The Costa family has been growing and selling fresh local produce for a century. Ron Costa is the third generation. He and his wife, Karin, run the successful produce farm, greenhouse and CSA that provide hard-to-beat in-season offerings to homes, businesses and restaurants around the metro.
In 1912, Pietro Costa immigrated from Italy and settled in Little Canada, Minn. He purchased a plot of land in 1918, and joined by brothers Francesco and Giuseppe, began to farm. Pietro’s son Peter J. Costa, Ron’s father, took over in the 1950s. By the 1990s, the farm had moved to its current location in Grant.
Located on Highway 96 between White Bear Lake and Stillwater, the 65-acre farm boasts rows of standard veggies like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and cucumbers, and more exotic ones like Swiss Chard and Tuscano Kale. Around 85% of the produce grown goes to wholesalers who distribute to restaurants, grocers and other sellers in the area. Some crops are just for members of Costa’s Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA.
Karin said the CSA is in operation for 15 weeks during the summer. Those who sign up will receive a box of fresh produce every week, which they can retrieve at a pick-up location around the area. The Costas know how important “buying local” is for consumers, and they take it a step further by fostering relationships with those who buy their produce, on the buyer and individual consumer level. At the beginning of the summer, CSA members even had the option to take a tour of the farm, getting up close and personal with the produce that would soon arrive on their kitchen table.
Beyond produce for wholesalers and CSA members, the farm features a greenhouse that runs through mid-summer, and the popular corn stand that operates late summer through early fall.
Just as it takes time and care to transform a seed into a vegetable, the Costas said the fact they have been able to stay in business for a century has a lot to do with their years of experience. Prior to meeting Ron, Karin grew up on a farm in Iowa; “for Ron, this is the only job he has really had,” said Karin.
Both are familiar with the time it takes to have a successful farm and business, and are up for the challenge. Beyond the hours of work it takes to make the business work every day, Karin and Ron admit their dedication to and love for farming is what sets them apart.
Although they are a small, family-owned establishment, by no means are they behind the times. A few years ago, the Costas implemented a poly/mulch irrigation technology to drastically reduce water and chemical usage while still nourishing the plant. Karin said “It provides a better environment for the plants to thrive by warming up the soil, preventing dehydration, [and] helping to cut down on crop disease.” The farm also uses crop rotation processes, only uses safe chemicals when they have to (all Costa Produce is non-GMO), and uses weeding techniques that limit the use of herbicides.
The reasoning for this attention to detail? It is of central importance to the Costa family that they are “good stewards” of the land they occupy. Karin said, “We know you need to take care of the earth, planet, [and] soil to maintain crop production.” After 100 years in business, the Costas plan to keep the farm (and more generally, the planet) around for as long as possible, and are willing to incur extra costs to sustain a healthy environment.
For the Costa family, all the hard work pays off. For one thing, they said there is great satisfaction in watching a small seed grow into a harvested vegetable, and in providing their community with homegrown produce. Karin said, “the customer satisfaction makes all the hard work worth it.”
Costa Produce Farm & Greenhouse is located at 9411 Dellwood Road White Bear Lake. You can visit their website for more information: https://costaproducefarm.com/produce/.
Contact Jaimee Hood at firstname.lastname@example.org