Wish Farms Rocks 100th Anniversary

Back row, from left: James Peterson, Elizabeth Peterson, Therese Wishnatzki, Gary Wishnatzki, Nick Wishnatzki and Stephen Cramer. Front row, from left: Will Peterson, Joey Peterson.

Originally printed in the January 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Wish Farms, a Plant City, FL-based international grower and marketer of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and pineberries, recently celebrated a major milestone. The company welcomed guests to its 100th anniversary celebration, the second annual PixieRock music festival.

The event took place this past November, on the front lawn of the Wish Farms headquarters. Attendees rocked to live performances from artists such as Blanco Brown, Saint Motel, Bishop Briggs and headlining act, ZZ Top.

The roots of Wish Farms began on the streets of New York City, with Ukrainian immigrant Harris Wishnatzki selling fruits and vegetables from a pushcart. In 1922, he teamed up with another pushcart peddler named Daniel Nathel. Together, they established Wishnatzki & Nathel, a wholesale business. After Harris’ passing in 1955, his sons Joe and Lester assumed leadership. Joe’s son, Gary Wishnatzki, joined the company in 1974 and is the current CEO.

In 2001, the Wishnatzki and Nathel families mutually agreed to split, with the Wishnatzkis overseeing the Florida division. The company was named Wishnatzki Farms and focused on growing and shipping produce. In 2010, the company rebranded itself as Wish Farms.

“Our company is third and fourth generation, family operated. Harris realized his American dream, and set the wheels in motion for what is today, a multi-generational, year-round berry company. His values are at the heart of what Wish Farms lives by every day,” says Nick Wishnatzki, public relations manager.

Lester (left) and Joe Wishnatzki in the 1950s.

The business and industry have evolved dramatically, from transactional and trade focused to a relationship business. “We work with our retail customers like partners, building programs and working together to meet consumer demand,” says Wishnatzki.

Over the past few decades, a major shift in branding has helped drive consumer demand, along with the latest research on the health benefits of berries. “Many years ago, berries were considered a luxury item that very few could afford,” says Wishnatzki. “Now, they are much more ubiquitous, and available year-round.”

Going forward, the company is looking to build on last season’s success with Pink-A-Boo Pineberries. “Our education and awareness campaign was a major marketing win,” says Wishnatzki. On TikTok, the top six posts featuring Pink-A-Boo Pineberries achieved 42,600 shares, 1.7 million likes, and reached over 10.5 million viewers.

“There is still a significant segment of the population that has not experienced the unique tropical flavor of the pineberry,” says Wishnatzki. “Having increased our supply this season, we anticipate that it will keep pace with strong demand, while providing a nice boost for our retail partners.”

The 100th anniversary event also raised money for the company’s charitable giving. The Wish Farms Family Foundation has been focused on three pillars: food insecurity, youth education, and community. All proceeds went to beneficiaries Feeding Tampa Bay, Shriners Children’s and the Wish Farms Family Foundation. The anniversary event raised $640,000.