Costa Farms Wins With Its Emphasis On Team, Solutions, Growth

The current owners of Costa Farms (left to right) are Jose “Joche” Smith, Maria Costa-Smith, and Jose Costa.
The current owners of Costa Farms (left to right) are Jose “Joche” Smith, Maria Costa-Smith, and Jose Costa.

The team at Costa Farms is driven to win. Winning is part of the culture that’s ingrained in the operation, as deeply and inherently as its Cuban-American heritage and as broadly as its operations around the globe. Team members thrive on Costa Farms’ mantra, “Humble, Hungry, Hustle,” and they live it daily, constantly working to improve operations and never satisfied with the status quo.

It’s because of that drive, and that team, and that hustle, and that hunger, that Costa Farms has grown to become one of the largest greenhouse operations in the world, and why it has been named International Grower of the Year by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH). Costa Farms is the first U.S. operation to be considered for the award, which will be announced this month at a gala during the IPM Essen show in Germany.

“Everybody wants to be a winner; everybody wants to be part of a winning team and feel special,” says Maria Costa Smith. “Any recognition for who we are today is 100% because of the team, and it gives us joy to see their pride. It is a huge motivation to continue to drive excellence for our organization.”

Costa Farms Has Thrived Under The Current Team

Costa Farms is a third-generation greenhouse operation, led by CEO and President Jose “Joche” Smith, Executive Vice President – Color Division Maria Costa Smith, and Executive Vice President – Foliage Division Jose Costa. The three owners are joined by a team of seven executives, including Charlie Acevedo, Vice President, Sales and Marketing; Doug Watson, Vice President of Information Technology; Peter Freyre, Vice President, Foliage Operation; Arianna Cabrera, General Legal Council; Jose Alvarez, CFO; Mike Estrada, Vice President, Human Resources; and LJ Contillo, Vice President, Color Operations.

Established in 1961, Costa Farms was leveled in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida. Not one greenhouse from before the hurricane still stands today, and all three of the current owners, then very young and fresh out of graduate school and college, were called on to take immediate leadership roles to rebuild.

“It was a very humbling experience, and a horrible thing to go through, but it made us stronger,” Jose says. “When you think of a plant that comes back really strong after you cut it back, that’s what happened to us.”

Today, the operation spans 15,071,760 square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouses, 747 acres of shadehouses, and 1,392 acres of field production. After several acquisitions and expansions, it operates in South Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, the Dominican Republic, and China. Costa Farms continues to innovate and grow, and to drive solutions for its customers, which includes other growers, retailers, and end consumers.

All of this is possible, the owners say, because of the operation’s team of talented, dynamic, driven people. That team is the Costa Family — all 4,000-plus employees year-round, and 5,500 in the peak season.

“We have a great team and culture, and there is always an appetite to want to win all the time,” Joche says. “That’s what drives us to succeed.”

Editor’s Note: Look for upcoming one-on-one interviews with three of Costa Farms’ extraordinary plantsmen on

The Best Kind Of Social Networking

Because the team makes all things possible for Costa Farms, the operation gives back to its team in a number of ways. All employees’ children are eligible to apply for college scholarships that pay as much as 75% of tuition. And it’s not a condition to come back and work at Costa Farms, but that’s what many of the recipients of this scholarship do, Jose Costa says. At any given time, there may be as many as 30 students enrolled in the program, and it’s one that the operation is trying to expand and get its team members to use more, he says.

Costa Farms works closely with an entity called Alfalit, a worldwide literacy organization that offers programs in literacy, basic education, and job and skills training, among others. Through this partnership, more than 100 people within the Costa Farms’ South Florida locations have learned to read and write, and graduated from the program, which they are encouraged to participate in during work hours. Costa Farms’ human resources team has expanded the literacy program to its other farms in North Carolina and South Carolina, to offer workers there the same benefits.

Finally, Costa Farms’ sizable monetary contribution to a local free clinic in South Florida provides medical care to many of its team members. Maria’s involvement on the board of Homestead Hospital, the area’s largest hospital system, has initiated this development. In South Carolina, Costa Layman’s Health Fair celebrated its 10th year in 2015. The fair, organized by Debbie Layman, has provided more than 2,500 free preventative and personalized health screenings for team members over the years, including free lab work.

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Karen Reardon, RISE

October 15, 2017

Karen Reardon of RISE Honored by CropLife America

CropLife America presented Reardon with its highest staff award for her successful effort to defend against the ban of pesticide use on private property in Maryland.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Houston-Based TreeTown USA Acquires Village Nurseries

With the addition of the new West Coast division, which will continue to operate under its trade name of Village Nurseries, TreeTown USA will now encompass 16 farm locations throughout California, Texas, and Florida, with more than 4,000 acres in production.

Read More

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitability With This Online Course

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Latest Stories

October 10, 2017

Sharpen Your Skills in Cost Management and Profitabilit…

The University of Florida is offering a new online course on costing and profitability. The course will take growers through the process of how to accurately evaluate cost of production, labor efficiency, pricing, and equipment investment decisions.

Read More
Willoway Nurseries Team

October 1, 2017

How Willoway Nurseries Gets Its Staff Engaged in The Co…

Willoway Nurseries in Avon, OH, is creating a culture with people who think, act, and feel like owners. Learn how its team is taking the business to the next level.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
Worker taking cuttings at Vivero Internacional.

September 11, 2017

Vivero Internacional Elevates Clean Cuttings to New Hei…

One of the last independent cutting operations, this fast-growing company raises the standard for delivering clean, high-quality unrooted cuttings.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

September 5, 2017

C. Raker & Sons Acquired By Roberta’s Unique Garden…

Ownership will change hands in December, and Raker will supply young plants for the 2018 season. Beyond that, leadership of the two operations say they are excited to move forward with a partnership that will continue to supply the industry, and gardeners, with top-quality plants.

Read More

August 1, 2017

MPS Honors D.S. Cole Growers for 10 Years of Sustainabi…

At Cultivate’17, a ceremony to mark a 10-year milestone since D.S. Cole Growers became involved with More Profitable Sustainability (MPS), as the first U.S. grower to achieve MPS certification, took owner Doug Cole by surprise. Separate celebrations also recognized Metrolina Greenhouses and Dümmen Orange for achieving MPS certification.

Read More
Nexus greenhouse construction for Knox Cannabis Facility

July 27, 2017

Ornamental Growers Will Revolutionize Cannabis Industry…

Professional growers have much to offer the emerging cannabis market, according to the co-owner of Knox Medical, one of the licensed cannabis producers in Florida.

Read More
Ball ColorLink logo

July 11, 2017

Get Guidance on Running Your Business from Ball ColorLi…

Representatives from Ball ColorLink will be on-hand at Cultivate’17 to answer questions and present business-building tools and industry insights to growers.

Read More
Lean Consortium in Washington

July 10, 2017

Washington Growers Join New Horticulture Lean Consortiu…

The group of growers has committed to learning and applying the principles of Lean, a method for eliminating waste that results in more value to customers delivered at a lower cost, in a shorter time, with fewer defects and less human effort.

Read More

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More

March 10, 2017

Costa Farms Expands With Purchase of Indoor Houseplant …

Costa Farms annnounced March 10 that it has acquired Delray Plants, one of the leaders in the indoor houseplant industry. The two operations are committed to the same values, principles, and goals to grow the industry, and will fit well together to accomplish this, say Randy Gilde, CEO of Delray Plants, and Joche Smith, CEO of Costa Farms.

Read More
Ken and Deena Altman

March 7, 2017

Altman Plants in Escrow to Purchase EuroAmerican Propag…

Ken Altman, a co-owner of Altman Plants based in Vista, CA, has confirmed that the operation is currently in escrow to purchase EuroAmerican Propagators, the Bonsall, CA-based young plant and finished plant grower that filed Chapter 7 Bankruptcy on Jan. 23, 2017. Ken and Deena Altman are co-owners of Altman Plants and The Plug Connection, along with their son Matthew, who has recently bought into the family business. The 55 acres of land and all of the facilities on it, which were previously owned by Jerry Church, a partner in EuroAmerican Propagators, are part of the purchase agreement currently in escrow, Altman says. However, it would not be absorbed by Altman Plants, which in 2016 was number 3 on Greenhouse Grower’s Top 100 Growers list with more than 11 million square feet of environmentally controlled greenhouse production, 62 acres of shade production, and 400 acres of outdoor field production. Altman Plants’ property […]

Read More
EuroAmerican Propagators Greenhouses

February 14, 2017

Suppliers Comment on Plant Genetics’ Fate After EuroAme…

Since the operation’s bankruptcy filing on January 23, 2017, suppliers associated with EuroAmerican Propagators have updated Greenhouse Grower on what the operation’s bankruptcy means for them – and how it will impact grower customers.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse

January 17, 2017

Stephanie Whitehouse Takes Her Passion for Plants to Di…

Stephanie Whitehouse, who has spent the last seven years as the Sales and Marketing Director for Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, recently joined Dickman Farms Greenhouse and Garden Center in Auburn, NY, as the company’s new Retail General Manager.

Read More
Laura Drotleff

December 6, 2016

Are You Driving Young Growers Away? [Opinion]

In a time when the industry is facing a critical shortage of both labor and skilled, educated growers, it's important that grower operations don't unwittingly turn candidates off to a career at their business or in the industry in general. Take a closer look at your hiring practices to ensure you are being inclusive and not breaking any laws.

Read More
Trays move on an overhead conveyor to the end of the production line, where workers carefully pack the cleaned, sized, graded, counted and sorted Calla tubers

November 29, 2016

Texas Judge Halts Overtime Rule; Here’s What It Means F…

According to Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort, the injunction against the overtime rule is welcome news for horticulture.

Read More