Prima Bella’s Unique Sales Approach

Sales Come First

If you ask John Bacchetti about his sweet corn growing operation, he’ll tell you that wouldn’t be a logical place to start. It makes more sense to start at the beginning, and that means with marketing, not growing. He has a marketing plan in place for every crop he grows each year well before the season starts. “If you don’t have a home for it, you shouldn’t grow it,” he says. “We start the marketing process way before we start the planting process.”

In fact, that way of doing business extends well beyond annual business planning. The story of his family’s operation, Del Terra Farms of Tracy, CA, all begins with marketing. And while it is a somewhat complicated story because of the family members involved and the way the various businesses are intertwined, it all comes back to that tried and true concept of business: Find a need and fill it.

In 1996, John Bacchetti’s cousin, Mark Bacchetti, founded Marca Bella Farms. Together Marca Bella Farms and Bert Bacchetti Farms (Mark’s father) built an asparagus packingshed in Tracy, which is located about an hour east of San Francisco. The asparagus shed was only used for about three months a year, however, and when the area’s asparagus industry started going south (literally, to South America), Mark began thinking about how he could best put the 23,000-square-foot shed to use. He decided on packing sweet corn, which is harvested locally from mid-June through late October. And in 1999, Prima Bella Produce, Inc., which now packs corn year-round grown as far south as Mexico, was born.

Prepare For Takeoff

Today, Mark, John, and John’s brother-in-law Jim Thoming are partners in Del Terra Farms, a diversified 4,500-acre operation which grows such vegetables as cannery tomatoes, asparagus, and lima beans as well as 1,300 acres of sweet corn. All the corn is processed by Prima Bella, which is solely owned by Mark Bacchetti. But they didn’t start off nearly that big. When they began in the late 1990s they farmed just 16 acres of sweet corn, total. “Back in 1999, we started out hauling boxes in a pick-up truck to Safeway,” says John. “Then that commodity (packaged sweet corn) just took off.”

Today they grow just enough corn to keep the processing plant humming away in the summer. To keep the plant — which is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi River — supplied during the rest  of the year, they contract with about 10 growers from as far away as Mexico, and, to a far lesser extent, Florida. Nearly all the growing takes place in the West. The key to their success is that each package of Glori Ann sweet corn — Gloria Ann is Mark Bacchetti’s mother’s name — is uniform, says Prima Bella General Manager Paul Bogetti. “The whole plan is to make sure that when the consumer picks up a package it tastes the same no matter what time of year,” he says.

To that end, they supply the growers they contract with a list of about a dozen varieties they can grow. The growers aren’t always particularly pleased to have the varieties dictated to them, but it’s necessary to achieve uniformity, says Bogetti. John Bacchetti smiles and nods at the plant manager’s comment. “That even holds true,” he says with a laugh, “with the farmers who are related to the guys who own the shed.”

We’re All Farmers

It helps, though, that all involved in the operation are either active in farming or have farmed in the past. “We understand what they want in terms of yield,” says Bogetti. “You can find the best tasting corn out there, but if it doesn’t yield it’s not going to work.”

They are always on the hunt for better varieties. Marc Mizuno, who heads up procurement for Prima Bella, is constantly working with seed company breeders. They plant hundreds of varieties each year, and from those the breeders will select the top candidates. Prima Bella then winnows down those candidates, working with their growers who allow them to plant seed variety trials in each of their respective growing areas to come up with a final list of acceptable varieties.

Prima Bella also works with growers to maintain food safety. To ensure that they can trace back exactly where a given lot of corn has been picked, all boxes or RPCs are put on pallets and then tagged with a harvest date and location. “We can tell right down to the block of a given field where it came from,” says Mizuno.

Fresh, Never Frozen

Prima Bella further works with growers to make sure the corn is properly packed before being shipped to the processing facility. Because it has such a large core that retains heat, corn is difficult to cool, and immediate cooling is critical to freshness. So most of the corn is cooled immediately after picking through an ice injection process. “It’s like a clamshell around the container,” says Mizuno. “A slush of ice is pumped in to reduce the temperature of the corn.”

At the plant, the corn is trimmed, cleaned, and sorted, all by hand. In fact, all processing except for cutting and wrapping, from picking to when the corn is loaded onto trucks to leave the plant, is done by hand. “If you have just one broken kernel,” explains Bacchetti, “it lowers the shelflife.”

And a long shelflife is extremely important to the mega-stores and large grocery chains throughout the Western U.S. that sell Glori Ann corn. Also, it’s critical to the success of Prima Bella’s next venture, to supply cobs and cob-ettes for foodservice. Currently, that’s largely a frozen business, but Prima Bella doesn’t deal in frozen corn, and they think diners will appreciate that. “We want to put fresh corn into restaurants,” says Bogetti.  

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Choosing the right fungicide can be critical as shown here by the stark contrast between a fungicide-treated garlic leaf (right) and an untreated leaf covered with a pathogenic rust fungus.
Photo credit: S. T. Koike
Crop Protection
April 30, 2016
How To Elect The Right Fungicide For The Job
It’s that time of year again, the time when the nation once more faces critical questions about the future ahead. Once Read More
Young Growers are pictured with Wally Heuser (center front row), the first IFTA president. (Photo credit: Christina Herrick)
GenNext Growers
April 30, 2016
Young Growers The Focus Of Industry Programming, Reception
The next generation in the tree fruit industry getting support of leading industry organizations. Read More
Jacket Rot Almonds featured image
Nuts
April 29, 2016
Look Out For Jacket Rot On Almond Leaves
Rains at bloom are causing higher than normal incidents of bacterial infections. Read More
An intern harvest salad greens at Churview Farm for a farm dinner FEATURE
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
Churchview Farm Aims To Close The Gap Between Farm And Table
This year, from June through September, Churchview Farm, located just outside of Pittsburgh, will host four farm dinners a month, Read More
Cosmis Crisp apples planting FEATURE
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
How Wholesale-Only Growers And Farm Marketers Differ In Their Crop Choices
We already know of some of the differences between farm marketers and wholesale-only farms. Farm marketers outnumber wholesale-only farms. Wholesale-only Read More
apple tree trellising washington state
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
Cracks In Your Orchard’s Infrastructure Expose Bigger Flaws
Modern blocks can increase your production, but if your training system is shoddy, you could see major losses. Read More
Brandt logo
Citrus
April 28, 2016
Brandt Acquires Majority Interest In Utah-Based Baicor
Baicor will operate as a subsidiary in Brandt’s specialty formulations division. Read More
Drip Irrigation
Production
April 28, 2016
Farm Demonstration Visits To Focus On Soil Health
California farmers will share practical experiences in “growing” healthy soil. Read More
Two chipping varieties Cornell released in the last few years that have shown promise are ‘Lamoka’ and ‘Waneta.’ 
“They both have outstanding chip color when fried out of the cold, which is a trait that’s important in the industry,” Cornell's Walter De Jong says.
Photo courtesy of Walter De Jong
Potatoes
April 28, 2016
Potato Breeding Update From Cornell University
Variety research includes incorporating resistance to Potato Virus Y, a new race of golden nematode, and improving appearance. Read More
The Latest
Crop Protection
April 30, 2016
How To Elect The Right Fungicide For The…
It’s that time of year again, the time when the nation once more faces critical questions about the future ahead. Once Read More
GenNext Growers
April 30, 2016
Young Growers The Focus Of Industry Prog…
The next generation in the tree fruit industry getting support of leading industry organizations. Read More
Nuts
April 29, 2016
Look Out For Jacket Rot On Almond Leaves
Rains at bloom are causing higher than normal incidents of bacterial infections. Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
Churchview Farm Aims To Close The Gap Be…
This year, from June through September, Churchview Farm, located just outside of Pittsburgh, will host four farm dinners a month, Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
How Wholesale-Only Growers And Farm Mark…
We already know of some of the differences between farm marketers and wholesale-only farms. Farm marketers outnumber wholesale-only farms. Wholesale-only Read More
Farm Marketing
April 29, 2016
Who’s Using Biocontrols, And Who I…
With so many consumers concerned about how food is grown, many farm marketers find themselves in the unexpected role of Read More
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
Cracks In Your Orchard’s Infrastructure …
Modern blocks can increase your production, but if your training system is shoddy, you could see major losses. Read More
Citrus
April 28, 2016
Brandt Acquires Majority Interest In Uta…
Baicor will operate as a subsidiary in Brandt’s specialty formulations division. Read More
Production
April 28, 2016
Farm Demonstration Visits To Focus On So…
California farmers will share practical experiences in “growing” healthy soil. Read More
Potatoes
April 28, 2016
Potato Breeding Update From Cornell Univ…
Variety research includes incorporating resistance to Potato Virus Y, a new race of golden nematode, and improving appearance. Read More
Farm Marketing
April 28, 2016
Small Producers Talk Profits
Four growers from across the country discuss the importance of knowing your customer, how to handle money, and being the face of your farm. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2016
Knowing Role, Expectations Beneficial To…
Labor management is much more than just delegation. Read More
Fruits
April 28, 2016
USDA Establishes New Partnership To Link…
Minority, women, new and beginning, military, veteran, and urban producers to receive training and information on agency services. Read More
Apples & Pears
April 28, 2016
The Truth About Most Farmworkers [Opinio…
Just ask any grower who has placed a help wanted ad. Read More
Citrus
April 27, 2016
Meet Florida’s New Crop Of Agricultural …
Annual award program recognizes farmers practicing environmentally innovative techniques. Read More
Fruits
April 27, 2016
It’s Time To Rethink Grade Standards For…
Food waste is largely dictated by limiting produce standards. Read More
Crop Protection
April 27, 2016
Vector Transmitting Red Blotch Virus Fou…
Researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC-Davis) have found the vector that seems to be spreading grapevine red blotch, a Read More
Berries
April 27, 2016
New Herbicide For Tomatoes, Strawberries
The product from Helm Agro US is registered to control more than 100 broadleaf, grass, and sedge species. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]