however, most notably “large fruit with a real high flavor profile,” he said.

Well-Pict has “pretty much kept acreage the same” this year in all districts other than Watsonville, where there is “a slight increase — maybe 10 percent,” Mr. Crowley said. Additionally, “we have added a facility in the northern district.” The company has production in both Salinas and Watsonville. Now, in addition to its original Watsonville cooler, the company will also have cooling capacity in Salinas.

“We have made arrangements with Uni-Cool Salinas to take several hundred acres of our production in north Salinas to that facility, rather than to bring it over here to Watsonville,” he said. “That is going to be a good fit for us” to improve quality, cold chain management and customer convenience by being able to load trucks “out of the additional facility.”

On sales at Well-Pict are Mr. Crowley, Brad Peterson, Adam Crowley and Mark Yosuda. It is the same line-up as last year, Mr. Crowley said.

“It is our world series all-star line-up. We are going to stay with it. We are hitting for power and winning games. That’s what we do here,” he added.