PLANT CITY, Fla. —Revamping its yearly charitable program, Wish Farms is changing from tennis to a strawberry picking contest that will benefit the people who harvest Florida’s produce.
On Feb. 7-8, the grower-shipper plans to host its first Strawberry Picking Challenge.
Designed to raise money for the Immokalee-based Redlands Christian Migrant Association, the new event replaces the Strawberry Pro Am Tennis tournament that Wish Farms has hosted for eight years in the Tampa area.
The tennis events helped generate about $500,000 for migrant workers’ children’s education. Wish Farms president Gary Wishnatzki said switching to a strawberry picking contest allows the company to relocate the fund-raising event to the Plant City area, which should boost local interest.
“We really want the first event to be a bang, to be something people in the community and vendors talk about,” he said.
“We want to get awareness out about (the Redlands Christian Migrant Association) and really involve the local community. This event will bring to light the difficulty of strawberry picking. The different activities will show people about strawberry harvesting with a fun twist.”
A kickoff dinner is scheduled for Feb. 7 at the TPepin’s Hospitality Center in east Tampa.
On Feb. 8, the picking contest will feature teams from corporate sponsors, a professional picker and a local celebrity. They are set to compete for a traveling “best harvest crew” trophy.
Switching to a strawberry picking contest is also expected to make the event more inclusive. Wishnatzki said some sponsors in the past did not have tennis players on their staffs, which made participation difficult.
Wish Farms is offering sponsorship levels available from $200 to $10,000. The non-profit Redlands Christian Migrant Association provides childcare and education for migrant families in predominantly agricultural communities in central and southwest Florida.