Rising Stars Set to Begin United Fresh Leadership Program

The United Fresh Produce Association introduced the 12 members of Class 26 of the 2021-2022 Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program.

The association introduced the new group during a live webinar and celebrated Class 25 before they graduate next month at the United Fresh Washington Conference. Sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, the leadership program was launched in 1995 and has graduated more than 250 program participants.

“Class 26 comprises a great mix of up-and-coming leaders throughout the fresh produce industry,” said Amanda Griffin, Vice President, Education & Program Management, United Fresh. “We have an engaging leadership journey lined up for the class over the next year, including an exciting return to in-person events.”

Beginning this September, the members of Leadership Class 26 will participate in several 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. 

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The Produce Industry Leadership Program welcomes the following professionals to its 26th Class:

  • Sonya Carrillo, Wonderful Citrus 
  • Travis Catalani, B. Catalani, Inc.
  • Kyle Hackett, Dayka & Hackett
  • John Haycox, Costco Wholesale
  • Austin Kirtley, Kesi Management
  • Meaghan McGrath, Local Bounti
  • Kathy Michael Sponheim, Michael Family Farms
  • William Nardelli Jr., Nardelli Brothers
  • Rachelle Schulken, Renaissance Food Group
  • Jeremy Taylor, DNO Produce
  • Joseph Vargas, FirstFruits Marketing
  • Jennifer Velasquez, Full Tilt Marketing

“We are proud to continue supporting the industry’s premier leadership program, investing in future industry leaders as well as the fresh produce industry as a whole,” said Joe Kelsay, US Food Chain CoNNEXT, from program sponsor Corteva Agriscience. “We are excited for the first fellows of the next quarter-century of the program to begin their journey soon.”

During the year-long fellowship, participants will take part in a series of customized trips, including face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with influential leaders in Washington, and more. First up, Class 26 will attend the annual United Fresh Washington Conference, September 20-22 in Washington, D.C.

Candidates selected for the program applied essays on the most important challenges affecting the produce industry. They had interviews with members of 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 and developing a balanced class and industry representative. 

For questions or additional information on the Produce Industry Leadership Program, visit www.unitedfresh.org or contact Amanda Griffin, Vice President, Education & Program Management, United Fresh at [email protected] or 202-303-3412.