The other day, I tagged along with the Tampa Bay Business Owners who had organized a “Success Safari” to Wish Farms. I wasn’t sure what to expect other than some information about their business and some fresh strawberry picking. That would have been enough to make me happy…
But what I ended up receiving was far more than that. We arrived to one of the properties with a large spread of zucchini plants and a warehouse. We got to look around and take pics with a huge John Deere tractor, which is great for cool points on Facebook.
What followed was a great success story told by the CEO and grandson of the founder of Wish Farms, Gary Wishnatzki. Gary’s grandfather, Harris Wishnatzki, was a Russian immigrant who came to the US around the turn of the century. Harris started the business with only a pushcart of fruit in New York City, which grew into a fleet of pushcarts, and eventually a partnership with another pushcart entrepreneur named Daniel Nathel. Their partnership lead to the birth of Wishnatzki & Nathel, a produce wholesaler and shipping firm. Harris moved to Florida after some business dealings caused him to fall in love with the state.
Gary then gave an interesting tidbit of the “Strawberry Schools” that were common during the mid 20th century in towns such as Plant City, Florida. These were schools that ran during the summer-time only which would allow farmers’ children to work in the fields during the harvesting season from December through March! Doesn’t that sound fun??
Business went well during these times, and eventually Gary Wishnatzki began working for the family business in 1974. He recalled a time that year when there was a major truck strike and the farm was stuck with the strawberry crop that couldn’t be shipped. They decided to sell the strawberries right from the farm and lines went around the building because of their competitive pricing. An elderly woman came up to Gary and asked him if he knew where she might find the Frantic Farmers. Confused, Gary asked her how she heard about these guys, and she held up a newspaper that headlined, “Frantic Farmers Sell Cheap Strawberries” or something to that effect, and Gary knew she was referring to him!
I believe it is this ability to adapt to changing conditions that has kept Wish Farms successfully in business all these years. Their adaptation to the changing technological and social landscape is the part of this company’s history that really catches my attention. Gary went on to tell us about three really trend-setting advances that they have made in their business that allow them to stay ahead of the game when everything around them is moving so quickly:
- Forecasting – Wish Farms developed and patented a forecasting system, originally created by the University of Florida, that can forecast the strawberry crop yield within a 20% margin. They are the only one in the industry using an advanced system like this, which provides certainty for retailers. Their buyers love their accuracy because it allows them to promote strawberries at the right time, increasing their sales.
- Mobile QR Site – Wish Farms has invested in a mobile site that is accessible by QR codes found on the packaging of their goods. When you visit this site, you are given a variety of options on what to do next, including getting to watch a video that comes from the exact farm that your produce came from!
- FreshQC™ – This is my absolute favorite part. This is an electronic quality control method that places a barcode on every single clamshell package of strawberries that allows the consumer to track the strawberry that they are about to eat all the way back down the line to the exact picker who picked it from the plant. The ability to manage the quality of the berries is astounding with this method. All a consumer has to do is type in the code on their package into the website, as shown below, and along with a customer service survey, they will get the information about their specific strawberry bunch. How’s that for customer service?Here is a short video on the FreshQC™ specifics, along with a cameo by Gary himself!:
A couple of other great tidbits about Wish Farms:
– They are the largest grower of organic strawberries in Florida. They produce about 85% of the organic strawberries in Florida!
– They have perfected a cooling technique that gets their strawberries from picker to cooling facility within 2 hours of coming off the plant. And the strawberries get to the store within 24 hours!
Look at what else I captured on my visit:
I happen to be a very conscientious food shopper. I think it is extremely important to know where your food comes from and know who makes it for you. Being that I’m a human, though, this isn’t a realistic thing to do all the time. But just getting a little information about the attention to detail and the investment in the technology of the future from a farm like this, makes me comfortable to make a decision that when faced with the choice, I would always choose Wish Farms now that I know what they’re about!