In early February, the fourth class of Future Volunteer Leaders assembled at the Western Growers Irvine headquarters for the inaugural activities of the two-year networking and leadership development program.
Class participant Heather Mulholland, chief operating officer for Mulholland Citrus, said the program “provides a unique opportunity to collaborate with, and learn from, a diverse network of industry leaders working for the common good of agriculture.”
Consisting of 11 members, Class IV began the three-day program with an orientation session in which they met senior Western Growers staff and were provided an introduction to the history and organizational structure of the association.
Domenick Buck, ranch manager for Anthony Vineyards, was surprised to learn about the depth and breadth of expertise and services provided by Western Growers and concluded that the success of his company “will be continue to be enhanced with the support of this organization.”
Following the orientation session, Class IV received a two-day Arbinger leadership seminar, titled Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, which was punctuated by a social media workshop encouraging class members to leverage existing digital tools to better tell the story of agriculture.
“The Arbinger program was a very powerful experience,” stated Chris Rotticci, director of Automated Harvest Equipment for Taylor Farms. “The principles we learned, such as seeing others as people and not objects or obstacles to overcome, really resonated with the class and can be applied to both our personal and professional lives,” Rotticci continued.
Future Volunteer Leaders are invited to participate in all regular board meetings for the duration of the two-year program, including Sacramento in March, Washington, D.C., in May, Newport Beach in July and the Annual Meeting in November. Additionally, the second year of the program is highlighted by a Florida production tour with members of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s leadership program.
“During the course of this program, I am looking forward to learning more about my peers and the industry as a whole,” reflected Ben Barnard, senior director of operations and business development for Mission Produce. “I am also interested in gaining insight into the process by which major policy decisions for the industry are made.”
In explaining his own motivation for participating in the program, Kelly Strickland, vice president of operations for Five Crowns Marketing, is looking to “take an active role in an organization that has become a leading advocate for our industry.”
Sutton Morgan, owner and chief executive officer of Oasis Organics shared a similar sentiment: “Over the course of the next two years, I hope to better understand what it looks like to be an effective advocate for agriculture while building lasting relationships within our industry.”
The competitively-selected Future Volunteer Leaders Program is designed for the next generation of leaders within Western Growers member companies interested in becoming more informed and active advocates for the fresh produce industry. These individuals are policy-minded and have an expressed desire to serve the industry—both now and in the future—in volunteer leadership capacities.
Class IV participants include:
• Ben Barnard, Mission Produce
• Domenick Buck, Anthony Vineyards
• Ross Franson, Woolf Farming & Processing
• Greg Lewis, Duda Farm Fresh Foods
• Brent McKinsey, Mission Ranches
• Sutton Morgan, Oasis Organics
• Heather Mulholland, Mullholland Citrus
• Eric Reiter, Reiter Affiliated Companies
• Kyle Richardson, Rich-Pak Farms
• Chris Rotticci, Taylor Farms
• Kelly Strickland, Five Crowns Marketing
If you would like additional information about the Future Volunteer Leaders Program or are interested in applying for future classes, please contact Cory Lunde at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 885-2264.
Join Western Growers
Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live.