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Twelve rising stars of the produce industry begin their leadership journeys

United Fresh introduces class 18 Produce Industry Leadership Program

The United Fresh Foundation is pleased to announce the 12 members of the 2012-2013 United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program. Presented through the Foundation’s Center for Leadership Excellence and sponsored by a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, this program was launched in 1995 and has graduated more than 180 program participants.

The Produce Industry Leadership Program welcomes the following professionals to its 18th Class:
  • Catherine Baggott, Earthbound Farms
  •  Helena Beckett, Tanimura & Antle
  • Jamie Brannen, Gerrald's Vidalia Sweet Onions
  •  Natalie Erlendson, Sun World International, LLC
  • Zak Laffite, Paramount Citrus
  • Cristie Mather, Pear Bureau Northwest
  •  Jerald Morgenthal, Castellini Company, LLC
  • Cory Oliver, H-E-B
  • Kristen Reid, MIXTEC Group
  •  Sophia Sarafidou, Greenfood S.A.
  • Roman Smith, Freshway Foods
  • Dean Taylor, Mastronardi Produce, LTD
Beginning this June, the members of Leadership Class 18 will participate in a number of educational events and outings centered on the four core focus areas of the program: leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public communications.

The class also will take part in customized field and facility tours, train with expert educators and meet with key industry leaders and innovators. The program begins with a trip to Central California, followed by tours of Washington, D.C. and Wilmington, Del., Southern Florida, and finally the 2013 United Fresh convention in San Diego.

"We’d like to extend our sincere congratulations to the newest class of the Produce Industry Leadership Program and thank all of the candidates who applied for this year’s program," said Leadership Advisory Committee Chairman and Board Member Emily Fragoso of Status Gro. “The advisory committee was challenged to narrow the field to just 12 participants and considered a wide range of factors to ensure a well-balanced class. We are confident in the abilities of the 12 industry members selected for this year’s class and are proud of the investment they are making in themselves to develop into the influential future leaders who will lead our industry forward.”

"A special thanks is owed to DuPont Crop Protection for making this program possible and for their generous investment in the future of our industry,” said Victoria Backer, United Fresh senior vice president of member services. “DuPont has been the sole sponsor of this program since its inception, providing a unique opportunity for our future leaders to grow professionally and personally.”

Candidates for the program must submit an application including two essays detailing their interest in the program and what they consider the most important challenges affecting the produce industry. All applications are reviewed by the Leadership Advisory Committee comprised of United Fresh Board members and program alumni. The committee is responsible for assessing each candidate based on their experience and expertise, as well as developing a class that is balanced and representative of the industry.

For more information:
Shannon Young
United Fresh
Tel: +1 202-303-3400


Publication date: 5/8/2012


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