The company began as Wishnatzki and Nathel in 1922, then shifted to Wishnatzki Farms before a stroke of marketing genius rebranded Gary Wishnatski’s Plant City, FL, operation as Wish Farms earlier this year. The results have been dramatic.
Wish Farms was already one of Florida’s larger berry and vegetable producers, farming more than 2,000 acres of strawberries, millions of pounds of blueberries and shipping one million packages of vegetables annually. But the rebranding has made the company a consumer darling.
“We are really happy with how the rebranding has gone and how consumers are beginning to recognize our brand and it’s really taken off,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. “We feel like we’ve done something pretty dramatic with consumers. There seems to be much better recognition of our brand and it stands out on the shelf so much better and certainly is more memorable. We’re really excited about what lies ahead for us now.”
The move has been such a success that the company doubled its strawberry acreage for the upcoming season, adding three new growers to its program. Wish Farms and its growing partners now have more than 2,200 acres of strawberries under production in Florida. The company’s blueberry program is growing as well. While the increases in those categories are not as dramatic, the company has increased its acreage in Florida and Georgia and plans to increase imports from Chile.
Marketing is just one area where Wish Farms has blazed trails. Traceability is another. The company has developed its own proprietary traceability program that allows for case- and item-level tracking.
“I think a lot of the trade is recognizing some of the things we’re doing with traceability and some of the proactive steps we’ve taken to get ready for PTI, and also connecting that with the consumer unit where we have item-level traceability as well,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. “We do item-level and case-level traceability in one process; that’s unique in that regard, that we can tie all that together. The whole thing with our traceability is we’ve got the accountability of our workers and that’s the piece I think is invaluable and really paying for the rest. By virtue of the fact that we’re having less rejections and have better quality on the shelf it’s been a real win-win for us.”
After hard freezes shocked Florida vegetable growers the last two seasons, Mr. Wishnatzki again thought ahead and realized he could literally insulate production against bad weather. He searched for a spot virtually immune to freezing —Pine Island off the west coast of Florida — and launched a 200-acre vegetable farm there.
“Our Pine Island vegetable deal is coming on-line this year with a couple hundred acres and a new facility to cool and pack them in,” Mr. Wishnatzki said. “We’re in a very nice little micro-climate that’s not very likely to freeze based on our location on the island.”
Meanwhile, this season’s strawberry crop is “shaping up real well, the quality of the plants we got this year seems to be real good, we’ve had just about ideal growing conditions to this point,” Mr. Wishnatski said. “If we can continue on this track we should be in real good shape for a real good crop.”
Some of Wish Farm’s fields already have green berries on the plants and Mr. Wishnatzki expects to be able to pick some berries by Thanksgiving, well ahead of a typical year.