The Strawberry Picking Challenge raised more than $90,000 to benefit the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, a nonprofit group that runs child-care centers and charter schools serving Florida’s low-income, rural population, particularly the children of agricultural workers. ( Courtesy of Wish Farms )

Twenty teams competed to pluck the most strawberries at the sixth annual Strawberry Picking Challenge at Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., an event that raised more than $90,000 to benefit the Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

The nonprofit migrant association runs child-care centers and charter schools serving Florida’s low-income, rural population, particularly the children of agricultural workers. Monte Package Company, Riverside, Mich., sponsored the Feb. 8-9 event, according to a news release. 

“The turnout was our best yet with an estimated 2,500 attendees,” Gary Wishnatzki, owner of Wish Farms, said in the release. “This event brings the community together to celebrate the Florida strawberry season and show our appreciation for the dedicated farmers and field workers. We are grateful to support RCMA and the important work they do for our industry.”

Publix, International Paper, Farm Credit of Central Florida and Amalie Oil were some of the corporate-sponsored teams competing in the relay-style strawberry-picking race while local strawberry growers cheered and coached. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue firefighters and Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies also joined the challenge.

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First responders participated in the sixth annual Strawberry Picking Challenge. (Courtesy of Wish Farms)

 

Since 2014, the fundraiser has donated moe than $513,000 to RCMA children, according to the release.  

So, who won?

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, coached by Kane Hannaford from G&D Farms, Parrish, Fla., was crowned 2019’s Best Harvest Crew and will hold onto the Strawberry Joe Trophy until passing it on to next year’s champions.

Also, strawberry growers nominated their best harvesters to battle it out in a professional picking competition, garnering $800 in master picker awards, according to the release.  

RCMA Wimauma Academy students opened the event by leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, and later they sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Grand Old Flag.” There was a charity U-pick open to the public and other family-friendly entertainment. 

 

 
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