Steve Yubeta
Steve Yubeta

Ask Steve Yubeta what interests him outside of family and produce, and he appears to grasp for an answer.

“That’s pretty much it,” said Yubeta, vice president of sales with Nogales, Ariz.-based grower-shipper Farmer’s Best International LLC.

There are days at work that sometimes run from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Other than the demands of the job, Yubeta also has responsibilities at home, spending time with his wife of 20 years, Laura, and their daughters, 16-year-old Marcela and 14-year-old Sara, and son, Stephen, 9.

Yubeta, 43, said his involvement in the produce business has family roots, starting with working with his uncle, Edward Stoller, who was a Nogales-based produce shipper.

“I grew up around the business, and growing up in Nogales, it’s a big part of the community, so that drew me to the industry,” he said.

Yubeta said he originally thought his involvement in produce would be short-lived, and that he would find his own path.

He was wrong.

“I really thought initially I was going to be in this very temporarily and just continue my studies, but I got caught up in it,” he said.

Yubeta started in the produce business full-time 24 years ago, after completing his studies at Kemper Military Academy in Boonville, Mo.

He returned to Nogales to work in quality control for W.K. Tawa, a Nogales-based produce shipper.

Twelve years later, he went to work for Farmer’s Best in the sales department. He was promoted to vice president of sales about five years ago.

Yubeta credited now-retired Jerry Wagner, who was longtime sales and marketing director at Farmer’s Best, as being a key influence on his development in the produce business.

Wagner, who retired from the company Aug. 9, said Yubeta learned his lessons well.

“I think Steve is an outstanding produce man. I always admired the way he trades — he’s very sincere,” Wagner said.

“I’ve always been very proud of the job he did. He was good when he came onboard, and he has only improved.”

Yubeta said constant change in the business keeps him intrigued.

“It’s always evolving, and you’re always learning, and relationships are part of it,” he said.

No day ever resembles another, which is another lure, he said.

“There’s a different challenge every day, the way you’re interacting with Mother Nature,” he said.

Yubeta said his job keeps him active in various facets of the business, which also keeps his interest level high.

“I think the work ethic of just continuing to try to do the best we can for our growers and our customers, and we can mesh together, instead of just working on one side, is what brings the greatest rewards,” he said.

Accomplishing that is a daily challenge, he said.

“It’s fun to have everybody happy to be able to take care of your customer’s needs and make sure that they’re well taken care of and at the same time have a happy farmer, as well,” he said.