Horizons Fall 2022

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Emily Rooney
Profiles in Leadership Award



Horizons Fall 2022

Published three times per year by the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation for alumni, donors, supporters and friends.


CHAIR: Michael Young (35)

VICE CHAIR: Cameron Boswell (42)


Yissel Barajas (40)

Karen Caplan

Jason Cole (42)

Correen Davis (45)

Rob Goff (45)



Dwight Ferguson


Abby Taylor-Silva (45)

Fidela Irigoyen (21)

Dr. Joel Kimmelshue (37) Mike Mendes (39) Paul Parreira (44) Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz


Dr. Robert Flores


Dr. Peggy Sears Perry (9)


Kelli Coffey


Sharon Harney


Judy Sparacino


Deanna van Klaveren (32)


Meredith Rehrman Ritchie (28)


Mia Mirassou


Darlene Din (35)


Liza Robertson


IE Design + Communications CONTACT

831-585-1030 • info@agleaders.org

80 Garden Court, Suite 270 • Monterey, CA 93940 www.agleaders.org

Provide address changes by contacting the office. Content in this magazine may only be reproduced with permission. Contact mritchie@agleaders.org.

The number in parentheses (#) after names indicates Ag Leadership Program class.

COVER STORY 8 / Ag Leadership Awards FOUNDATION 3 / Chair Message 4 / Foundation News PROGRAM 5 / Program News and Highlights 6 / Leadership Focus: Seeing Beyond Oneself by Dr. Robert Flores FEATURE 11 / Past Leaders to be Recognized 12 / D.C. Exchange Program
16 / AC Interim Chair Message 17 / Alumni Updates & Fundraisers 18 / Alumni Events 20 / Commentary: Committed to Farming Sustainably 21 / Alumni Learning 22 / Powerful Connections: Leaders in Horticulture 24 / Alumni Mini Spotlights 28 / Alumni and Fellows News 29 / In Memoriam
30 / Time, Talent, Treasure 31 / Donor List Contents
Photo: American AgCredit

Ag Leadership is About Impact

The foundation and its alumni are making an impact in our industry, state, communities and families.

Mmy wife and I were in New York City a few months back and had the opportunity to visit Ellis Island. If you haven’t been, go. Inside the main terminal there are quotes on the walls from immigrants who came through the halls of Ellis Island to what they knew to be the land of prosperity. My favorite quote was from an unknown Italian immigrant. It says, “I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: first, the streets weren’t paved with gold; second, they weren’t paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them.”

That’s what’s different about America and what’s different about Ag Leadership. We expect something different.

Ag Leadership is about IMPACT. IMPACT in our industry. IMPACT in our state.

Thank You Outgoing Board Members

IMPACT in our communities. IMPACT in our families. This foundation was created to create IMPACT. I challenged the board, staff and Alumni Council this year to take on a goal that would create generational IMPACT. It is fun to watch each person follow through with that goal to create the type of IMPACT Mr. Brown and Mr. Boswell envisioned when this foundation was created decades ago. I have also enjoyed watching Class 51’s journey. I now challenge Class 51 fellows, as they embark on their international seminar, to find inspiration from the journey, then come home and make an IMPACT in their sphere of influence.

This foundation is a model of IMPACT for our community. No one should take that lightly. The Founding Fathers of the United States expected it, as did our foundation’s founding fathers. I challenge

all of you to do the same. Where is it that you can make an IMPACT in your life? ◆

The foundation is grateful for the service of Dr. Dennis Nef, dean of the Fresno State Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and Gene Peterson, whose board terms have expired.

“Gene Peterson exemplifies servant leadership,” said CALF Board Chair Michael Young (35). “During his several years on the board, he gave his heart, soul and wisdom to the foundation. He was secretary-treasurer, served on many important board committees and participated in the foundation’s strategic planning. We always appreciated and respected his insight.”

Nef served on the communications advisory committee, was engaged in the strategic planning process and chaired the Deans’ Council. “Our partner university deans are an important thread in the fabric of the foundation,” said Young. “As we all know, deans are extremely busy. Regardless of this, Dean Nef was extremely generous with his time and offered significant contributions to the board.”

Young said Nef and Peterson made their families a focus of their generational impact goal. “While they will be greatly missed on our board, they will use their newfound time to make an impact in the place that is at the heart of where all leadership starts.”

Foundation Message
Dr. Dennis NefGene Peterson


CALF Welcomes New Board Members

The foundation is pleased to welcome three new members to the board of directors, including two Ag Leadership alumni. “With extensive experience in their respective careers, each brings a unique skill set that will bolster the foundation board,” said CALF Board Chair Mike Young (35). “They understand and support our mission, vision and values, and they will be excellent additions to our leadership team.”

Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz, Fidela Irigoyen (21) and Dr. Joel Kimmelshue (37) will replace Dr. Dennis Nef, Loren Booth (27) and Gene Peterson. The foundation is incredibly grateful for their service on the board. An article about Booth was featured in the summer issue of Horizons. Peterson and Nef are recognized on page 3 of this issue.







Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz

Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz is the interim dean of the Cal Poly Pomona Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture. He is on leave as the associate vice president for faculty affairs, a position he’s held since June 2018. Sancho-Madriz joined Cal Poly Pomona in 1997 and developed the undergraduate degree program in food science and technology. He served as chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science for seven years, vice chair and chair of the Academic Senate and associate dean of the College of Environmental Design. He earned a bachelor’s/licentiate degree in food technology from the University of Costa Rica and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in food science and technology from Cornell University.

4 Horizons Fall 2022
Foundation News
5–7: Class 52 Inaugural Seminar, Fresno 6: Alumni Council Fall Meeting, Fresno 6: Alumni Decade Class Reception, Fresno 6: Class 52 Inaugural Dinner and Leadership Award, Fresno 7: Board of Directors Meeting, Fresno 7–8: Alumni Conference and Celebration Dinner, Fresno 8: All Class Breakfast, Fresno 23–NOV. 5: Class 51 International Seminar
3: Region 5 Jim Manassero Memorial Lunch, Salinas 4: Dean Brown Golf Tournament, Santa Maria 9: L4 Workshop: Ashlee Sikorski –Understanding Self Through the Enneagram, San Luis Obispo 10–11: Alumni Council Annual Retreat, San Luis Obispo 10–12: Class 52 Seminar, San Luis Obispo
7–9: Class 52 Seminar, Davis TBD: Holiday Open House, Monterey
8–10: Class 51 Seminar, Pomona 11–13: Class 52 Seminar, Pomona
3: Board of Directors and Alumni Council Meetings, Fresno 4: Commencement, Fresno 8: Colusa Farm Show Breakfast, Colusa 16: World Ag Expo Ag Leadership Alumni Breakfast, Tulare

Fidela Irigoyen (21)

Fidela Irigoyen has extensive financial services experience, including more than 35 years with Wells Fargo Bank. She has held numerous management positions and individual contributor roles within the company’s commercial banking, international banking and retail banking areas. In her current role with Wells Fargo, Irigoyen is the agribusiness market executive for the Southern and Coastal California, Southwest and Mountain States region, where she leads a team of relationship managers focused on agribusiness companies. Her lending experiences include consumer, agricultural, international, real estate and middle market/commercial lending. Irigoyen has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Santa Clara University and remains involved in her family’s agribusiness ventures.

New Core Faculty Member

Dr. Joel Kimmelshue (37)

Dr. Joel Kimmelshue is a founding partner and principal agricultural scientist with Land IQ. He has over 27 years of experience focusing on practical and applied solutions for the development and management of agricultural-based soil/water/plant systems. Kimmelshue also has firsthand production agriculture experience from growing up and continuing to participate in a diversified tree and row crop farming operation in Northern California. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in soil science with concentrations in agricultural engineering and water resources from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Carolina State University, respectively. Kimmelshue is also registered as a certified professional soil scientist.

To view board member bios, visit agleaders.org/about/board-of-directors/

Ddr. erin gorter (50) became the core faculty member on the CALF Educational Team in July. The announcement was made by Dr. Andrew Thulin, dean of the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. Gorter is a lecturer in the Cal Poly Agricultural Education and Communication Department. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses focused on teacher preparation and supports credential candidates while they complete their student teaching experiences in agricultural education. Gorter attended Modesto Junior College and then studied animal science at Texas Tech University, later getting her credential and master’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In 2018, she completed her doctorate of education in agricultural education at Texas Tech and Texas A&M. She is a past president of the California Agricultural Teachers’ Association, serves on two local high school agriculture advisory committees and is a member of California Women for Agriculture.

“Succession planning is a critical responsibility in maintaining the quality of the California Agricultural Leadership Program,” said CALF Co-Director of

Education Dr. Robert Flores of his successor. “I am fortunate to have a colleague who is most capable and ready to fulfill the duties of the core faculty member at Cal Poly. Erin is sure to bring new energy to the CALF Education Team.” ◆

Class 52 – Welcome to the Family!

Twenty-four individuals were recently selected for Class 52 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Their inauguration dinner will be held on Oct. 6 in Fresno. We look forward to welcoming them to our family and thank our alumni for all of their encouragement and support of this year’s applicants. To view the list of Class 52 fellows, visit agleaders.org. Bios and photos will appear in the winter 2023 issue.

Program News and Highlights

Beyond Centering: Seeing Beyond Oneself


the leadership development process is multifaceted. An initial look at oneself starts the journey. At a First Fridays session for California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP) alumni, guest presenter Craig McNamara (28) reminded us about the need to center ourselves. Author of “Because Our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, from Vietnam to Today,” McNamara told participants that being centered was a part of his leadership experience. Aikido was used in teaching centering oneself.

Aikido, a Japanese martial art that allows the victim of an attack to protect themselves while also protecting the aggressor from being injured, was part of the CALP for five-plus years. The practice was included as a metaphor for controlling emotions and finding your center. Centering oneself involves finding emotional stability when confronted with challenges that might include conflict and adversity. Aikido is no longer included in CALP seminar content, but centering oneself remains because it relates to self-awareness – something that we focus on early in the leadership program.

There comes a time during the leadership journey when fellows realize that leaders cannot stop exploring personal motivations and behaviors. Many of us can relate to those times when everything seems to be going wrong and challenges seem to be multiplying. Long, hard days at work, combined with adversity creeping in, can change us from who we are, to someone unrecognizable by those who know us. Many a leader has struggled with controlling emotions.

Many U.S. presidents are known to have

had tempers. Warren Harding was caught attempting to strangle a government official. John Adams and Andrew Jackson were witnessed “losing their cool” on multiple occasions. Many other presidents have been observed behaving inappropriately under duress. Of course, presidents are always in the public eye, and they have to deal with everyone’s issues, not just their own. One might say they were far from being centered at those moments of fits of rage. Many of us have shown our temper at one time or another. So, because all of us have gone down this path, does that make it acceptable? No. The hope would be that one can recognize behaviors that are not productive and learn from them. As hard as it may seem at times, becoming more self-aware and developing an outward mindset would better serve us and those we most care about. This includes our families, co-workers and everyone else we encounter on a daily basis. Lack of self-control might manifest itself as a part of a blame game – blaming others in difficult times despite lacking all of the facts.

We do not adjust our behaviors by magic. It takes work. There is no denying that it takes intentional practice to change a mindset and adjust behaviors. The teachings from “Leadership and Self-Deception” were introduced as part of the Ag Leadership Program more than a decade ago. The topic continues as a mainstay of the program’s inaugural seminar.

CALF Exchange Programs Consultant Darlene Din (35) recalled her first encounter with the topic at an inaugural session she attended as a member of the Alumni Council. “It’s easy for me to look at a situation, focus on how others are acting, and not see myself as being in the box…,” said Din.

Seeing beyond oneself begins with realizing that leaders cannot stop exploring personal motivations and behaviors.

Being “in the box” can occur spontaneously when we are confronted with a challenging situation. We are “in the box” when we develop the context for the situation despite not having all of the facts. It is a form of self-deception. According to the book, “Whether at work or at home, self-deception obscures the truth about ourselves, corrupts our view of others and our circumstances, and inhibits our ability to make wise and helpful decisions. To the extent that we are self-deceived, both our happiness and our leadership are undermined at every turn.” Negative behaviors towards self and others usually follow.

The time devoted to investigating self-deception and how it captures us and dictates our lives is time well-spent. All of us continue to be in the box at times, but the aspects of self-reflection developed via assessments and coaching help fellows to recognize self-betrayal and subsequent unproductive actions as they occur, or immediately after they occur.

CALF Alumni Engagement Manager

Deanna van Klaveren (32) was introduced to the series of books from the Arbinger Institute and supplementary instruction about a decade ago. “Developing a common language creates opportunities for discussions and deeper dives into how the content plays out in individual lives,” said van Klaveren. “Adopting a culture that provides everyone with opportunities to dialog frames difficult discussions and enhances communication with different personality types.”

The introduction of the concepts found in “Leadership and Self-Deception” opens the doors to dialogue among the fellows. All too often, they recognize how they have failed themselves and others by

Leadership Focus
6 Horizons Fall 2022

allowing false assumptions to creep into the scenario.

The Arbinger Institute has a trio of books – “Leadership and Self Deception,” “The Anatomy of Peace,” and “The Outward Mindset” – which should be part of every leader’s library. While it is not possible to explore in-depth the content of each of the books, it is important to note that any organization assigning the books to employees, followed by group interaction relative to the content, will benefit everyone. Additionally, supplementary instruction by trained facilitators can further enhance personal and professional development.

If we fast forward to the foundation today, we quickly realize that it has grown substantially from a much leaner organization to a staff of eight individuals. Former CALF President and CEO Bob Gray charted a path of positive change with a complete review of the curriculum and development of a strategic plan when he began his tenure in 2010. His vision for the organization created opportunities

for growth and development. Current President and CEO Dwight Ferguson, working with a dynamic and energetic board and myriad stakeholders, revised the strategic plan in 2021 in ways that are sure to help CALF achieve its vision of “leaders united to strengthen agriculture and sustainably supply the world.” This begins with growing leaders who make a difference.

It begins within the individuals who make up the organization and it continues in an outward trajectory. CALF Executive Vice President Abby Taylor-Silva (45) was part of the contingent of Ag Leadership staff at a two-day member-only workshop put on by Western Growers and dedicated to understanding an outward mindset that focuses on seeing beyond self. “The Outward Mindset,” the third book in the Arbinger series, speaks about being introspective in a way that looks for connections with all of those around us. “It is a philosophy that embodies helping others to achieve new heights. Colleagues in an organization with an outward mindset support each individual in achieving a

common goal. Colleagues are seen as people, not as objects who might get in the way of individual progress. In the case of CALF, everyone is dedicated to helping each other achieve the leadership needs and interests of California agriculture.”

“This place is different from other places I previously worked,” said CALF Administrative Assistant Mia Mirrasou. “Here, everyone matters.”

She went on to explain that employees of the foundation must be the role models for everyone they serve. This includes current stakeholders, fellows and the industry as a whole. But it goes beyond this. Practicing this philosophy should be the cornerstone of who we are as we interact with family, friends and those around us. This mindset causes each person to ask regularly how they can help one another.

Centering oneself and becoming more self-aware provides avenues for future growth. It remains important today. McNamara identified aikido as a practice that drove home a leadership lesson of controlling behaviors and finding a way to redirect negative energy. It is the adoption of an outward mindset by the organization that takes the teaching of aikido several steps further in developing the leader of today. Leaders need to look out for one another in a way that genuinely cares for the wellbeing of everyone and the organization. Ag Leadership is moving in a positive direction by adopting the teachings from the Arbinger series of books and practicing the concepts with intentionality. Incorporating the principles contained in “The Outward Mindset” in everyday actions and interactions is making its mark and allowing everyone involved to see beyond oneself.

“We do not adjust our behaviors by magic. It takes work. There is no denying that it takes intentional practice to change a mindset and adjust behaviors.”
— Dr. Flores
Leadership Focus 7


Alumni Honored for Commitment to Leadership

8 Horizons Fall 2022

Lifetime Leadership Award


dick clauss is the first recipient of the foundation’s Lifetime Leadership Award, given to alumni who have shown a lifetime of leadership and made a difference in their industry, community and society.

“When you look at all the individuals who have participated in the program over the past 50 years, who have gone on to be leaders and champions for agriculture, I am humbled and honored to be among them,” said Clauss.

Clauss’ nominators emphasize his role as a leader in all aspects of his life.

“We feel that there is no Ag Leadership graduate who more thoroughly epitomizes the complete leader than Dick Clauss,” said nominators Mike Campbell (3) and Randy Fiorini (21). “His record of success and contributions to his family, community, region, state and the agricultural industry nationwide are legendary.”

Clauss began his career in the dairy industry in the 1950s with fewer than three dozen Jersey cows. Today, his family has one of the largest Jersey herds in the world. In addition to building a highly successful dairy operation, Clauss was the driving force behind the creation of the Hilmar Cheese Company and served as board chair for more than 30 years. Clauss inspired 11 other Jersey dairymen to join him in partnership to create what would eventually become the largest single-site cheese producer in the world. Through his leadership role at the cheese company,

Clauss worked to improve milk prices for dairy farmers throughout California. Under his leadership, Hilmar Cheese became highly regarded throughout the industry.

“I am privileged to count Dick Clauss as a mentor,” said Fiorini. “I admire him because the elements of his success are rooted in his honesty, humility and sense of humor. Dick has inspired me to match the qualities he has exemplified in his lifetime of achievements.”

Throughout his career, Clauss contributed to the progress of the dairy industry by working in several leadership roles in state and national breed associations and as a founding director of the League of California Milk Producers. He also served on the boards of the Merced County Dairy Herd Improvement Association, the Merced County Farm Bureau, the American Jersey Cattle Association and National All-Jersey Inc.

After a trip to India in the 1960s, Clauss invited Indian farmers to stay with him and learn about farming methods in California. He was then appointed to the board of Farmers and World Affairs and worked to bring leaders from developing countries to the United States, where they could learn advanced agricultural practices.

Clauss served on the board of the Turlock Irrigation District, assisted with the completion of the Don Pedro Dam and Powerhouse and had an active role in the Farm Water Coalition. He has also been a member of Rotary International, was named Dairyman of the Year by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce in 1980 and the Hilmar

Chamber of Commerce pronounced him Citizen of the Year in 1996.

“Dick sets the bar very high for business achievement, agricultural industry leadership, community service and a wonderful family life,” said Campbell. “I cannot think of any graduate more deserving to receive this award. His national and international recognitions have brought great distinction to the Ag Leadership Program and to California agriculture.” ◆

“Life is made up of experiences; some good and some not so good. You will benefit and grow from both. In life, one thing you can always count on is change.”
— Dick Clauss
Photo: American AgCredit Feature

Profiles in Leadership Award


emily rooney has been selected as this year’s Profiles in Leadership awardee for her work in the agriculture industry and urban alliance. She was nominated by Jeannine Campos (29), Tricia Geringer (43) and Dino Giacomazzi (36), who noted her commitment to agriculture through her career choices and volunteer activities.

“Anyone who has ever met Emily is immediately infected with her enthusiasm and wit,” said her nominators. “Her passion for agriculture and her community has been a lifelong pursuit. Her impacts are immeasurable. Through her work in Congress, at the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, the California Farm Bureau Federation and in her current role as president of the Agricultural Council of California, Rooney has dedicated her life to advocating for the betterment of agriculture.”

Rooney has influenced policy in areas from climate change to the dairy industry. One of her more recent public policy achievements was the passage of the Safe and Affordable Drinking Water Fund. This milestone piece of legislation ensures clean drinking water for all Californians. She also worked to form the largest agricultural independent expenditure committee in California. This fund has committed millions of dollars toward electing agriculture friendly candidates.

“I feel so fortunate to work in this industry and to get awarded for the work that I love, is just icing on the cake,” said Rooney.

Rooney is devoted to many agricultural organizations. She serves on the board of the California Ag Leadership Foundation, is chair of the FFA Foundation, serves on the Trustee Council at California Farmland Trust and on the executive council of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.

She also gives her time to her community as a coach on her son’s soccer team and through service on the Valley Children’s Healthcare Board of Trustees. She has served on the UC Davis Dean’s Advisory Council and the Lodi Memorial Hospital Community Advisory Board.

Rooney’s nominators point to the creation of The Capital Farm Connection podcast as one of her greatest achievements. The podcast, a production of the Agricultural Council of California, has released more than 50 episodes and is an important resource for anyone interested in public policy issues related to agriculture.

“Emily hosts California decision makers on the podcast and has an incredible ability to hold civil discourse allowing both sides to understand one another,” said her nominators. “The podcast – and Emily – are an asset to our industry and to our state.”

Rooney said leaders who want to influence change must listen first, find common ground and realize that change is rarely easy.

“Complex situations call for thoughtful approaches which take into account often conflicting points of view,” said Rooney. “The best solutions come when every party has an influence in the final outcome and everyone feels heard. That takes time, patience and grit.”

Rooney emphasized that she still benefits from her Ag Leadership skills and has been impacted by her past and current experiences with the foundation.

“I think about things differently,” said Rooney. “I continue to learn more about how people receive and process information and get to experience this while being surrounded by some pretty stellar human beings. It is the best of all worlds! Again, I just feel so fortunate to be part of this group and couldn’t be more thankful for this award. It means the world.” ◆

10 Horizons Fall 2022
Mitchell Yerxa (48)


Past Leaders to be Recognized at Celebration Luncheon

Barry Bedwell (13) and Jeff Elder (35) will be recognized for their leadership and impact on Ag Leadership at the foundation luncheon held during the Alumni Conference.

“Jeff and Barry both did amazing work while leading the foundation,” said CALF Board Chair Michael Young (35). “Among their many accomplishments, they led us through one of the most precarious times in our history while dealing with the foundational effects of COVID-19. Through their leadership, not only did they bring us through stronger as an organization, but they also helped grow our endowments to more than $25 million. They both brought a strong presence, clear thought and quiet yet strong leadership to the foundation. We are all grateful they both said ‘yes’ when asked to lead.”

Elder became board chair in 2015 and Bedwell followed in 2016 as president. During that time, they worked side-by-side with the staff team to increase applications and awareness of Ag Leadership; grow the endowment and strengthen the foundation’s financial health; initiate new alumni learning programming, including First Fridays; engage in new partnerships, such as the Water Solutions Network and bring on new board members to create a strong and diverse team to lead the foundation.

During his time as chair, Elder was very involved with Class 50 and traveled with them on their national seminar to Sacramento, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Bedwell also participated in national seminars and traveled to Sacramento, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Pennsylvania with classes 47, 48 and 49.

Barry Bedwell (13)
Jeff Elder

Regions 3, 4 & 5: San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Merced, Stanislaus, Placer and Yolo counties.

D.C. Exchange

this summer the participants of the 39th D.C. Exchange engaged in activities and hands-on agricultural experiences in San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Merced, Stanislaus, Placer and Yolo counties. Host families provided the participants with a valuable personal view of agriculture throughout the program. One-on-one talks, small group discussions, expert panels and site visits in Regions 3, 4 and 5 enhanced their knowledge. The exchange began in San Benito County with Joe Morris (Class 33 family) grounding the group with understanding from the book “Braiding Sweetgrass.”

“Hosting policymakers from Washington, D.C. allows them a front row seat to California’s farmers and ranchers,” said Julie Morris (33). “The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation offers them a rare opportunity to get out of their offices and into the field. We conversed over locally-raised grass-fed beef and produce while enjoying a San Juan Bautista sunset. What a way to showcase our industry!”

As the group transitioned from the berries and vegetables of the Monterey Bay to the orchards of the Central Valley, the open field classroom remained.

“D.C. Exchange continues to be a valuable piece of the Ag Leadership portfolio, as recognized this year in the heart of the Central Valley,” said Chase Hurley (35). “Water supply, food safety and groundwater management were just three topics covered in 12 hours as the D.C. Exchange fellows were exposed to Central Valley ag production.”

Similar to the two-year Ag Leadership Program, D.C. Exchange participants receive direct leadership training. During this year’s program, CALF Alumni Engagement Manager Deanna van Klaveren (32) focused on “The

Horizons Fall 2022 Feature

Outward Mindset: How to Change Lives and Transform Organizations” by The Arbinger Institute.

After traveling from the Tahoe National Forest to the Central Valley, the group finished in Region 3 with a finale dinner in Clarksburg.

“The opportunity to have the program visit Placer County for the first time was special for me,” said Josh Huntsinger (39). “Showcasing our local farms and ranches is always great and the folks who participated felt honored to share a little bit about their operations with officials from our nation’s capital. Being part of the D.C. Exchange this year was a real privilege. Starting in March of 2020 with interviews in D.C. – literally the week before COVID restrictions swept the nation – it has been great to see the program come to fruition this year. I see D.C. Exchange as one of the many great opportunities that Ag Leadership alumni have to engage with the foundation and participate in something that has the potential to result in significant benefits to the state’s agricultural industry. Through planning and organizing the event, I utilized many of the leadership skills I learned from the program. It also provided a great opportunity to educate my local farmers, ranchers and government officials about Ag Leadership.”

2022 D.C. Exchange participant Kelsey Branch said, “I’ve been blown away by the openness, ingenuity, passion, creativity and generosity of everyone we met during our D.C. Exchange week. This is a powerful program that educated me about the opportunities and challenges of diverse sectors of California agriculture.” ◆


At a visit to Countryline Dairy in Denair, participants learned about issues affecting California’s dairy industry from Vance Ahlem (43).


Danielle McShane (43) and Jonathan Merrill (50) explain strawberry production to D.C. Exchange participants.


Read DCX alumna spotlight on page 27.

2022 D.C. Exchange Fellows

Benjamin Bell

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service

Congressional and Public Affairs

Kelsey Branch

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Area Director South America

Julie Brewer

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Program Chief

John Brewer Jr.

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Chief Strategy Officer

About D.C. Exchange

Genevieve Cro

Congressional Research Service Specialist in Agricultural Policy

Travis Hubbs

USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Deputy Director, Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Division

Connor Jennings

Office of Management and Budget Program Examiner, Agriculture Branch

Loren LaPointe

U.S. EPA Environmental Protection Specialist

Clarissa Maroon-Lango

USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine,

Emergency and Domestic Programs Director, Biocontrol and Forest, Wood and Rangeland Pests

Claire Paisley-Jones

U.S. EPA, Biological and Economic Analysis Division’s Science and Information Analysis Branch Biologist

Vito Su

U.S. Department of State’s Office of Agricultural Policy Section Chief for Agricultural Trade

Pilar Velasquez

International Labor Affairs Bureau, U.S. Department of Labor Team Lead

In 2021, the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation (CALF) adopted a strategic plan that would fully integrate the exchange programs within its educational infrastructure. The Washington, D.C. Educational Exchange Program (D.C. Exchange) was established nearly 40 years ago when a group of Ag Leadership alumni had the foresight to develop a unique and direct connection between California agriculture and Washington, D.C.

D.C. Exchange connects government and agriculture, allowing for experiential learning, open dialogue and the free exchange of ideas within an educational leadership program. The program fosters open communication and understanding between federal agencies and those producing our food, fiber, horticulture and forestry. D.C. Exchange adheres to the ethics guidelines set for government agencies. CALF operates under the California Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004 (SB 1262) which imposes several good governance requirements on nonprofit organizations.

What’s Ahead

The foundation looks forward to hosting the California Exchange Program in spring 2023 and piloting the County Exchange, a new program focusing on alumni building relationships with key leaders in their counties.


Chase Hurley (35) and Aaron Barcellos (34) discuss water issues in a Los Banos olive grove.


At a tour of Tanimura & Antle, participants visited the company’s onsite H-2A housing.

14 Horizons Fall 2022 Feature


Central California Irrigation District Bowles Farming Co.Water & Land Solutions Frantz Wholesale Nursery LLC Countryline Dairy Silt Wine Company Wilson Farms Bea’s Blackberries Placer County Water Agency Sierra Pacific Industries Driscoll's Merrill Farms Tanimura & Antle Inc. Morris Ranch Triple C Farms Twin Peaks Orchards Salida Hulling Association Inc. Durrer Dairy Sustainable Growing Solutions LLC DLX Ranch Fowler Nurseries Inc G3 Enterprises A-Bar Ag Enterprises C B D A 15Feature
We Went A B C D


The Ag Leadership alumni group is like no other. Connections formed in the program are just the beginning. The leadership lessons realized and the lifelong connections forged by the class members and beyond to the broader alumni group serve as the catalyst for a lifetime of leadership in action.

Alumni Conference & Celebration Dinner

We’re excited to see everyone in Fresno! The theme is “IGNITE!” and the events will provide occasions to reconnect with classmates and the broader alumni community. Our hope is that the alumni connectivity experienced at the conference will IGNITE the passion for the Ag Leadership vision within our community. That vision, which was established in the foundation’s 2021 strategic planning process, is “Leaders united to strengthen California and sustainably supply the world.” The event will be an incredible learning, networking and socializing opportunity.

The impact of the leadership developed in the program is exemplified by the outstanding individual chosen as this year’s Profiles in Leadership Award recipient: Emily Rooney (39). She will be honored during Class 52’s inaugural dinner on Oct. 6.

Ag Leadership’s mission is “Growing leaders who make a difference.” This mission has been embodied by Dick Clauss (1) in his leadership actions and the impact he has made on agriculture and individuals throughout his life. Clauss was selected to receive the foundation’s first-ever Lifetime Leadership Award. He will be honored at the Alumni Conference on Oct. 7.

The Alumni Council is fired up and fueled with passion for igniting the alumni community. We are working on meeting the key performance indicators identified in the strategic plan, including industry outreach, Lifelong Leadership Learning (L4) opportunities for our alumni, an All-Class Reunion in 2023 and various ways to provide stronger, more frequent connections in our regions and within our classes.

Thank you to the alumni and supporters who generously give their time, talent and treasure to contribute to successful fundraising opportunities for CALF. The annual NorCal Ag Leadership Sporting Clay Shoot took place in August and the Region 9 Golf Tournament in September. Both events had great attendance and were wonderful opportunities for connection and camaraderie. Mark your calendars now for the breakfasts at the Colusa Farm Show (Feb. 8, 2023) and World Ag Expo (Feb. 16, 2023). ◆

Alumni Council Message16 Horizons Fall 2022



In November 2021, the Alumni Council (AC) identified four primary projects that aligned with and supported the alumni engagement priority of CALF’s strategic plan. In May 2022, the AC formed the following committees to further focus attention and resources on these priority projects and events.

Alumni Industry Outreach Committee / Chair: Ian LeMay (48)

Created to help outreach to more commodity areas, identify agricultural activities, events and organizations that would benefit from learning about the foundation and share information about the Ag Leadership Program.

Alumni International Trip Planning Committee / Chair: Paul Parreira (44)

Created to research the development of an international trip for alumni that mirrors the international seminar designed for fellows. This committee will look at various opportunities and work toward creating a pilot program.

2023 All Class Alumni Reunion Committee (in Region 9) / Chair: Jason Cole (42)

This committee will plan and execute the 2023 All Class Alumni Reunion with the purpose of gathering alumni in a social and family-friendly environment.

Alumni Conference Committee / 2022 Chair: Heather Mulholland (44)

The 2022 Alumni Conference & Celebration Dinner will be held Oct. 7-8

in Fresno. We will have a full recap of the event in the winter issue of Horizons.

2024 Alumni Conference and ILAC Conference / Chair: TBD

The 2024 committee will plan and execute a conference that will include an opportunity for the International Leaders in Agriculture Conference (ILAC) group to attend in conjunction with our Lifelong Leadership Learning (L4) event. ILAC’s stakeholders include alumni from various agriculture leadership programs based all over the world.


From May through August, hundreds of alumni attended the regional events listed below.


Applicant Informational Event / Talley Vineyards, Arroyo Grande


Alumni Reconnect Dinner / The Red Barn, Los Molinos


Social / John Arellano’s (35) home, Turlock


Social / SLO Blues Baseball game, San Luis Obispo


Social / Secret Trail Brewing Company, Chico


Social / Tres Hermanas restaurant, Davis



The Alumni Council supported using “L4” to designate Lifelong Leadership Learning opportunities, which include the Leaders Are Readers Book Club, monthly First Fridays webinars, alumni L4 workshops and webinars and the Alumni Conference.

Social / Stanislaus County Fairgrounds, Turlock

REGIONS 9, 10 & 11

Social / Innovation Brew Works, Pomona


Social / Dust Bowl Brewery, Monterey



Region 1 hosted the NorCal Ag Leadership Sporting Clay Shoot in Zamora in August. Nearly 80 alumni and friends participated in the event. All proceeds will benefit the foundation. Thank you to all those who attended and supported the clay shoot.

Alumni Council

Thank you to everyone who helped make our recent events a success!

Region 7 Applicant Informational Event


Anthony Bozzano (43)

Carson Britz (43)

Cara Crye (39)

Chris Darway (25)

Tom Ikeda (26)

Dan Sutton (40)

Brian Talley (30) Rosemary Talley (19)

Region 1 Alumni Reconnect Dinner



Kris Costa (50)

Sandy Creighton-Fiack (29) Megan Grima (50)

Heidi Harris-Carpenter (43) Melissa Macfarlane (49) Kandi Manhart-Belding (40) Kelly Mora (48), chair Audrey Tennis (12)


Akin Ranch / James Akin (11)

Ben (24) and Denise (38) Carter

Driscoll’s / Melissa Macfarlane (49)

Fiack Family Farms / Sandy Creighton-Fiack (29)

Heritage Insurance Agency / Kelly Mora (48)

Hans Herkert (47) Tom Merwin (44) Donald Norene (20)

Prather Ranch / Jim (16) and Mary Rickert Gerry (17) and Elaine Rominger Audrey Tennis (12)


Sandy Creighton-Fiack (29) Bob Dempel (4)


Heidi Harris-Carpenter (43)

Heritage Insurance Agency

Melissa Macfarlane (49) Merwin Vineyards

Musco Family Olive Co.

Rumiano Cheese Company

Serres Ranch Wine Stephens Farmhouse Audrey Tennis (12)

Region 4 Social


John (35) and Becky Arellano

G3 Enterprises

Yvonne Sams (45)

Class 52 Selection Committees


Erin Amaral (46)

Kevin Antongiovanni (47)

Leeann Bettencourt (50)

Carson Britz (43)

Danielle Burk (43)

Paul Crout (48)

James Ewart (49)

Denise Junqueiro (42)

Jazmin Lopez (48)

Danielle McShane (43)

Daryn Miller (49)

Mike Testa (42)

Dr. Andy Thulin

JULY 11−12 / CHICO

José Baer (33)

Kris Costa (50)

Holly Dawley (38)

Shannon Douglass (46)

Steven Filter (49)

Melissa Lema (48)

Kandi Manhart-Belding (40)

Justin Micheli (42)

Jane Roberti (45)

Carissa Ryström (48)

Tracy Schohr (39)

Dr. Patricia Stock

JULY 14−15 / DAVIS

Grant Baglietto (48)

Manpreet Bains (43)

Tom Barrios (47)

Dr. Helene Dillard

Lesa Eidman (49)

Bonnie Fernandez-Fenaroli (19) Megan Grima (50)

Hans Herkert (47)

Holly Little (50)

Tom Merwin (44)

Alejandra Navarrete (48)

Lauren Noland Hajik (48)

Kevin Steward (36)

Stephanie Younger (43)


Celeste Alonzo (50)

Jared Britschgi (47)

Rob Goff (45)

Scott Klittich (43)

Julian Lopez (50) Joey Mendonca (41)

Steve Pastor (27)

Yvonne Sams (45)

Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz

Alumni Events
⇗ REGION 7 Applicant Informational Event (AKA Talley BBQ) 18 Horizons Fall 2022


The annual event is one of the foundation’s biggest fundraisers.

Alumni Events


Eric Bream (48)

Don Cameron

Natasha Crivelli (50)

Heather Johnson (46)

Ian LeMay (48)

Adam Lovgren (48)

Jarrett Martin (48)

Dr. Dennis Nef

Brian O’Neill (50)

Sal Parra Jr. (46)

Doug Phillips (40)

Jared Plumlee (49)

Roxanna Smith (19)

Region 7 Social

JULY 7 / BLUES BASEBALL GAME, SAN LUIS OBISPO Anthony Bozzano (43) Farm Supply / Cara Crye (39)

Region 4 Social at the County Fair


G3 Enterprises

Ron Macedo (32)

Yvonne Sams (45)

NorCal Ag Leadership Sporting Clay Shoot



Sandy (29) and Seth Fiack

Steve Garland (44), chair Tom Merwin (44)

Kelly Mora (48)

Erin O’Donnell (50)

Blake Vann (46) John Weiler (22)


Alumni and staff gathered for dinner in Los Molinos.


R. Gorrill Ranch Enterprises

Kautz Farms

Prudential Ag Finance

Farmers’ Rice Cooperative

M & T Ranch


First Northern Bank

Andersen & Sons

California Ag Properties Inc.

Diamond Foods

Flyway Farms

Sunridge Nurseries


Andersen & Sons

Barrios Farms

Bayer Crop Science

Carriere Family Farms

Steve (26) and Kelly Danna Davis Machine Shop Inc.

Farmers’ Brewing Company

Fiack Family Farms George Gough (29)

Heritage Insurance Agency

Jordan Oaks Vineyard

M & T Ranch

Charley (26) and Hillary Mathews

Ed McLaughlin (11)

Merwin Vineyards

Montna Farms

Nutrien Ag Solutions


Scott Seus

Sun Valley Rice

Sutter Land Management LLC

Tres Sabroes

Vann Bros. and Yolo Hulling and Shelling

John Weiler (22)

Woody (5) and Mitchell (48) Yerxa

Zenith Agribusiness Solutions

Region 5 Social



James Ewart (49)

2022 Colusa Farm Show Rabo AgriFinance Breakfast


Lewis Bair (33)

Terry Bressler (30)

Christie Capik

Bill Carriere (27)

Colleen Cecil

Holly Dawley (38)

Sarah DeForest (39)

Robin Flournoy (29)

Les Heringer (13)

Christine Ivory (41)

Mark Kimmelshue (28)

Tom Martin

Justin Nunes

Patricia Stock

Deanna van Klaveren (32)

John Weiler (22)

The summer issue did not include the full Colusa committee list.

We apologize for the omission.

Photo: Mitchell Yerxa Photography


Committed to Farming Sustainably


agriculture is not optional; it meets our most basic need – nourishment (OK, maybe a little wine to nourish the soul too!). In line with Ag Leadership’s vision, we must do our part to strengthen California agriculture and ensure we are farming sustainably. This commitment will safeguard future generations of Californians who continue to provide access to healthy food for our communities and the nation. While some may feel ‘sustainability’ is a buzzword, it has been an inherent part of our business since its inception. If you want to be around for another 50 years, you must adapt to changing markets, and to a changing world, while protecting your critical assets: land and water.

Working for a smaller operation has afforded me a unique perspective, as I’ve had the

privilege to be hands-on with different aspects of the business. At Pisoni Family Vineyards, I was hired as compliance manager and then my responsibilities expanded to include sustainability projects. It was intimidating working with a farmer and winemaker (brothers), whose passion for their life’s work and entrepreneurial spirit are always resulting in new ideas.

My first project was to take a 2-acre block, previously planted in wine grapes, and convert it into a beneficial insect haven. The idea was to create a centrally located insectary garden that would provide a food source and habitat for beneficial insects that would aid us against vineyard pests (making meals out of mealybugs). Leaning into my passion for California native plants, we elected to use them exclusively to enhance the biodiversity that is abundant on the property and to reduce the demand on additional resources, such as water or fertilizer. There is something flowering year-round and the insect and wildlife activity always abounds. This is one part of our integrated pest management program; with this success, and with each completed project, the motivation to make the farming operation meaningfully sustainable kept growing exponentially.

Buzzing from our insectary’s success, we knew the next project had to be honeybees. Research showed they help keep our cover crops pollinated and healthy, but they couldn’t do the job alone. We next used pheromone tabs to disrupt the

Alumna shares importance of sustainability and need for those in agriculture to tell their authentic stories and lessons learned.

mating patterns of mealybugs, and focusing on larger pests, we installed various owl boxes on the property to help with rodent control. We also expanded our focus to new technologies that help us make more informed farming decisions, such as reducing pressure on water demands. We sometimes partner with local school children to beta test their ideas, nurturing the next generation’s growth and curiosity about agriculture. Our efforts earned a California Department of Pesticide Regulation IPM award and the California Green Medal Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Award.

Sharing our story with community and industry peers reminds us that there is no cost to imparting our lessons learned. If we can inspire even a handful to make sustainability a priority for their business, academic studies or how they decide where they will source their food and wine, we call that a win.

During my time in Ag Leadership, I cherished the opportunity to gather with my cohorts at the end of each seminar. If I was doing a synthesis today about what our largest need as an industry is in order to survive in the current regulatory environment, I would say we need to tell our story. The world is shrinking and for many of us it feels like others are creating a narrative that we constantly have to defend against. We have to tell our authentic stories of lessons and improvements, our belief in progress and technology to improve what many of you have been doing for generations, leaving the world, the land, the farm, a better place than you found it. I guess that makes us all sustainability managers.

20 Horizons Fall 2022

Alumni Learning

Leaders Are Readers Book Club

The book club features quarterly selections along with group synthesis sessions via Zoom.

Fall 2022 Selection

“The Outward Mindset” by the Arbinger Institute

This is the third book in Arbinger’s series that also includes “Leadership and Self-Deception” and “The Anatomy of Peace” (winter 2021 book club selection). Through compelling stories, guidance and tools, this book teaches readers to implement a mindset change: how to shift from a self-focused inward mindset to an outward mindset to improve performance, spark collaboration and accelerate innovation. To gain more insight into the book, please read the article by Dr. Robert Flores on pages 6-7.

Lif Le Un Th As No Sa Co Alu a per an welow

For more information about any of these events, contact Alumni Engagement Manager

Deanna van Klaveren (32) dvanklaveren@agleaders.org.

Register by Oct. 12 to participate in the fall session.

Lifelong Leadership Learning (L4) Workshop: Understanding Self Through the Enneagram

Ashlee Sikorski, Sway Leadership Nov. 9, 2022 San Luis Obispo Cost: $95

Alumni will learn about the enneagram – a typology of nine interconnected personality types – and how this assessment can be used to increase self-awareness as well as awareness of the needs and styles of others. Similar to the way alumni connect with the MBTI in the program, this workshop will provide attendees with valuable leadership growth tools and skills. This workshop provides great opportunities for connection and relationship building with fellow alumni and an occasion to learn more about yourself as you continue in your leadership growth, all while making a difference in your home, community and industry.


On the First Friday of each month via Zoom, we host enlightening discussions with guest speakers – including Ag Leadership alumni – about leadership lessons that connect with our program curriculum.


Based on the book “The Heart-Led Leader” by Tommy Spaulding, attendees of the Sept. 7 webinar learned about defining their leadership philosophy. Spaulding spoke about the 18 essential

leadership traits and building awareness and skill at implementing them in work. Spaulding is a two-time New York Times bestselling author, world-renowned thought leader, inspirational speaker and leadership coach.

NOV. 4 & DEC. 2 Upcoming webinars


Powerful Connections: Leaders in Horticulture


alumniacrossall sectors of agriculture know there’s strength in numbers. We spoke to four leaders in the horticulture industry about current issues and how the powerful connections and skills they gained through Ag Leadership are helping them as advocates and leaders.

How are your Ag Leadership connections beneficial in the industry?

Alumni in horticulture discuss issues affecting their industry, including company culture, urban water policy, labor availability and advocacy efforts, and how their Ag Leadership training and connections guide them.

has been the rising cost of construction and the impact that has on growth plans.”

What are your main issues and challenges?

“Our biggest challenge through the pandemic, like everyone else, was labor. It was very difficult to find qualified people. But what caught me off guard was the decline in our company culture once we came up for air after 2020. We worked so hard keeping up with the increase in sales (as people stayed home and worked in their yards) that we forgot to do the things that make working at a company rewarding: saying ‘thank you’ to our staff, serving others and having fun at work. We’ve worked hard at improving our company culture for the past year or so…and we can never stop.”

What lessons learned from Ag Leadership do you still use?

“Here’s a funny thing to remember: Anytime I am on camera being interviewed, I think of Dr. Joe Sabol’s instructions to ‘know what the questions will be’ before the camera rolls. I remember him coaching us on how to control our answers even if we couldn’t control the questions. What a valuable lesson.”

“I am thankful that Ag Leadership has been a training ground for several of us in the nursery industry. I’m most excited when I see a young person from the nursery industry applying for the program. In fact, the staff at Ag Leadership have been very supportive in the new leadership program that our national nursery association, AmericanHort, has developed in order to train our future horticulture leaders. Having connections in and advice from such a successful and well-polished leadership program is especially helpful to our industry.”

What lessons learned from Ag Leadership do you still use?

“I lean on most principles I learned in Ag Leadership. Crucial conversations, adding to the shared pool of meaning is a big one for me. I often use what I learned about my personal strengths and weaknesses to know what I should take on and what I should delegate by identifying what tools are in my tool box and using them accordingly. A deep understanding of the needs for self-awareness and critical thinking might be the thing I use the most day in and day out.”

How are your Ag Leadership connections beneficial in the industry?


What are your main issues and challenges?

“Urban water policy and the unintended consequences current proposed policies will have on horticulture, the urban landscape and our communities is one of our industry’s biggest challenges right now. Without question, there is room for improvement with outdoor and/or landscape water; however, the cost of overly restrictive mandates without proper resources around moving to efficient irrigation practices is huge. Additionally, horticulture has not been exempted from rising cost of goods, availability of material, expensive shipping and general global supply chain turmoil. On the retail side of our business, a huge issue

“Ag Leadership connections are always the best connections. When I have the opportunity to work with fellow Ag Leadership alumni, I know I am in good hands. With horticulture being a smaller subset of agriculture, connections usually make for an opportunity to join in on a larger advocacy voice and to learn from others’ experiences. Agriculture is a vast and complex industry; Ag Leadership connections give the industry a unique sense of community.”


OWNER / Otto & Sons Nursery BOARD MEMBER / Plant California Alliance

What are your main issues and challenges?

“One of the main challenges that I am

22 Horizons Fall 2022

having is that my crystal ball has become increasingly foggy! Five years ago we could project the next year’s growth and expenses and we came pretty close to reality. This year, we have double digit vendor costs (when you can get the product), tighter labor availability (and we thought it was tight back then), drought issues (which change our customers’ needs) and a looming recession. Fortunately, we have an amazing group of people surrounding us who can help us work through these challenges.”

What lessons learned from Ag Leadership do you still use?

“Going through the Ag Leadership Program has helped me to be more self-aware and willing to step outside my comfort zone. In the same way, I try to take a step back and be willing to listen to another point of view. One of the first sessions in our class was called ‘step in, step out.’ We gathered in a circle and someone would read through a list of life challenges and when one came up that affected us, we would step in and then step out. Many of us had the same challenges and some didn’t, but it gave us a glimpse of what challenges everyone was, or had been, going through in their lives. I remember this as I come across someone who may not have the same enthusiasm for a project or maybe they are just having a bad day and I remind myself that life happens. We all have challenges along our path.”

How are your Ag Leadership connections beneficial in the industry?

“Having connections through Ag Leadership has been very helpful. When you know people who have gone through the same experiences, you can relate to each other from common ground. I was looking into what it would take to get a license to

sell our own branded wine. I called up my friend from Ag Leadership who has a tasting room and he gave me the information I needed and where to start. We eventually decided that there were more hoops to go through than we wanted to experience, so we dropped the project, but his information was very helpful. Another friend from Ag Leadership who also owns a nursery has been very helpful when looking for new vendors or new ways of merchandising. Our local Farm Bureau board of directors is made up of 40% Ag Leadership alumni. We are a great group that understands what it means to work in a group and move projects forward to benefit our membership.”

and legislative front. Our industry shouldn’t be disregarded any longer or fed the narrative that labor topics are too prickly going into the midterms. We need reforms now for our diverse array of producers all over the nation.”

What lessons learned from Ag Leadership do you still use?


What are your main issues and challenges?

“The horticulture industry faces many issues and challenges. When it comes to advocacy efforts, I have been actively engaged in seeking legislative reforms for our employers and workforce. This takes many forms given the diversity of our industry. Some of our producers fall into the landscaping and forestry industry, meaning their only option to bring in guest workers falls under the H-2B program. Meanwhile, others in the greenhouse, floriculture and nursery sector rely on the H-2A program. And of course, we cannot forget about our existing domestic workforce and the adjusted status they all deserve. I am focused on pursuing solutions for all our producers both on the regulatory

“The ‘one team, one dream’ mentality is one I apply to my job on a daily basis. Ag Leadership taught us that we’re all in this together. As emerging leaders, we need to look out for one another, and our industry as a whole. Sometimes, I get the sense that horticultural producers feel left out, mainly because they’re not considered consumables like other ag commodities. Through educational opportunities and having a seat on various coalitions and working groups in agriculture, I am helping to advance the mentality we were taught. Agriculture is resilient, it is one of the last non-partisan issue areas left in D.C., and it is worth our while to band together and find solutions for all of agriculture. That is what true leaders will do, and I thank the California Agricultural Leadership Program for teaching us how to embody those values to the extent we can.”

How are your Ag Leadership connections beneficial in the industry?

“When I took the job at AmericanHort, I had no idea our chairman, Jon Reelhorn, was an alum of CALP! How cool is that? It truly shows the effectiveness and the reach that CALP has in California and beyond! As I sit in D.C. working on Farm Bill changes, I get to interact with so many different CALP alumni. It’s powerful to know we all graduated from this program and are now leading the charge in finding solutions for our nation’s producers through the Farm Bill and beyond.”

“I remember [Dr. Sabol] coaching us on how to control our answers even if we couldn’t control the questions. What a valuable lesson.”
— Jon Reelhorn

Mini Spotlights

Enriching Lives with Therapeutic Horsemanship

In the middle of Tulare cropland sits a vast outdoor equestrian center, where people and horses are making a difference in the lives of those with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, head trauma, sight and hearing impairments, developmental disabilities, ADD, ADHD and PTSD.

The Happy Trails Riding Academy, which offers equine-assisted activities and therapies as an alternative to traditional therapy, is the only fully accredited therapeutic riding center in the San Joaquin Valley (between Bakersfield and Modesto). Leading the program is Executive Director (aka “trail boss”) Leslie Gardner (29), who joined the nonprofit in 2006. She and her dedicated staff, dozens of volunteers and a team of amazing therapy horses provide children and adults with unique opportunities for self-improvement and independence in a positive and nurturing environment.

“It is a true privilege to serve the sector of the community we do at Happy Trails,” said Gardner. “From the child with autism who only speaks when they see their horse, to the military veteran with PTSD who can’t stop smiling after his class, to the farmer who has donated a load of hay that will feed our horses for a year – a ‘good cry’ is had here on a daily basis.”

Partnerships with local and agricultural businesses and groups are essential to sustaining Happy Trails. Gardner said the academy thrives “by setting the bar high, working hard, engaging in collaborative efforts and having the support of the community.” On social media posts, the academy frequently expresses its gratitude for local supporters with “We love our community!” and #community. Happy Trails was honored as the Nonprofit of the Year by the Tulare Chamber of Commerce in 2021 and California’s 16th Senate District Nonprofit of the Year in 2021.

Gardner, a third-generation dairyman who is still involved in the family business, said Ag Leadership was instrumental in honing her leadership style, communication skills and the ability to look at each side of an issue. “The connections I made – and continue to make through this experience – are invaluable,” she said. ◆

24 Horizons Fall 2022 Alumni

Leadership on a Public Board

Serving on a public board of directors – particularly a water-related board in California – can be incredibly complex. As president of the Berrenda Mesa Water District and chair of the Westside District Water Authority, Rob Goff (45) has managed myriad challenges and issues.

Goff, a vice president with Wonderful Orchards, said their single biggest issue over the past 20 years in regards to keeping ag production viable in their districts is the reduction of surface water supplies. That, along with regulatory requirements – including the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program and Sustainable Groundwater Management Act – have required a large amount of complex and technical work for the last several years.

Goff relies on some key lessons to help him in his leadership positions. “I think active and sincere listening to the concerns of other board members, and particularly landowners/members of the public who are not on the board, is a key attribute to holding

effective meetings,” said Goff. “When decisions have to be made that not everyone agrees with, it’s important to provide opportunity for dissonance, and careful consideration of that dissonance is valuable in forging trust and confidence in those working relationships.”

Finding common ground with board members who have different perspectives is also important. “The key is to really separate yourself from your own perspective and/or your company’s perspective to provide a more objective viewpoint,” he said. “This objectivity can sometimes provide clarity as to the proper path forward that is beneficial for most, if not all, of the constituents that are relying upon your decisions.”

Goff credits Ag Leadership for helping prepare him for serving on a public board. He leans heavily on the lessons learned during their class visits to Ability First in Pomona and San Quentin State Prison. “Those experiences helped refine my capability to empathize with opposing viewpoints and to identify the reasons for differences in perspectives,” he said. “The diversity of life experiences that impact those viewpoints is vast across humankind, and an ongoing recognition of that has helped me immensely in my person-to-person interactions.” ◆

Helping Students Pursue College

Kevin Steward (36) and his wife, Lori, strongly believe that higher education for children of farmworkers will fundamentally strengthen California agriculture – and they want to help make that happen.

Their interest in supporting the children of

farmworkers goes back decades. Kevin has been involved in production agriculture, mostly wine grapes, since graduating from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1986. During his 36-year career, he has worked closely with thousands of farmworkers and their children. Lori taught for 30 years at Linden High School, where she was the Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) director for 20 years, focusing on first-generation children of farmworkers. Many of her students wanted to pursue higher education and Lori had a 93-95% placement rate in four-year colleges.

The Stewards understand the challenges – financial difficulties, cultural issues, living conditions, family care, etc. – that hinder goals of attending college.

“From personal experiences in education, leadership opportunities in our careers, and the personal connections we’ve made with families and students, Lori and I know the incredible value of higher education,” said Kevin. “We also know education has the ability to transform

individuals and catapult their future. Once a student’s life is changed, that successful mindset and drive influences their family, their community and ultimately the world.”

In 2021, the Stewards put their altruistic dream into motion by creating the Steward Ag Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) with the purpose of raising funds to provide educational scholarships to farmworkers’ children. Other than some very minor expenses, all monies will go toward scholarships. They look forward to helping as many students as possible achieve their academic goals as well as connecting with other Ag Leadership alumni who share their passion.

“President John F. Kennedy wrote in an undelivered speech, ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other,’” said Kevin. “We hope our foundation will honor the integrity and strength of the California farmworker and continue to uplift the dynamics of California agriculture as the premier industry that it is.”

◆ Alumni

Lifelong Learning and a Special Bond

Class 31 alumni and Dr. Joe Sabol (Honorary Fellow) have had a special bond dating back to their 2002 international travel seminar to Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Sabol is an original campus coordinator/ core faculty member for the California Agricultural Leadership Program who served enthusiastically in this “key player” position for 40 years. He rarely missed a seminar, was famous for his dynamic and popular microphone manners and speech sessions and traveled with numerous Ag Leadership classes on national and international seminars.

During the Class 31 international seminar, Sabol discussed with fellows the idea of planned lifelong learning activities they could do together every summer in the future. These unique activities commenced in 2003 and focused on learning about innovations in technology and crop improvements in agriculture.

Sabol, utilizing Class 31 alumni and his own network of contacts, helped organize and direct lifelong learning activities and delivered unique opportunities throughout California that were treasured by all involved. He selected presiding fellows and concluded sessions with a

synthesis of what the group learned and how it was relevant to them. During the past 20 years, they visited farms, wineries, nurseries, processing facilities, packing plants and more.

During their June 2022 gathering at Craig Stoller’s (31) winery in Paso Robles, class members surprised Sabol with an Ag Leadership proclamation, a framed article he wrote in the spring 2013 Horizons, a California Assembly resolution and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition.

An excerpt from the CALF proclamation reads as follows: “In honor of Joe Sabol’s vision, wisdom, creativity, persistence, patience, friendship, positivity, kindness, leadership and teaching expertise, Class 31 alumni hereby gratefully acknowledge the amazing efforts made by Joe Sabol during his 1972-2021 service to Ag Leadership and 2003-2022 service to our class and extend heartfelt appreciation for making a difference in our lives.” ◆


Cool new merch to support and promote Ag Leadership!

Purchase apparel and accessories with our new logos and icons! Customize shirts, jackets, vests, hats, bags and more with our main logo or diamond icon, plus class and/or region number icon as an option. The foundation will receive a percentage of all sales.

Visit agleaders.store

26 Horizons Fall 2022

Addressing Food Security

It has been nearly a decade since Caitlin Welsh visited 20 agriculture-related sites from the San Joaquin Valley to the Central Coast as a participant in the 2013 Washington, D.C. Educational Exchange Program (D.C. Exchange).

At the time, Welsh was a foreign affairs officer in the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Global Food Security. After several years at the State Department, she worked for the National Security Council at The White House from 2018 to early 2020. Since March 2020, she has been director of the Global Food Security Program at the nonprofit, bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), in Washington, D.C., where she provides insights and policy solutions to global and U.S. food security challenges.

In June Welsh was the guest for CALF’s First Fridays, during which she spoke about her organization, food security issues, Ukraine and her D.C. Exchange experience.

The CSIS Global Food Security Program (GFSP) designs and implements projects independently and through partnerships to provide research, analysis and policy recommendations on topics that can effectively enhance global food security.

Welsh said food security is a multi-faceted topic and there are myriad domestic and global events that require GFSP’s analysis. Projects can manifest as reports, commentaries, events or podcasts focused on a specialized food security topic. A recent domestic example is a policy brief about long-term solutions to food insecurity in the U.S. military and veteran families. A global example is their focus on the war in Ukraine, attacks on its agriculture sector and resulting food security problems.

“I think about the crop of winter wheat that was planted in fall 2021 for harvest now,” said Welsh. “A big question is, can Ukrainian farmers harvest the grain that’s in the ground? There are a number of reasons why it’ll be difficult: labor issues,

Russia has planted landmines in the fields and Russian soldiers have destroyed equipment.” She said rebuilding Ukraine’s agriculture sector is critical. Her message about Ukraine resonated with Ag Leadership alumni who had traveled there during their international seminars.


In a fall 2013 Horizons article after the exchange, Welsh said, “The scale and complexity of agriculture in California was beyond anything I could have imagined. It humbled me to realize how much I didn’t know about something so central to everyday life. Of course, we all tend to be experts on the issues on which we work, and to make assumptions about fields outside our own. It takes programs like the D.C. Exchange to provide a thorough introduction to ag-related issues for those who don’t work in agriculture. And, importantly, to expose people who do work in agriculture to the scale and complexity of D.C. Exchange fellows’ work – in my case, U.S. policy and diplomacy on reducing poverty, hunger and undernutrition in developing countries.”

Nine years later, the positive impact of the exchange continues. Welsh told First Fridays attendees that she still recalls and uses information from it in her job. She called it “one of the most intensive learning experiences I’ve ever had,” comparing it to

a college or grad school course packed into one week.

Welsh shared that the exchange experience felt like it served a broader purpose for her in her position in Washington, and also for the people she met in California. She said the U.S. government, as well as U.S. agriculture and food, are misunderstood or mischaracterized.

“It was my sense that my presence and the presence of the other participants in the exchange served to help demystify the federal government for folks we talked to and stayed with,” said Welsh. “I was really happy to address those misconceptions. When it comes to ag and food issues, that’s also something people can be black and white about. The topic can get politicized and there can be a lot of polarization around food issues.”

Welsh said, “I was so happy to come back to Washington to be able to speak to some of the nuances that I’d learned about through the trip to California – about the way our food is grown that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It was an incredible learning experience for me. I became a champion of California agriculture products. I remained so impressed with the abundance and quality and creativity.” ◆

Exchange Alumni 27

Alumni and Fellows News

Steve Olson (13) received the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber’s 2022 Leadership in Agriculture Award.

A.G. Kawamura (20) was a luncheon speaker at the 2022 Agricultural & Applied Economics Association annual meeting and also part of a panel on farm labor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City 2022 Agricultural Symposium.

Kirk Gilkey (21) participated in a listening session hosted by Rep. Jim Costa at Fresno State in July about the 2023 Farm Bill. Gilkey spoke about the importance of providing an effective safety net for farmers, including through an array of crop insurance products.

Kevin Herman (21), of The Specialty Crop Company, in August hosted Rep. Jim Costa, U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (Honorary Fellow) and Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot at an almond orchard. The group was in the Central Valley to discuss impacts of the drought.

Glenda Humiston (25) was appointed by Gov. Newsom to the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. The board addresses key issues that are of importance to California’s farmers and ranchers, community stakeholders and citizens.

Nicholas Pasculli (27) graduated from the Professional Development Academy High Performance Leadership Program, a 14-week intense study of the latest in leadership development, learning from leaders in the private and public sectors.

Joe Pezzini (28) was elected chair of Center for Produce Safety’s (CPS) board of directors. As chair, he hopes to guide the board through an update of the center’s strategic plan as CPS continues to “innovate in how we fund science, find solutions and fuel change in produce safety.”

Meredith Rehrman Ritchie (28) was honored with the 2022 Kent Schaplowsky Memorial Award, given to a Broadstone Barracudas Swim Team parent who exemplifies dedication, team spirit, integrity and work ethic. She has volunteered for the team for 13 years, including five on the board.

Roberta Firoved (30), California Rice Commission (CRC) industry affairs manager, received the 2022 California Rice Industry Award at the annual Rice Field Day at the California Rice Experiment Station. She has been a pioneer in agriculture and regulations, working on behalf of California rice growers for the CRC for nearly two decades.

Joel Kimmelshue (37) spoke at the annual summer luncheon of the American Pistachio Growers about a study on pistachios and water supply that his company conducted.

Karl Lehman (42) was promoted from manager to director of Central Valley operations for Allied Grape Growers, where he has worked since 2006.

Anthony Bozzano (43) spoke at the International Bulk Wine and Spirits Show in July, sharing his insights on tips for spot market and strategic sourcing.

Heidi Carpenter-Harris (43) was elected to the Trinity County Board of Supervisors, District 4. She will begin her four-year term in January 2023.

Now Accepting Applications




is a



Tricia Geringer (43) was selected to be a member of the 2022 WomenAg Leadership Academy, a one-year leadership program. The program is part of UnitedAg and its Agribusiness Education Foundation.


will take place

and successful

Tom Merwin (44) is a current Nuffield International

will be announced in early

the first-ever from

28 Horizons Fall 2022
Nuffield International Farming Scholars Program is accepting applications until Oct. 21, 2022 for its 2023 scholarships; farmers
agri-professionals are encouraged to apply.
unique opportunity for individuals
knowledge and build capacity. Interviews
in November
California. TO LEARN MORE AND APPLY, VISIT nuffieldinternational.org. OCT. 21 DEADLINE

In Memoriam

Greg Krzys (44) was named assistant general manager at Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District. He previously worked for the Western Area Power Administration, a power marketing agency covering 15 Western states.

Stanley Kjar Jr. (45) was named president of the Ag One Foundation, which benefits, promotes and supports the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology and its students at Fresno State.

Jonathan Merrill (50) has joined the board of the Foundation of California State University, Monterey Bay.

Jake Cecil (51) wrote a column about his first year Ag Leadership experiences for Sunsweet Link (published for the grower-owners of Sunsweet Growers Inc. and Sunsweet Dryers). Titled “Lessons in Leadership and Life,” Cecil highlighted the importance of investing in listening to and learning from others and noted that “Leadership is a privilege; when you are in a leadership role, your influence can affect the trajectories of others’ careers, and often their lives.”


Abby Taylor-Silva (45) was named president of the Salinas Rotary Club, effective July 2022. James Ewart (49) is president-elect of the King City Rotary Club and Matt Peyret (50) just completed his term as president of the Rotary Club of Marysville.

The California Agricultural Leadership Foundation and Alumni Council share condolences on the passing of alumni.

Eyvind ‘Marc’ Faye Jr. (3)

Marc Faye passed away June 15, 2022.

As a member of Class 3, he traveled internationally to Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and nationally to Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Washington, D.C. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in psychology, he spent two years in the Air Force and then earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics from UC Davis before he began farming full-time. The family focused on growing pears, prunes, walnuts, pistachios, wheat and rice. During his 64 years of farming, Faye served on numerous agricultural related boards of directors, including Yolo County Farm Bureau, California Pear Growers, Pacific Coast Producers, Sunsweet Growers and Diamond Walnut Growers. Faye is survived by Gerda, his wife of more than 60 years, two sons, a daughter in-law, three grandchildren and his sister.

Jeffrey Hildebrand (8)

Jeff Hildebrand passed away on June 8, 2022. As a member of Class 8, he traveled internationally to Australia and New Zealand and nationally to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. He attended the University of Southern California on a golf scholarship and played in the California Junior Amateur golf tournament. Hildebrand

was a managing partner at R. A. Hildebrand Farms and a pioneer in the California kiwi growing industry. He was a member of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, California Cotton Growers Association, California Cotton Pest Control Board, the California Cherry Growers Association, South Valley Cherry Growers and Califresh of California. Hildebrand is survived by his wife, Jane, two children (and their spouses), two grandchildren and his sister.

R.B. Hubbard (8)

R.B. Hubbard passed away in 2022. As a member of Class 8, he traveled internationally to Australia and New Zealand and nationally to Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.


Time, Talent, Treasure


In 1982, a group of friends from Class 10 started meeting on the opening weekend of deer season for Buck Camp at Mike Phelan’s (10) cattle ranch in Cambria. “We are all cowboys and growers; let’s all gather and get together,” said Lance Brown (10). After their friend and classmate Tim O’Neill passed away in 1993, Brown felt they should not only gather as friends to honor O’Neill’s memory, but also give back to the organization that brought them together in the first place. They also memorialize other classmates who have passed: Lionel Brazil, Bill Daniell, Pete Fallini and Gary Foster (all regulars at Buck Camp). “So many graduates feel the same way we do and what a special experience this program was for us,” he said. When Brown started fundraising for Buck Camp, he asked everyone attending to make a gift. He said even those who can’t make it some years still send their donation to honor O’Neill and the friendships made because of the program. Since its inception, this group of alumni has donated nearly $50,000 to the Ag Leadership Program. Brown reflects on the weekends they’ve spent together and looks forward to this year’s Buck Camp. “These are some really special guys.” ◆


Sandy Creighton-Fiack’s involvement with Ag Leadership began early and aligned closely with her personal mission of “educating others about the importance of agriculture.” She applied to the program shortly after graduating college “to hone my skills so I would have the ability to give back,” and she has been giving back to the foundation and industry ever since. When Creighton-Fiack moved to Fresno, she started helping with golf tournaments and attending various Ag Leadership events. “I realized I’m good at rallying the troops,” she said. “I’m a doer.” Creighton-Fiack feels incredibly close to the foundation not only because of the lifelong friends she’s made, but also because of the skills she gained through the program. “So many times I’ve had to use my fellowship skills in meetings and presentations,” she said. “Understanding all of those components made me feel so much more comfortable.” Using her skills in leadership and communication, Creighton-Fiack was able to foster the close relationship between her employer, The Zenith Insurance and Ag Leadership. “You never know how those little seeds will grow!” ◆


The Ag Leadership Alumni World Ag Expo Breakfast came to be from a very long-standing relationship. Cliff Dunbar estimates the relationship between his firm, Gallagher Insurance, and the Lagomarsino family goes back somewhere between 70-80 years. “The Lagomarsinos are our longest-standing client,” said Dunbar. With the breakfast now in its 27th year, Fred Lagomarsino (19) recalls when local alumni formed a committee to launch the first event. “The committee was just trying to make people aware of the foundation,” said Lagomarsino. “But it only took one year and everyone wanted to know why we weren’t raising money alongside.” With that in mind, Lagomarsino enlisted Dunbar and his team, including alumni Steve Chrisman (10) and Richard Nunes (37), to start fundraising. They were more than willing to take on the job. “I’m totally committed to the program and its vision and its objective,” said Dunbar. “Several alumni are clients of ours. We have personal relationships with alumni and with all of these alumni supporting us, this is a way we can support them.” Today, the breakfast garners nearly a dozen sponsorship supporters and 700-800 people in attendance. “When you give your time, you get more than you give,” Lagomarsino said. Dunbar agrees; “It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career.”

30 Horizons Fall 2022
◆ Cliff Dunbar

Donor List


John and Sheila Lake

$2,500 – $9,999

Buck Camp / Tim O’Neill Fundraiser (Class 10)

Mike Bennett

Lance Brown

Ron Caird

Steve Chrisman

John Crossland

Bob Denney

Randy Linquist

Paul Martin Mike Phelan Circle Vision1

Granite Peak Partners1 Index Fresh1

RPAC LLC3 Pierre Tada3

Wonderful Citrus Packing LLC1

$1,000 – $2,499

Allied Grape Growers

Art Bliss Ranch1 Assured Partners of California1 Brokaw Nursery LLC1 Bill Cramer3

Fruit Growers Supply Company1 Kautz Farms2 Mark Kimmelshue3 Paul Newton Otto & Sons Inc.1 Louis Pandol

R. Gorrill Ranch Enterprises2, 3 Peggy Sears Perry

Richard Pidduck3

Prudential Ag Finance2

Blake Vann Thomas Vetsch

$500 – $999

Jose Luis Aguiar

Bob and Anne Atkins Farmers Rice Cooperative2 M & T Ranch2

Jason Miller Peggy Sears Perry1 Eugene Peterson

$250 – $499

Andersen & Son Shelling Inc.2

Diamond Foods / Justin Rominger2 Hans Herkert2 Link Leavens1 Heather Mulholland Lucy Pandol

$100 – $249 Anonymous Mary Kimball John and Eda Muller

UP TO $99

John Dmytriw Joseph Garcia

IN MEMORY OF RICHARD SMITH ( 7 ) Raymond and Deborah Tonella

IN MEMORY OF JEFF HILDEBRAND (8) Michael and Nancy Turnipseed


IN MEMORY OF STEVE DODGE (49) Peggy Sears Perry

IN KIND Loren Booth

Anthony Bozzano Mandy Critchley Lucas Espericueta Matthew Fisher Melissa Macfarlane Steve and Danielle McShane Tom Merwin Yvonne Sams

1Region 9 Golf Tournament Sponsor

2NorCal Ag Leadership

Sporting Clay Shoot Sponsor

3Alumni Conference Sponsor

Why Every Gi Counts 2021 264 Alumni Gi s of $500 or Less = $70K Total Gi s of any size add up and make a difference for the foundation, the program and alumni engagement opportunities. We appreciate your support! All gi s through Dec. 31, 2022 are eligible for a charitable tax deduction. agleaders.kindful.com CONTACT CALF Donor Relations Manager Kelli Coffey kcoffey@agleaders.org 831−585−1030 MAIL California Ag Leadership Foundation 80 Garden Court, Suite 270 Monterey, CA 93940
May 1, 2022 - Aug. 31, 2022 31 Thank you!
Growing leaders who make a difference
80 Garden Court, Suite 270 Monterey, CA 93940
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