Make us your home page

Wish Farms selling strawberry farm in Plant City

Its labels may still say Plant City, but the city's oldest and best-known strawberry grower is increasingly drawing more of its crop from northern Manatee County.

Strawberry grower Gary Wishnatzki, best-known for selling berries under the Wish Farms label, is shutting down a 200-acre farm operation in Plant City and, for the next growing season, expanding a much larger operation in Duette, southeast of Sun City Center.

The decision, which comes after a tough year of low prices and heavy competition from Mexico, is a bid to improve efficiency by using more contiguous acreage. The Wishnatzki family owns about 800 acres in Duette and leases another 700 there.

"It was not a good year for growing in Florida, so we're trying to focus on the operations that have a better chance at being profitable going forward," Wishnatzki said. He said the Plant City land is under contract to sell to another grower but did not provide more details.

In connection to the sale, a partnership controlled by Wishnatzki, Trapnell Road Farms LLC, notified the state in a filing this week that it is laying off 608 workers.

Typically, farmers do not have to announce seasonal layoffs unless they are permanently closing a location. In this case, Wishnatzki anticipates that many of the affected seasonal workers will be hired in the fall at his Manatee County location or other area farms. Wish Farms employs about 2,000 people during its growing season.

Wishnatzki's grandfather, Harris, moved to Plant City in 1929 and established a farming operation that today produces about 3.5 million flats of strawberries drawn from nearly 2,000 acres. The company also grows bell peppers, squash, eggplants and tomatoes on 600 acres in Pine Island.

Wishnatzki stressed that he will continue to market strawberries for other Plant City growers. Moreover, Wish Farms is keeping its marketing operations in Plant City.

"We're still very active in Plant City," he said. "We're not going anywhere."

Plant City Mayor Mike Sparkman, who learned about the sale from the state layoff notice, said he isn't overly concerned because the farmland is being sold to another strawberry grower.

"It already has irrigation, so for another farmer to pick it up, I think it will be just fine," he said.

Moreover, given that the Plant City area still has almost 10,000 acres devoted to growing berries, Sparkman isn't worried about its reputation as the winter strawberry capital of the world.

Even though Wish Farm berries will continue to be branded "Plant City" in the supermarket, there is a way for picky berry buyers to determine the farm of origin of each container.

The clear plastic "clamshell" packages are all labeled with a 16 digit number and the Web address. Once those numbers are entered online, the package of strawberries can be tracked down to the particular block in the farm field from which it came, who picked it and at what date and time.

Jeff Harrington can be reached at or (727) 893-8242.

Wish Farms selling strawberry farm in Plant City 06/13/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  2. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  3. Citigroup agrees to pay nearly $100 million fine for Mexican subsidiary


    NEW YORK — Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering.

    Citigroup has agreed to pay nearly $100 million to federal authorities to settle claims that a lack of internal controls and negligence in the bank's Mexican subsidiary may have allowed customers to commit money laundering. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  4. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    The name, that is. But its replacement — Tampa Bay Next — includes several of the same projects once proposed for TBX, such as the express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as a place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]