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Passion for picking serves Wish Farms, charity well

Wish Farms is issuing a challenge to all customers: Create a team of pickers and test your mettle at the first annual Strawberry Picking Challenge Feb. 7-8 in Plant City, FL.

The charity fundraiser will benefit the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which provides quality childcare and early education for children of migrant farm workers and rural, low-income families throughout Florida.

Director of Marketing Amber Kosinsky said each sponsor can select up to three team members, and each will also be assigned a celebrity and coach. The teams will be pitted against each other as they pick through a designated strawberry row. “It’s going to be similar to a relay race,” she said. “Each team is picking a flat.”

WishywishyClamshells from Wish Farms contain a unique 16-digit code that gives consumers an opportunity to find out more about the product they purchased as well as giving them a chance to provide the company with feedback. (Photo courtesy of Wish Farms)Individually, each contestant will pick one two-pound package of strawberries and return to the starting line, where they will tag the next team member. Teams will be judged on fastest flat picked, best-looking flat and cleanest row.

Teams scoring the highest during each round will advance to the final pick-off, where the Best Harvest Crew will be determined.

Kosinsky said the event will also be filled with family-friendly activities. “The public can come and watch,” she stated. Children will have an opportunity to participate in their own U-Pick activity. “We will have strawberries on sale, and samples will be available,” she continued. “And there will definitely be strawberry shortcake.”

More information about corporate sponsorships and ticket information can be obtained by contacting Wish Farms.

The year-round strawberry supplier continues to build brand loyalty with its “How’s My Picking” program, which will run through June 2014.

Under the patented traceability program, each clamshell contains a unique 16-digit number that can be used to trace strawberries back to their field of origin. Consumers can access the program through www.wishfarms.com and provide their feedback. “This year, every consumer completing a survey will get a reusable Wish Farms bag and a message from [President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Wishnatzki].”

Entrants will also have a chance to win a $100 gift card each quarter.

“The feedback holds Wish Farms accountable,” Kosinsky said of the value of the program. “We want consumers to know what we’re doing.”

Wishnatzki provided The Produce News with an update on the current strawberry season. “Most of our fields are in really great shape this year,” he stated. The harvest began in late October and typically peaks in February and March. Wishnatzki said the season will run through mid-April.

With a customer base throughout North America, Wish Farms markets strawberries produced on 1,500 acres. Of this total, Wish Farms’ production accounts for 700 acres, 200 of which grow organic fruit.

“The peak has been limited depending on the labor situation,” he commented. “By and large, most of the industry is not using the guest-worker program.” Wishnatzki said. Wish Farms has applied for a guest-worker permit to ensure that strawberries are not left in the field. The challenge, he noted, will come during late-season production.

Kosinsky said retailers do special strawberry promotions during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.