It takes more than a strong work ethic and the right equipment to succeed in the agriculture industry. Especially with precision ag technology and a continuous stream of new opportunities to work smarter, companies often need to diversify, expand, and look for ways to gain a competitive advantage over others.
Golden Eagle Hay has seen many changes to the agriculture business since its early days in the 1960s. The company, located in the Imperial Valley, Calipatria, CA, is a grower, broker, and exporter of hay and straw, annually supplying 60,000 tons of hay to domestic and export markets. Founded by R.W. Dockstader, the company today is owned by his son, Pat Dockstader, and includes the farming subsidiary, P&T Enterprises. P&T Enterprises began nearly 20 years ago with one field, farming 80 acres of alfalfa, and now farms nearly 4,000 acres of Sudan, Bermuda, and alfalfa hay.
After years in the industry, Pat Dockstader had seen the ups-and-downs of the alfalfa market and decided diversification was necessary to protect P&T Enterprises from these economic ebbs and flows. He also wanted to do something unique to set the company apart from other growers. So 13 years ago, he took a chance and entered into a partnership that expanded P&T Enterprises into a new area and crop: citrus – particularly, organic citrus.
In order to get started in the organic citrus growing arena, P&T Enterprises needed the right irrigation system. Pat had been in a partnership with RDO Water (formerly Water Tech Ag Supply) for more than 15 years, and was confident in the team’s ability to design and provide the right drip irrigation system for his fields and crop.
“There are unique needs and challenges involved with organic growing,” he explained. “For example, organic fertilizers are more likely to clog emitters so one specific design element ours needed was special screening and filter systems.”
Pat worked with Ernesto Beltran, General Manager, and Fernando Alvarez, Account Manager, on the complete design and install process of his system. Still today, after more than a decade, the RDO Water team continues to maintain it for him year after year.
P&T Enterprises also needed the right equipment to farm the new crop, which includes grapefruit, lemons, sweet limes, and minneolas – and Pat didn’t have to look far to find that partner. RDO Water is a division of RDO Equipment Co., a network of John Deere equipment dealerships, with an agriculture equipment store located in Imperial.
“We have six John Deere tractors that pull our sprayers and manure spreaders, and they’ve worked great,” Pat said. “We also have about half a dozen Gator UTVs that we use in the field as well.” He also added that RDO Equipment Co. provides parts and service support, both in the service shop and when the team needs immediate service right in the field.
With the proper irrigation infrastructure and equipment to do the work, P&T Enterprises has successfully grown its organic citrus operation throughout the years. Pat says they’ve consistently added about 80 acres of citrus every year. They’ve also expanded fruit production a bit, with about 240 acres of dates.
But, like any progressive business owner, Pat wasn’t done with P&T Enterprises’ growth and expansion. He had more planned, beyond simply adding more citrus acreage. With the volume of fruit it was growing, he wanted P&T Enterprises to have its own cooling and packing operation; but not just any cooling and packing operation – a certified organic cooling and packing operation.
A Complete Organic Process
P&T Enterprises is one of the only organic citrus growers in California. Now, it also operates the only organic citrus packing facility in the desert southwest region of the state, as sister company, Doc’s Organics. In early 2016, Pat formed a partnership with his nephew, Dusty, to establish Doc’s Organics with the goal of offering complete organic growing, packing, and shipping services. And, surprisingly, it didn’t take long to achieve that distinction.
“Last January, we received our financing for the new facility, placed our orders, and began work. And in 110 days, the building was complete,” Pat said. “From the time we poured the cement to the final electrical work, it was 110 days.” The state of California was also quick to accept the facility as 100% organic. And, similar to the organic growing operation, RDO Water was a key partner in the system design for the organic facility, too.
“We have a state-of-the-art filtering system, designed by Fernando, to give us palatable water,” Pat said. “It keeps the water clean so we can wash the fruit and meet our 100% organic status.”
Ernesto further explained the uniqueness of the design, “The water has to be clean but to meet organic requirements, we couldn’t do a reverse osmosis system. So Fernando designed a special treatment system, unique to the organic specifications.”
P&T Enterprises is now able to grow and offer its product in an entirely organic way, maintaining its unique advantage and further setting itself apart from other growers. Exciting, certainly but also just another way a company is living up to its own vision, and a philosophy that includes opportunities to diversify and gain market strength through upward integration.
Learn more about agriculture equipment from RDO Equipment Co. and irrigation solutions from RDO Water or contact your local RDO Equipment Co. or RDO Water store.