The “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World” got National news coverage when The Weather Channel’s Parker Wallace with “What’s on Parker’s Plate” came out to interview local strawberry farmer, Matt Parke of Parkesdale Farms, for “What’s in Season.”
For the seventh year in a row, members of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association donated toys to the local U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program. According to a news release, members of the Association attended their annual awards banquet on Dec. 12 with gifts in hand.
“Seven large bags were overflowing with toys during the 32nd Annual Florida Strawberry Growers Association Awards Banquet, known as the Jam,” Sue Harrell, director of marketing, said in a press release.
Read more at The Packer.
Kenneth Parker, the new FSGA Executive Director is a natural fit to lead strawberry growers in new goals.
After working out of the front of his truck and spending much of the last 20 years in the area’s strawberry fields, Kenneth Parker, the new Executive Director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, is still getting used to sitting behind a desk and office air conditioning!
Kenneth, a Plant City native, began his new job in July after being hired in a unanimous vote of the FSGA board. He’s the perfect fit for the job, having lifelong relationships with many of the growers and helping them maximize their yields as a certified crop adviser in his previous position with Chemical Dynamics.
In his new position, Kenneth also oversees two related organizations: The Florida Strawberry Patent Service Corp., which licenses the use of new varieties of Florida strawberries, and the Florida Strawberry Research and Education Foundation, which supports the development of new varieties and other grower-related research at the University of Florida.
Being outside and visiting with growers always beats sitting behind his desk sending emails, according to Kenneth. “I want to be out making sure that the association is a value-added part of their business,” he said. “The only way to know is to go out and ask them.
Kenneth will also tell you that he favors the old-fashioned way of communicating over today’s impersonal texts and tweets, so you’re more likely to get a personal visit or phone call from him. “You need to hear someone’s voice inflection and tone when they’re speaking to really be able to effectively communicate,” he said.
As Executive Director, Kenneth will focus on “the many moving parts” that make up the state’s strawberry industry, including the patenting and licensing of new strawberry varieties, channeling royalties to ensure continued research and enhancing marketing efforts of the unique crop that is Florida winter strawberries.
When it comes to reaching his goals for the FSGA, Kenneth is quick to commend and recognize the staff for taking on more responsibilities, allowing the organization to best serve the growers and ensure the future growth of both crops and consumers.
This lifelong resident of Hillsborough County has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and citrus from Florida Southern College. He is an associate director of the Florida Strawberry Festival and serves as superintendent of the steer committee. He also serves on the board of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, is an associate board member of the Florida FFA Foundation, and on the Hillsborough County strawberry and vegetable advisory committee.
Kenneth also enjoys ranching and is a member of the Florida Cattleman’s Association. He is a partner at the South Prong Ranch, a commercial cow, calf and hay operation, near the Welcome community in Lithia, Fla.
This sixth generation Floridian is committed to agricultural education and enjoys helping FFA and 4-H members with their livestock and crop projects. He knows these young people are the leaders of the future and they represent what is right with America. Kenneth is convinced their projects help build excellent character, sound work ethic, and personal responsibility.
Kenneth is married to his high school sweetheart Dee, and they have two children, Jerrod and Calli Jo. Jerrod is married to Summer Norris Parker and serves as a crop adviser for Chemical Dynamics. Calli Jo is married to James Baker and is a teacher at Knights Elementary. Kenneth is a deacon and Sunday school teacher at Welcome Baptist Church in Lithia.
Florida Strawberry Growers Association promoting new crop of fresh Florida strawberries December through March
We are the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, dominating the market of fresh strawberries during the winter months. Florida is the domestic producer for East Coast markets, competing with increased imports of Mexican strawberries during the same season. As the “local” supplier, our berries travel fewer miles, which translates to fresher, tastier berries for consumers.
We are expanding the strawberry research acreage this year. The new field behind the FSGA offices will showcase new advances in the industry, and tours of the facility will feature a working strawberry field and visit with a strawberry farmer to learn first-hand what it takes to grow strawberries today verses how it was done years ago by past generations.
While costs to grow strawberries continue to rise for the farmer, the retail market is very resistant to rising prices. Fortunately, strawberries are a popular consumer indulgence with incredible health benefits and versatility of utilization.
Despite the economic downturn, strawberries have increased in both sales and tonnage at retail. Our farmers are increasing acreage to continue to supply our flavorful fruit during the winter months, and we are optimistic that the popularity of strawberries will continue to grow.
With the increase in acreage this year, and barring any weather disasters, Florida farmers predict they’ll have good supplies of the world’s best strawberries from Christmas through March.
The season is off to a great start. The farmers prepare the land in August and plant from late September through mid-October. Approximately 20,000 plants per acre are all planted by hand! Which means fresh Florida strawberries at Thanksgiving!
The industry will plant more than 12,000 acres of berries this season, which make us the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. Our industry is committed to providing customers with the safest, best quality and most delicious tasting berries on the market.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 22, 2013
Contact: Sue Harrell, Director of Marketing
Florida Strawberry Growers Association
Florida strawberry growers fire up marketing efforts in collaboration with Smokey Bones restaurants
PLANT CITY, Fla. – The Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA), as part of its continuing campaign to educate consumers about its unique winter strawberry crop has partnered with Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill to spread the message that fresh-from-Florida berries are on the menu in a special promotion that runs Feb. 10-March 2, 2014.
Florida is the dominant domestic supplier of winter strawberries. Crops are harvested between Thanksgiving and mid-March, and are shipped to locations east of the Mississippi and along the entire East Coast. This market is ideally suited to the Smokey Bones brand, which includes 65 locations in 17 states, most of which are in the same geographic area targeted by Florida winter strawberries.
Smokey Bones’ vice president of culinary Jason R. Gronlund, also a founding member of the FSGA Chefs Advisory Board, wanted to further promote Florida-grown strawberries, so he suggested that the restaurant could boost the berries’ brand exposure through menu items featuring the red, juicy fruit. Gronlund created a limited-time-dessert offering – a strawberries and cream cake. The restaurant also developed a new strawberry cocktail, and will offer a strawberry-flavored ale from its bar selections.
“We are excited to be able to spotlight our winter berries through a popular restaurant brand that is synonymous with great food, drinks and fun. We know our collaboration with Smokey Bones will encourage consumers to purchase and consume more Florida strawberries all winter long,” said Sue Harrell, director of marketing for FSGA.
“Teaming with the actual people who grow Florida’s winter strawberry crop complements Smokey Bones’ culture of developing menu choices that feature the best quality food, including the freshest produce possible,” added Tiffany Walker, director of marketing for Smokey Bones.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is supporting the “Bones ‘n’ Berries” promotion by lending its “Fresh from Florida” logo, which was created to promote the state’s fresh agricultural products. The logo will be placed on collateral material to identify the special menu items.
Local growers and members of the FSGA produce about 15 percent of the nation’s strawberries and virtually all the berries grown during the winter. The commodity has an economic impact on the local community exceeding $700 million. Hillsborough County, Fla., is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World. For more information about FSGA, visit www.flastrawberry.com.
Smokey Bones is a full-service bar and fire-grill restaurant brand based in Orlando, Fla. It is owned by an affiliate of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Sun Capital Partners, whose portfolio of restaurants also includes Boston Market, Friendly’s, Sweet Tomatoes, Fazoli’s, Bar Louie, and other restaurant brands. For more information on Smokey Bones, visit www.SmokeyBones.com.