Page 54 - December2018
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The Sunshine State’s important role in supplying retailers tasty berries. BY DOUG OHLEMEIER
Florida is well known as a key supplier of strawberries during the winter. Plant City, FL, the hub of the state’s production, is known as the “winter strawberry capital of the
world.” Florida strawberries o er retails and consumers a “Taste of Florida sunshine all winter long.”
Florida’s reputation for quality strawber- ries is well-known, says Nick Wishnatzki, marketing projects manager with Plant City’s Wish Farms. “Florida’s weather during this time hits the sweet spot for strawberry growing,” he says. “Besides its fertile ground and abundant natural resources, the cool nights and warm days during this period are a great recipe for not only strong yield, but also great- tasting berries. Berry shoppers look forward to the Florida strawberry season and seek out berries grown here.”
 e timing of Florida’s strawberries is unique, says Shawn Pollard, salesman with Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC in Plant City. “We can o er the  rst domestically grown strawberries for the New Year,” he says. “It’s the  avor pro le of the berries.  ey’re very  avorful. It’s the uniqueness of the vari- eties we grow.”
 at  avor helps di erentiate the state’s berries. “Florida is known for tasty fruit,” says Aaron Grimes, salesman with Plant City’s Grimes Produce Co. LLC. “During the winter,
we are putting out a lot more berries than California. Our quality is better than Mexican fruit during that time. Florida is a longtime grower-shipper and supplier of strawberries. Everyone in Florida puts up a good pack.”
Florida’s warm and dry weather during the winter is ideal for strawberry production while the other strawberry growing regions experience cold and wet weather, notes Matt Sumner, a salesman with Always Fresh Farms, which is based in Winter Haven, FL. “What makes Florida strawberries unique is the varieties unique to Florida that empha- size  avor and color,” he says. “We are able to make deliveries to most of the Eastern Seaboard in one to two days to ensure very fresh fruit, which allows for wintertime promotions of domestic product.”
Florida possesses many advantages for producing winter strawberries during the winter. “It is an area known for producing good-quality strawberries in the early winter months,” says Craig Casca, executive o cer and director of sales for Red Blossom, based in Los Olivos, CA. “Retailers have a chance to increase sales during the wintertime. Florida gives a fuller season for all retailers for straw- berries.”
Florida’s winter shipments come during a key time for a region that has been growing
strawberries since the early 1900s. “Obviously, the timing makes our deal unique,” says Chris Smith, sales manager for BBI Produce, Inc., in Dover, FL. “ e temperature, the timing and the climate are right for that time of the year.  is is a good spot for strawberry production.”
Elrod’s Cost Plus Supermarket in Dallas, TX, sources Florida strawberries through A l- iated Foods in Lubbock, TX.  e Carrollton, TX-based GE Foodland operates four Food- land Markets and  ve Elrod’s Cost Plus Supermarkets in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, area. Tommy Melton, produce supervisor, says Florida berries make for good promotions.
“When they get the Florida strawberries in, that’s what we promote,” he says. “We promote what can get through them. Florida strawber- ries are very important because the quality is a big deal.  ey’re very ripe.  ey’re always nice- sized strawberries that we can promote.”
Florida plays a critical role in helping Cali- fornia grower-shippers supply retail customers during the winter.  e moderate temperature and rich soil factors contribute to making agri- cultural production successful in California and Florida, says Dan Crowley, vice president of sales and marketing for Well-Pict, Inc., headquartered in Watsonville, CA.
A key bene t of utilizing Florida growers is taking advantage of the season. “While

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