(CORRECTED): HAINES CITY, Fla. — Cottle Strawberry Nursery Inc. is boosting its Florida blueberries business by selling for a central Florida grower that built a new packing shed.
Doug OhlemeierJason Watts (from left), partner with Florida Best Farm Inc., a venture with Ron Cottle, president and co-owner of Cottle Strawberry Nursery Inc., and Matthew Green, a grower and consultant, will pack berries in a blueberry packinghouse in Haines City, Fla. The Faison, N.C.-based grower-shipper of strawberries and blueberries is set to begin marketing for Florida Best Farm Inc., which plans to begin packing from its new 20,000 square foot packing shed in mid-February.
Owned by central Florida citrus and blueberries grower Jason Watts and his father Jim Watts, Florida Best plans to pack and market its fruit under the Cottle Farms label, a Cottle division.
“We now have some of our own fruit and have a lot more control over it,” said Ron Cottle, Cottle’s president and co-owner. We have always brokered berries out of Florida. The broker is always on the back end of the pole. This will help keep chain stores supplied more steadily as they’re demanding direct.”
The operation plans to pack from Watts’ 70 acres as well as from some other growers, expanding to 100 acres next season.
The building is designed to pack berries from 500 acres, Cottle said.
“Some of us have property already that’s just waiting to plant blueberries,” said Watts, a fourth-generation citrus grower.
Florida Best Farm plans to pack up to 1 million pounds of Cottle Farms-brand berries from Florida.
Cottle grows and packs blueberries from North Carolina, British Columbia and Chile and sources from other areas including Georgia, New Jersey and Michigan.
Grower Matthew Green, a caretaker and consultant, is also involved.
(Note on correction: This article originally incorrectly mischaracterized the ownership of the Florida Best Farm Inc., blueberry packing shed.
Cottle Strawberry Nursery Inc. is marketing for the packing shed owned by Jason Watts and his father Jim Watts.)