CEO, COSTA FARMS, REDLAND
Founded in the 1960s as a tomato and citrus grower, Costa Farms has expanded into a politically connected behemoth with more than $500 million in revenue. In 2017, Markel Corp. acquired a majority interest in Costa Farms and related operating companies, including a trucking company, a grower that provides young plants to other finished growers, a retail marketing arm and an international operation that provides materials for its operations. The Costa family — including Smith, Executive Vice President Maria Costa Smith and Executive Vice President Jose A. Costa — continue to operate the business. Costa Farms is one of the top half-dozen growers of ornamental plants in the nation, with more than 4,000 acres under cultivation and 5,000 employees, including workers in the Carolinas, Chile and the Dominican Republic. It grows more than 1,500 kinds of plants.
Smith has both a bachelor’s and MBA degree from the University of Florida. He worked briefly as a financial analyst for Ryder System before moving to Costa 28 years ago. Over the past half-dozen years, Costa Farms has pursued an acquisition strategy and has bought a number of other growers, including Green Leaf Nursery, Delray Plants and Layman Wholesale Nurseries.