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United Fresh introduces Class 22 of the Produce Industry Leadership Program

The United Fresh Produce Association announced the 12 members of the 2016-17 United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program Leadership Class 22. Sponsored by a generous grant from DuPont Crop Protection, this program was launched in 1995 and has graduated more than 200 program participants.

The Produce Industry Leadership Program welcomes the following professionals to its 22nd Class:

  • Katie Birkhauser, Dole Fresh Vegetables, Salinas, CA
  • John Carkoski, The Fresh Group Ltd., Oakdale, MN
  • Kelly Catchot, Renaissance Food Group, Rancho Cordova, CA
  • Nick Chappell, California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, CA
  • Melina Lopez, Walmart Stores, Valencia, CA
  • Adam Lytch, L&M, Raleigh, NC
  • Brendan Miele, Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo Inc., Pescadero, CA
  • Melissa Olsen, Freshway Foods, Sidney, OH
  • Max Saad, Mastronardi Produce, Kingsville, ON
  • LeighAnne Thomsen, Mission Produce, Oxnard, CA
  • Jonathan Vance, 4Earth Farms, Los Angeles
  • Megan Zweig, DMA Solutions Inc., Irving, TX

Beginning in July, the members of Leadership Class 22 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.

During the yearlong fellowship, participants will take part in a series of customized trips which include face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, and interactive experiences with influential leaders in Washington. This year's schedule will feature expansive trips to Washington State, Washington, DC, Wilmington, DE, Arizona, and Chicago, where the class will graduate at the 2017 United Fresh Convention.

"We are thrilled to welcome the newest class of the Produce Industry Leadership Program,” Amanda Griffin, senior director of meetings and member programs for United Fresh, said in a press release. “We congratulate the Class 22 Leadership Class for their commitment to becoming future fresh produce leaders.”

“DuPont Crop Protection has been the sole sponsor of the Produce Industry Leadership Program since its inception 22 years ago,” United Fresh Executive Vice President Victoria Backer added in the press release. “Their tremendous support creates a unique opportunity for future fresh produce leaders to grow professionally and personally, ensuring a bright future for our industry.”

Candidates for the program submitted an application including two essays detailing their interest in the program and what they consider the most important challenges affecting the produce industry. Applications were reviewed by the Leadership Advisory Committee, which is 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.