Successful Diversification Starts with a Trusted and Aligned Team
Diversification has long been a key part of how Bobby Costa’s evolved his business to continue what he sees as the only life for him. “Farming isn’t for everyone,” explains Costa, a grower from San Joaquin County. “But I love doing it. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”
For more than 30 years, Costa has been diversifying his farm to keep up with the changing dynamics of the market and better manage production and returns throughout the year. Diversification has long been fundamental to not just keeping up but continuing to improve year-over-year crop yields and resulting revenue potential. Starting with wheat and alfalfa in 1988, Costa’s crop rotation today includes beans, tomatoes, carrots, garlic, pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers and basil on around 3,300 acres.
“We can’t keep planting the same crop all the time because it’s not good for the soil,” Costa says. “We see higher yields when we have good crop rotation.”
A Successful Operation Begins at Home
Costa worked with his father Bob to build the operation from the ground up in the 1980s and gradually to its current size and diversity. Always a family venture, he’s quick to point out the importance of working with the right team that today includes wife Robin, sons Bobby and Nathan and daughter Avelina, who he says has expressed the strongest desire to succeed her father in operating and managing the ranch.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without the guidance of my parents and support from my wife and kids. They all sacrifice free time to help this operation be successful,” says Costa. “My father prepared me to take the reins of the ranch, and Robin and I are working hard to pave a similar path for our kids so they’re ready when it’s their turn to run the operation.”
Running in the Name of Efficiency
But not every member of the Costa team shares the same surname. Costa is quick to add Grow West PCA Doug Grupe to the list of key team members. The farmer/PCA duo has worked together since 2011.
“It’s so important to be on the same page as your team,” Costa says. “Doug is really good about pointing out areas where we can improve, and then working with our team to develop a plan for success.”
When Grupe first began working with Costa and his employees, he introduced them to a high-efficiency, low-volume fertilizer. The new nutrient management plan allowed Costa to eliminate one pass through his fields, reducing his labor and equipment needs, and improving production efficiency. Grupe and the Grow West team work closely with Costa’s team to ensure the fertilizer is supplied in a timely manner and that application equipment is adjusted and set correctly to maximize the results of the single-pass approach.
“Everything we do on Bob’s ranch is in the name of efficiency,” explains Grupe. “When looking at something new, we always start with a trial and carefully evaluate it. Bob takes some big and expensive risks, but he’s willing to do that if the results mean a more efficient, productive and profitable ranch.”
Costa also employs technology to keep his ranch running at peak efficiency. Operating machinery equipped with GPS allows him to maximize crop potential every acre. He also used GSI water technology to map his fields for the installation of tile drains, which has improved some crop yields by as much as 50 percent. The combination of gradual technology integration and the continued partnership with PCA Grupe have Costa optimistic about his operation’s future.
“Doug and the entire Grow West team are so easy to work with,” says Costa. “It’s clear that they want their clients to succeed. Their solutions-oriented business helps me find new opportunities each year, which helps keep me motivated to try something new. You never know when that something new might turn into a huge success.”
Grupe agrees: “It’s exciting to work with a grower like Bob, who includes me in key management planning and decision making. It pushes me to work hard and work together to find the best outcome.”