Vic Smith Honored as Organic Grower of the Year

Longtime grower Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Companies, received the "Grower of the Year" award at the recently held Organic Grower Summit in Monterey, CA.

Smith was recognized for his lengthy agricultural career, which has included much innovation in all aspects of farming. Greg Milstead of AGCO, which sponsored the award, presented it to Smith, and the two men sat at center stage and had a conversation about agriculture and organic farming. In accepting the award, Smith credited “all the people in our organization. It takes a team, and it takes leaders,” he said.

Vic’s father, John B. Smith, began the family’s odyssey in the agricultural business when he bought an ice and refrigeration company and renamed it Skyview Cooling Co. in his native Colorado in 1970. The company expanded into Arizona in 1975 and began farming in Yuma, recognizing the great opportunities in the vegetable industry. That same year, Vic joined his father in the family business, after studying economics and business law at the University of Colorado.

Vic became president of the company in 1991 and concentrated on new technologies to enhance quality delivery of fresh products to the marketplace. JV Smith Companies includes a suite of operations in Colorado, Arizona, California, and Mexico.

Vic began growing crops for the organic market 25 years ago when this company was asked by Earthbound Farms to plant organic spring mix. In the early years, JV Smith worked with Earthbound Farms and Pacific International Marketing on its organic production, and over time, the company grew for many other shippers as well, including Taylor Farms and The Nunes Company.

Vic singled out grower Israel Morales Sr., who worked for Vic and taught him a lot about growing organic crops, noting that in the early years there was not a lot of knowledge about growing organically. It was Morales who told him it was about the entire ecosystem and literally getting down to the roots of the matter to be successful. Vic embraced that philosophy and said even today, with technology often at the forefront, organic farming all starts with the ecosystem.

Vic said he learned a lot about the intricacies of organic growing by interacting with smaller farmers. One of the earliest lessons he learned was how to grow successfully with far less nitrogen than his company had been using. He quickly found out he could get the same quality on organic romaine hearts as conventional ones using one-third the units of nitrogen from a natural source.

Vic said his company's knowledge about utilizing precision ag and employing better irrigation techniques were a couple of areas where the information was able to flow from conventional to organic production, creating better crops.

In discussing his career in agriculture, Vic's wit came through loud and clear. Shortages of water and labor and an abundance of government regulations make farming a difficult profession for anyone but the most committed, he said, quipping that with the constant ups and downs of the industry, “it helps to be bipolar.”

But he did note that he's had an exciting career that hasn’t been spent behind a desk. “I’ve never been bored!” he said.