By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
Although the name has only been around for a few years, the story behind Wish Farms dates back much earlier — 90 years in fact.
Now a fourth-generation, family-owned company, Wish Farms is a leader in the strawberry growing industry and has been a major contributor to Plant City’s title as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.
“We’ve made some big transitions over the years,” said owner Gary Wishnatzki. “Looking back, it was quite a different world from where we are today.”
Gary Wishnatzki is the third generation of this long-standing family business. His daughter, Elizabeth, represents the fourth generation and is assisting with marketing efforts. Her husband, James, also works for the company in the sales department.
The company’s story dates back more than 110 years, when Gary’s grandfather, Harris Wishnatzki, emigrated from Russia to New York City and began selling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart. There, he met Daniel Nathel, and the pair eventually became business partners.
In 1922, Wishnatzki and Nathel combined their large pushcart fleets and formed Wishnatzki & Nathel. Seven years later, Wishnatzki moved to Plant City and established a produce-shipping operation.
After two more generations of Wishnatzkis joined the business, the family and the Nathel family agreed to split the company. The Wishnatzkis oversaw the Florida division and changed the name to Wishnatzki Farms in 2001.
In 2010, the company launched its consumer brand, Wish Farms. A year later, it became a year-round supplier of blueberries, strawberries and vegetables. The blueberries have seven different growing regions. The strawberries have an operation in Salinas and Santa Maria, Calif., when they are out of season locally. Wish Farms also has a vegetable-growing operation in Pine Island.
In January 2011, the company made the official name change to Wish Farms and has kept its headquarters in Plant City.
“We’re trying to separate ourselves from the pack and have our brand recognized,” Wishnatzki said.
Wish Farms has become a major player locally, not only as a produce grower and shipper but also away from the crops and fields. Marketing Director Amber Kosinsky is helping to expand the brand, including expanding its social media outreach with active profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Wish Farms also has utilized the Florida Strawberry Festival as a way to market its products and name. It sponsors the performance stage that has brought some notable music acts in the past.
“We go way back with the community here, so that’s one reason why we want to stay involved with events like the Florida Strawberry Festival,” Wishnatzki said. “We want to give back to this community that has given us so much over the years.”
In addition to new branding efforts and the name change, Wish Farms has made some other significant changes throughout the past 10 years.
When Gary Wishnatzki started working for his dad and uncle in 1974, the company operated out of a rented railroad platform Paradise Plastics calls home today.
“We were a little bit behind the times compared to what California was doing,” Wishnatzki said.
At that time, the company wasn’t automated with its daily operations. But in the last decade, Wish Farms has updated and enhanced its cooling efforts and has made great strides in its processing.
“Processing has enhanced our ability to pick the crops to the very end,” Wishnatzki said. “Processing gives us the ability to stay fresh.”
Wishnatzki said improvements also have been made in forecasting.
“We used to not have a scientific way of predicting production, and today, we do,” he said. “It allows us to make promises and keep those promises.”
A traceability system has been put in place that allows the companies to track berries from the crop to the consumer.
“When we get feedback from customers on our berries, we can track and find out exactly where and when those berries were picked,” he said. “That was a tremendous innovation for us and allows us to correct our failures.”
Contact Matt Mauney at email@example.com.