March 1, 2023

WG Member Profile: BlazerWilkinsonGee


Member since 2008

There’s something about a picture-perfect strawberry that has made the fruit consistently rank as one of the most popular fruits consumed by millions of Americans each year. According to grower-packer-shipper BlazerWilkinsonGee, there are five to seven petals per strawberry flower, an estimated 200 seeds on a strawberry’s surface, and five pounds of average yield per strawberry plant. But who’s counting?

Realizing the potential of this beloved fruit, John Wilkinson and Scott Blazer joined together to form BlazerWilkinson in 1996 to start selling strawberries. “Strawberries were really increasing in popularity at the time, and we knew we could sell a lot of them,” owner Wilkinson said. “Sooner or later, we realized we couldn’t buy enough of them, so we started farming them in 2003, and we’ve expanded little by little every year since.”

Wilkinson notes that part of his company’s expansion can be attributed to its relationship with the Nunes family, when they licensed their Foxy label for strawberries in 2008. “This is a well-known brand in the vegetable industry, and this helped us as we expanded our farming operation. Since that time, the relationship has deepened considerably. They farm some fields for us in the Salinas area, we lease some land from them and they rotate vegetable crops through the farms between berry crops,” Wilkinson said.

Fast forward nearly two decades later to 2021 when BlazerWilkinson teamed up with Daren Gee, a successful strawberry grower in the Santa Maria area. Together, they formed BlazerWilkinsonGee, a vertically integrated grower and shipper of both conventional and organic strawberries headquartered in Salinas, Calif.

Its vertical operation enables the company to stay connected with its product every step of the way, ensuring strict standards of quality and flavor are maintained throughout the entire process. “There’s a lot that goes into it,” Wilkinson said. “We make sure we produce high quality fruit that gives us a lot to choose from for when it comes time to pack it.”

BlazerWilkinsonGee farms an estimated 2,200 acres of strawberries between Oxnard, Santa Maria, and Salinas, Calif., and Plant City, Fla. The company also imports strawberries from Mexico during the mid-winter months to ensure it delivers quality strawberries 365 days a year.

In addition to supplying premium fruit, the company has made tremendous strides in sustainability to ensure it remains a good steward of the land. BlazerWilkinsonGee COO Kiana Amaral, who is also the daughter of Wilkson, noted that California farmers are under more scrutiny than any other state in the country.

“It’s important we do everything possible to reduce our overall impact, from precision irrigation, to promoting biodiversity through crop rotation, to reducing food waste during the distribution process, to compostable cardboard packaging,” Amaral said. “But every bit as important as the sustainability of the land is the sustainability of our people and community. As a family run company, we take our role in supporting a healthy and vibrant community very seriously.”

On top of those efforts, BlazerWilkinsonGee announced that it would be rolling out 100 percent recyclable clamshell packaging in 2020. “There hasn’t been a solid history of recycling clamshells. The recycling industry recycles a bunch of water bottles—and that’s a good business—but it’s not embracing clamshells yet. I see that as an area where we can all improve upon,” he said.

“We felt the need to provide recyclable packaging regardless of whether or not people were going to recycle them. Most homes want to put in the effort to improve recycling, and now we just need to somehow encourage the recycling industry to step in and embrace it.”

BlazerWilkinsonGee has been a member of Western Growers since 2008. “I’ve been in the agricultural industry all my life. My grandfather was an ag professor and a VP of an agricultural company, and my dad and uncle were both lettuce growers—so I’ve been in or around Western Growers for many years. Western Growers is an association that most fully represents California and Arizona perishable agriculture, so it’s important for us to be a part of this distinguished group.”