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Meet Class 23 of the Produce Industry Leadership Program


 

Alisha Albinder Camac is the fourth generation owner/operator of Hudson River Fruit Distributors, an eastern Apple grower/packer/shipper. In her current role as the director of Operations, she is responsible for implementing operational changes to drive efficiency throughout all 5 departments as well as oversee all marketing and brand development. Alisha is extremely passionate about agriculture and the sustainability of family farming and today serves on the board of the New York Apple Association and the New York State Horticulture Society.

 

Joel Buurma is a fifth generation produce grower and is the Food Safety Director for Buurma Farms Inc. in Willard, Ohio. Joel is responsible for implementing and overseeing the Food Safety efforts for all Buurma operations in Ohio, Michigan, and Georgia as well as assisting supplying growers. He is also taking over the position of assistant comptroller and uses his down time to scout fields for pests and diseases or to help manage their pollinating bees. He is currently part of the Education Committee for the Ohio Produce Grower and Marketers Association.

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Kristen Catalani Small is the director of Convenience Store Sales for Del Monte Fresh Produce based in Dallas, TX. Kristen’s love for the produce industry started at a very young age as she was born into the business. After graduating from Texas A&M University Kristen started her career with Mission Produce, then joined the Del Monte Fresh Produce sales team eventually transitioning into her current role with convenience stores. Every day is different with new challenges to be solved which is what continues to drive Kristen’s passion for this industry.

 

As the organic sales account manager for Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, CA, Tyler Clear is responsible for sales management activities including forecasting, budgeting, harvest planning, contracting, and pricing. Believing that food produced sustainably leads to healthier lives, he creates partnerships with retailers, distributors and processors. Tyler has advocated for responsible farming methods in fresh produce production by serving on industry committees and taskforces.

 

 Alex DiNovo is vice president of DNO Produce, a rapidly growing family-owned business located in Columbus, Ohio. He is a third generation family member who has been well-steeped in the produce business from a young age, and has knowledge and experience in many areas of the produce supply chain. Alex is currently responsible for managing the sales, marketing, and procurement teams for the company. He also is involved in managing all existing federal and state contracts and programs, as well as new government solicitations. Alex is also on the United School Foodservice Committee.

 

Kent Ford is the director of Sales for Taylor Farms Tennessee. He has been working in the food business in various roles for more than 20 years. Passionate about the produce industry, Kent consistently strives to bring new products to the table, such as fruit and veggie snack packs, found in many school systems throughout the southeast. He currently serves on the United Fresh School Foodservice Board and as a member of the PMA and Southeast Produce Council.  

 

For the last seven years, Jordan Grainger has served as a sales executive for the Castellini Group of Companies. In this role, he is responsible for account management, developing new sales, and is also in charge of all the west coast vegetables and brokerage for the Castellini Company.  

 

Troy Le Cheminant has worked with Westlake Produce for ten years. His responsibilities include managing the apple, pear, melon and cherry commodities, as well as handling all logistics for those products. In 2013, Troy participated in the inaugural class of the FPFC Apprentice Program and now serves on the FPFC Luncheon and Golf Tournament committees.  

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Kelly Miller is a food safety specialist for Griffin Ranches, Inc. in Somerton, AZ. As a member of a fourth generation farm family specializing in winter vegetables, she is involved in many aspects of the business. Kelly provides training and support to management and employees for usage of upgraded technical equipment enhancing efficiency and communication, and also offers food and farm safety, as well as regulatory compliance training. She is a member of the Yuma Safe Produce Council and is active in a variety of other community volunteer projects.

 Mackenzie Mills works in sales and account management at River Point Farms in Hermiston, OR, America’s largest onion company. In this role, she manages national foodservice accounts, transportation programs, and company marketing. Mackenzie holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business Management from Oregon State University. Upon graduation from college in 2012, she began her career in produce at River Point Farms as an agronomy intern. 

 

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Claudia Pizarro-Villalobos is the director of Marketing and Culinary for D’Arrigo Bros. Co., of California and has been with the company for nine years. She serves on the board of directors for the Salinas Rotary Downtown Club, Central Coast YMCA, Sacred Heart School, and the Alumni Foundation at Notre Dame High School. She is the recipient of the Produce Business – Young and Smart Leaders on the Rise: 40 Under 40 Award, Salinas Jaycees – Humanitarian of the Year Award and served as the keynote speaker for the 2007 commencement ceremony at Notre Dame High School.

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Michael Schadler is the senior vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange based in Maitland, FL, and also serves as the deputy manager of the Florida Tomato Committee. In these roles, he helps Florida’s tomato industry with government affairs, regulatory and legal issues, research, marketing, and media relations. Previously, Michael served as the director of International Marketing at the Florida Department of Citrus. Prior to that role, he was with Bryant Christie, Inc., a consulting firm focused on a variety of agriculture-related issues. 

 

Lesley Sykes is the manager of SCS’ sustainable agriculture verification program. Before joining SCS, she provided market research and business development consulting services to agricultural production companies in Arizona and Central America, and worked for the Massachusetts-based non-profit organization, Red Tomato, supporting the strategic development of fresh produce responsible sourcing initiatives for a network of growers. She was born into fresh produce in Nogales, Arizona, and jumpstarted her career in the industry after graduating with a master’s degree in agricultural and environmental science and policy from Tufts University.

 

Mike Wellnitz is a produce buyer for Costco Wholesale. He began his retail career at Safeway when he was 15 years old. After studying business at Seattle University, he started working in a Costco warehouse and has spent the last 16 years in the corporate office in Produce overseeing a variety of regions and categories. Mike is currently buying the organic and conventional vegetables and mushrooms for the United States, as well as overseeing the Southeast and Puerto Rico regions while working closely with Costco’s global buyers to assist in the sourcing needs of 10 other countries. As a buyer, he is responsible for providing the best quality and value for Costco members by developing partnerships for sustainable, long term growth with a strong focus on food safety and social responsibility. 

 

 Hunter Winton’s career with C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh® spans more than two decades. After starting out in a transportation sales role, he quickly transitioned into manager roles; for the last 17 years, he’s been the general manager of C.H. Robinson and Robinson Fresh’s offices in Atlanta, GA, Mobile, AL and West Region Sourcing offices. Hunter has a knack for connecting with others, whether he’s building relationships with customers, developing and leading high-performing teams, or coaching the young athletes on his sons’ sports teams. 

 

For questions about the Produce Industry Leadership Program, contact Amanda Griffin, Senior Director of Education & Member Programs, at 202.303.3412.