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Meet the Board & Staff

The Almond Board of California is a diverse group of almond professionals that is advancing almonds throughout the world, maximizing the impact of California almonds, and embracing innovation and research. Meet the Board of Directors, and key staff members who work at the Almond Board.

Board Members

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Paul Ewing

Sales and Grower Relations Manager, RPAC

Q: When did you first become involved in the California almond industry?

 

A: While at Cal Poly, from 1999-2003, I conducted almond projects for my relative Ned Ryan, including a study of the Chilean almond industry. I entered the industry full time in 2003 in sales and got involved with the Almond Board’s Global Market Development committee soon after. I began growing almonds in 2009 and am still enjoying learning how to best do that. 

 

Q: What does it mean to you to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Board during this unique time. Demand growth and reputation management are as essential as ever, and I look forward to being part of these key discussions and decisions with my colleagues on the Board. I am very excited about the future of our industry.

 

Q: What about the industry do you most appreciate and take pride in?

 

A: The wonderful growers and industry colleagues we get to work with that make our work so much fun. The open dialogue with trustworthy people also helps us all constantly learn and grow.

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: The tremendous health studies done that show how almonds are so good for you in many ways. ABC has been so innovative in looking at almonds’ health benefits from a variety of angles, including weight management and skin health. 

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting off in the almond industry?

 

A: People in the industry are very open so don’t be afraid to ask for help and get involved with different areas of the industry, including attending ABC committee meetings. I would also suggest applying for ABC’s Almond Leadership Program and certainly coming to The Almond Conference.  Presentations given by University of California (UC) extension staff also provide a great opportunity to learn about growing almonds, as does The Almond Doctor blog (managed by former UC farm advisor David Doll) and the Pacific Nut Producer magazine.    

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: At Happy Hour, it’s blanched slivered; at home, it’s roasted with butter and salt. But normally, we eat them raw, dry roasted, or as a spoonful of almond butter. 

 

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Paul Ewing

Sales and Grower Relations Manager, RPAC

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Joe Gardiner

National Sales and Marketing Manager, Treehouse California Almonds

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in the industry?

 

A: I come from a third-generation farm. My grandfather started farming in the Central Valley since just after World War II. It wasn’t until 1982 that we planted our first almonds. Before that, we were cotton, tomato, potato and row crop growers. My dad wrote his college thesis on almond farming in California and after college, he came back to the family farm. He was brokering some trees and was able to fund his own orchard through some of his deals. As the years progressed, we planted more and more almonds. I grew up on the family farm, and my summers included swimming in cotton irrigation ditches and jumping in cotton modules. Taking a job at Treehouse California Almonds after Graduate School was when I officially got my start in the family business. My primary task is managing sales and helping with the factory operations. I have the privilege to connect our customers with our family farm.

 

Q: What does it mean to you to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: When my peers asked me if I'd be interested in running for the Board, I sat back and reflected on it. I realized it was my duty, not only for my family but for the next generation of farmers. There are a lot of great industry leaders that are reaching that magic retirement age and it’s time for the younger generation to step up and serve. There needs to be a new group of individuals that help push this industry along. My brothers and I are looking at the future – we want this to be a successful industry for our kids, just like how our dad helped make the industry successful for our generation. As a Board member, I hope to be involved directly in long-term strategic industry initiatives that help ensure we pass on a successful industry to the next generation.

 

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about service?

 

A: What I’m looking forward to is sharing a different perspective. There are plenty of generational growers out there and I think the Almond Board has done a great job getting us to this point. But I think there is an opportunity to freshen things up a little bit. My goal is to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking amongst the staff and fellow Board members. I would like to try new things and if we don’t get the outcome we want, then we regroup and try something else.

 

Q: What do you most respect or appreciate about the Almond Industry?

 

A: We're growing a healthy product. I get to see the power of this in my work within ingredients and on the cutting edge of product development, and that's exciting for me. As we grow as an industry and our customer base gets more involved in knowing where their product comes from, it's important to leverage this fact. I believe we should be embracing questions because we have every right as an industry to be proud of what we are doing. As a family farm, I am extremely proud of what I do. I'm extremely proud of what my brothers do, what my dad has done and what my grandfather has done. When you're taking care of a piece of land that has been in your family for seven or eight decades, that's amazing. I want to be able to share that story with customers and show them that farmers are doing things right. It's sharing that story and being proud of what you're doing, but then also having a willingness to learn and adapt, that will ensure our right to farm. I think that's been what my family has embraced since the inception of our farm.

 

Q – What about the Almond Board of California do you most appreciate or take pride in?

 

A: I'm in marketing, exporting, sales and processing. As a company, I'm extremely grateful to the Almond Board for information. When it comes to technical information about food safety or exports, I can't tell you how nice it is to be able to pick up a phone and get an answer within an hour or two – and some of the stuff is very technical. Those answers make our jobs as salespersons and handlers much easier, which allows us to educate our customers. I do appreciate how the Board has been on the front end of the technical issues, helping to steer the conversation. That is probably one of the most understated successes of the Almond Board.

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: I think a chocolate chip almond flour cookie washed down with unsweetened almond milk is as about as good as it gets.

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Joe Gardiner

National Sales and Marketing Manager, Treehouse California Almonds

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Christine Gemperle

Grower, Gemperle Orchards

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Christine Gemperle

Grower, Gemperle Orchards

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George Goshgarian

Goshgarian Farming Company

Q: When did you first become involved in the industry?

 

A: My family has been growing almonds in Fresno County since the late 1970s. Some of my earliest memories include helping with harvest. At four years old, I'm not sure how much help I actually provided, but I found a passion for working outside with my hands and eventually a profession that does not require me to wear a tie. After I graduated from college, I was recruited into the wine business, where I spent many years as a winemaker. About 12 years ago, my family asked me if I wanted to come back and help with the farming operation. I jumped at the opportunity and have never looked back. 

 

Q: What does it mean to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: It is a great honor to serve as a member of the Almond Board of California’s Board of Directors. I have been involved with ABC for about 10 years, starting out by serving on several committees and eventually moving up to serve on the Board. There is always a saying rolling around in the back of my head (I believe I got it from my father), "Either you're at the table or you're on the menu." The Almond Board provides the growers a voice, a spot at the table, and it keeps us off the menu. I am proud to be part of that, protecting and growing our industry.

 

Q: What about the industry do you most appreciate and take pride in?

 

A: Innovation. The ability to change, grow, and adapt. Having grown up in agriculture, it's easy to see that most other agricultural industries are very resistant to any change. So much so that many of those industries are now gone. The almond industry has not only grown but thrived. Even in the most difficult of times, we have endured by working together and rising stronger and better prepared for future challenges. 

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: There are many accomplishments that spring to mind. But, having been involved with the Almond Board of California during the drought when we had to educate the public about our water usage, I would say increasing our water use efficiency. We are cutting edge in our use of water – decreasing the amount of water to produce a pound of almonds by 33% is huge. But instead of stopping there and being content, we have continued to push ourselves to adopt new technologies and to educate ourselves on better practices. 

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting off in the almond industry?

 

A: Get involved. It never ceases to amaze me how much I've learned by serving and volunteering in many capacities through ABC. Yes, it takes time and commitment. But what you gain in return really can't be measured. In farming, it's really easy to want to just "stay on the farm." It's difficult to put yourself out there and engage with other industries, entities, and other growers. But in the end, engagement is what makes our corner of agriculture the envy of all the others. 

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: A can of Blue Diamond roasted and salted almonds, washed down with a cold beer. Simple, satisfying, perfect.

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George Goshgarian

Goshgarian Farming Company

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Mel Machado

Co-op Handler, Blue Diamond Growers

Q: When did you first become involved in the almond industry?

 

A: I actually grew up on a small dairy in Livingston. Prior to working at Blue Diamond, I managed the farming operation for Merced Community College and taught several classes in plant science and computer applications in the Agriculture Division’s night program. At the time, the college had a 250-acre farm, and I worked with students to grow 18 different crops, including almonds.

 

Q: What does it mean to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: I consider it an honor and a huge responsibility to represent California almond growers in general and Blue Diamond growers, in particular. I’ve served on several committees over the years and have always found the work fascinating.

 

Q: What about the industry do you most appreciate and take pride in?

 

A: I get to interact with growers of other crops from around the U.S., and, without exception, everyone I meet is in awe of the success the almond industry has been able to achieve. I believe that success comes from the fact that the industry works so well together. Yes, the various segments do not always agree on every issue, but over the years we have come to find common ground, and we are all the better for it.

We also are not afraid to tackle a challenge. Our research programs have kept us ahead of other crops and paved the way for our success.

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: The pasteurization program comes to mind immediately. I’m also proud of our lifecycle analysis, nitrogen management efforts, the Honey Bee Best Management Practices, nutrition research and the role of almonds in human health… Quite frankly, there’s a lot to be proud of!

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting off in the almond industry?

 

A: Get involved with the Almond Board and attend any of the committee meetings that fit your interest. Committee meetings are open to all industry members and you’re always welcome. Advice on how to get into farming? Now that’s tougher…

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: I eat a lot of almonds – obviously, I enjoy Blue Diamond products. Right now, I’m hooked on the Gourmet line, and I’ve started working on the Fruit & Nut offerings, too. I also eat quite a few right off tree when I’m in the field!

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Mel Machado

Co-op Handler, Blue Diamond Growers

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Brandon Rebiero

Gold Leaf Farming

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Brandon Rebiero

Gold Leaf Farming

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Darren Rigg

Sales Representative, Minturn Nut Co.

Q: When did you first become involved in the California almond industry?

 

A: I started working for a Northern California handler after graduating from Chico State in 2008.

 

Q: What does it mean to you to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: It is quite an honor to have worked my way up through the industry, serving on committees and then gaining the confidence of my peers to get the opportunity to serve at the Board level. To me, it means maybe my opinions are not as isolated as I thought.

 

Q: What about the industry do you most appreciate and take pride in?

 

A: I appreciate the international aspect the most, as it’s relatively unique to our Central Valley business sector, as well as all the nuances throughout the supply chain. Our industry keeps you on your toes – there is always something new to learn and always new experiences to be had that humble you and prove you wrong. I take pride in the fact that we can grow, market and ship a high quality, healthy food throughout the global marketplace.

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: Nutrition research has been instrumental in our marketing efforts and has allowed us to truly tap into the health and nutrition trends that almonds fit perfectly into. The other part that I am proud of is the statistical data that ABC derives to provide crop estimates, acreage reports, and monthly shipment information. This helps bring a level of reliability into our marketplace and is used as a tool for growers, processors and buyers. It’s sometimes underappreciated just how significant this has been for the success of our industry.

 

Q: What advice would you give someone starting off in the almond industry?

 

A: Listen and learn. You don’t know it all, not even a sliver.

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: Roasted and loaded with tasty artificial flavors.

 

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Darren Rigg

Sales Representative, Minturn Nut Co.

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Alicia Rockwell, Vice Chair

Blue Diamond Growers

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Alicia Rockwell, Vice Chair

Blue Diamond Growers

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Alexi Rodriguez, Chair

Director of Operations, Campos Brothers Farms

Q: When did you first become involved in the California almond industry?

 

A: I became involved in the almond industry shortly after moving to California, following college in 2008.

 

Q: What does it mean to you to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors?

 

A: It means I have been entrusted by my peers to continue to lead the industry in a positive direction. As I reflect on how far we've come in a relatively short amount of time since I joined this industry, I'm excited by the possibilities of where we can go, and it is an honor to be part of a group that will help take us there!

Q: What about the industry do you most appreciate and take pride in?

 

A: The development of innovative new products and their ability to help drive demand alongside increasing production. It has been truly remarkable! 

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: Nutrition research and marketing. It is incredible to meet people outside the industry and hear them tell me about all the health benefits of almonds. It shows how effective we have been in our messaging.


Q: What advice would you give someone starting off in the almond industry?

 

A: Get involved. It's never too early (or too late) to take part in organizations that support our industry, especially the Almond Board. It's a great way to learn, meet new people, and join in on the conversations that shape our industry.

 

Q: What’s your favorite way to eat almonds?

 

A: Dry roasted or covered in dark chocolate.

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Alexi Rodriguez, Chair

Director of Operations, Campos Brothers Farms

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Bob Silveira

Director of Sales and Marketing, Vann Family Orchards

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in the industry? 

 

A: I was born and raised a dairy farmer and forage crop grower in Merced, California. My parents are Portuguese immigrants, and my first language was Portuguese. I learned how to speak English when I went to kindergarten, like a lot of Americans have. I loved growing the forage and I realized a little bit later in life that I enjoyed the farming aspect more than raising the cows. I went to Cal Poly to study Dairy Science and Agricultural Business. When I finished school I got back into the cattle industry working for a livestock genetics business until I was in my early 40’s. About 25 years ago, my brother-in-law and my sister purchased 110 acres of almonds in Atwater. That is how our family first became involved with almonds. A few years later, I decided to buy an almond orchard myself in Livingston. My brother-in-law said growing almonds is easy compared to milking cows. I started attending The Almond Conference in Modesto as a grower and I remember I was just electrified by what I saw and heard. I really enjoyed the consumer focus of the almond industry. So after nearly a decade as a grower, I was looking to make a career change. I joined Blue Diamond for two years and Summit Almonds for a few more. During that time, I got to know one of our suppliers, Vann Family Orchards who was looking to grow. I went to work for them about five years ago. Today, my wife and I own 140 acres of almonds and wine grapes.  

 

Q: What does it mean to you to sit on ABC’s Board of Directors? 

 

A: I'm deeply honored to be elected to the Board of Directors of the Almond Board of California. I think it's an incredible privilege and I am very aware of the responsibility that goes with it. I have some observer-type experiences with two other marketing commodity boards. I grew up around the California Milk Advisory Board, which is one of the largest commodity marketing boards in the United States and very successful. Over the last eight years, I've also attended many meetings for the California Walnut Board and Commission who’s also been successful in their own right. That former experience and perspective made me appreciate the Almond Board of California that much more. In my opinion, ABC is the best and the most successful commodity marketing board in American agriculture.  

 

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about service? 

 

A:  I’m most excited about continuing the success the Almond Board has experienced in overseas marketing. What I have learned is if you want to be more successful, the first thing you consider is where are the greatest and strongest areas within that business currently and over the recent past. Then you focus efforts in that area. The way you do that is by taking a candid, open and challenging look at the entire business. How do we redirect resources from one area to put it into the area where you get the most bang for your buck? That is my basic philosophy of business, entity and even personal success, and the philosophy I hope to bring to the Board.  

 

Q: What do you most respect or appreciate about the Almond Industry? 

 

A: First, it's the people in the industry. Someone who was born and raised into the almond industry should thank their parents and their family, because that is an incredible thing. I was in my 30s when I got into the industry, and then in my 40s when I got into the trade side. I have a different perspective as far as the people and community of this industry. That's what an industry is, it's a community, and that's probably the thing that I enjoy the most. What a great industry group of people – the growers, the allied industry members, and the people at the Almond Board are an incredible team – not to mention our partners overseas in India, Spain, Germany, and Japan who are incredible partners. 

 

Q: What about the Almond Board of California do you most appreciate or take pride in? 

 

A: I think that the Almond Board's research that's been done over the last few decades in health and nutrition is probably the foundation of our industry's success. I think that our promotional efforts have been incredibly successful. I look specifically at what this industry has done in India and it's just a resounding success story. I look at what has happened in the last half dozen years in Western Europe – Europeans tended to eat almonds in sweets like marzipan and sweet snacks, but through promotional efforts, ABC  has helped to create a whole new almond consumption habit focused on healthy snacking. Changing a culture is difficult and that healthy snacking campaign is an amazing success story. I look at the way that almond shipments to Europe in the last few years have had double-digit growth in a static, mature, non-growing market. ABC did the research and then put the resources behind it and I think it's just an incredible success story. Because it's a new consumption habit, what we can do in the next five years is really exciting.   

 

Q - What’s your favorite way to eat almonds? 

 

A: Number one, a chocolate enrobed Nonpareil 20/22 from Japan. The name of the product is Almond Peak from Glico. It's the best. I also love turron from Spain and will never turn down an almond baklava from Turkey. 

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Bob Silveira

Director of Sales and Marketing, Vann Family Orchards

Staff

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Julie Adams

Vice President, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs

Julie Adams is vice president, global technical and regulatory affairs of the Almond Board of California. She has overseen ABC’s U.S. and global trade and regulatory programs for more than 20 years. Her responsibilities include monitoring and developing strategies to address international trade policy and technical issues such as food safety, market access, Codex standards, phytosanitary requirements, regulatory changes and other areas that impact worldwide production and shipment of California almonds. 

 

She also oversees the Almond Board’s industry services activities, which is responsible for compliance and food safety programs. Julie has been responsible for coordinating government affairs efforts with state and federal authorities, including consultations with global authorities related to import controls, trade and market access and certification programs.

 

Julie chairs the Nut Processors Working Group of the European Snacks Association, as well as serving as vice chair of the International Tree Nut Council’s Scientific Committee. She has served for several years on the U.S. Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Fruits & Vegetables.   

 

Prior to joining ABC, Julie spent more than 15 years with the American Peanut Council, based in Washington, DC and London. In her off time, she enjoys travelling, cooking and jigsaw puzzles (another way to keep her problem-solving skills sharpened).

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Julie Adams

Vice President, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs

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Toni Arellano

Senior Coordinator Marketing Order Services

Toni Arellano is a senior coordinator for marketing order services, providing support to handlers and processors and guiding them through everything they need to know and do to stay in compliance. She works with the inedible program, assessments, the annual board of directors’ elections, annual handler registration, the food quality and safety symposium and a number of other programs and duties.

 

Before coming to ABC, Toni worked in health care, for Nabisco and for a technology company in Silicon Valley.

 

She lives in Ceres and on her free time, Toni delves into astronomy – she calls herself a sky gazer – and follows the movie scene. She is a cat lover who shares her home with a few rescued cats and enjoys camping with her family and playing games with her granddaughter.

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Toni Arellano

Senior Coordinator Marketing Order Services

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Diego Ayala

Help Desk Specialist

Diego Ayala is a help desk specialist for the Almond Board of California. He is first in line for user inquiries and resolves issues, escalates unresolved matters and directs them to appropriate resources. He also oversees management of system patches to ensure the security and performance of all ABC systems.

 

Before coming to ABC, Diego was a tablet administrator at a women’s prison, where he was responsible for configuring, deploying and troubleshooting Android tablets for inmates. In addition, he has earned CompTIA A+ and Network+ certifications as part of his foundation in the IT field.

 

Diego lives in Merced and is a nature lover and dog enthusiast and finds balance between his passion for technology and the outdoors. He takes his two pit bulls, Bella and Nova, on hikes and visits to the Merced River and Lake Merced. When he is not walking his dogs, Diego spends time with his family and continues to study for his next certification or look for new projects to enhance his skills.

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Diego Ayala

Help Desk Specialist

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Skylar Becvar

Senior Coordinator, Industry Relations and Communications

Skylar Becvar is the senior coordinator for Industry Relations and Communications at the Almond Board of California. Her responsibilities include creating and customizing industry outreach materials and executing communications, programs and events for industry audiences.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Skylar worked in the real estate and finance industries managing over 30 different marketing groups. She has expertise in graphic design, web design and social media marketing.

 

While new to the almond industry when she joined ABC, Skylar comes from an agriculture background. Growing up, she spent every summer on her late grandfather’s ranch in Visalia where she took care of livestock. In her free time, Skylar lives in the Central Valley and likes to run, play tennis and spend time with her dog, Olive.

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Skylar Becvar

Senior Coordinator, Industry Relations and Communications

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Rebecca Bailey

Senior Specialist, Industry Relations

Rebecca Bailey is a senior specialist in industry relations for the Almond Board of California. She leads The Almond Conference organizing and budgeting efforts and oversees communications with key stakeholders for TAC. She also oversees the Almond Leadership Program, coordinating seminars, leading fundraising efforts and facilitating relationships, and she is the primary lead for Ag in the Classroom while assisting with other, special industry-focused events.

 

Rebecca joined ABC as a summer intern in 2014, then moved directly into a role as a permanent staff member. She has a deep appreciation for the men and women who drive the almond industry and says providing support to industry members is a highlight of her career.

 

Growing up on her family’s farm in Turlock, Rebecca says she always knew ag would be a part of her future. She is a product of 4-H and FFA programs, and while earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural communications at Oklahoma State University, she interned for a range of ag organizations that serve famers.

 

Outside of work, Rebecca is often doing something with her family, traveling to a concert or cheering on the Oklahoma State Cowboys (Go Pokes!). She lives on the property in Turlock where her love for ag began.

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Rebecca Bailey

Senior Specialist, Industry Relations

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Tim Birmingham

Director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services

Tim Birmingham is the director of quality assurance and industry services for the Almond Board of California. He guides all ABC activities that address emerging and existing food safety issues and he oversees efforts to effectively address and identify issues that impact almond quality. 

 

Tim serves as the staff liaison for the Food Quality and Safety Committee and provides direction and oversight for the food quality and safety research activities and industry programs. He has overseen the implementation of the mandatory treatment program for California almonds, the development of validation guidelines currently used throughout the low moisture food industry, and implementation of the Pre-Export Checks program for aflatoxin control.

 

Tim also directs the activities of the industry services team, working with handlers and manufacturers on compliance with Marketing Order requirements and ensuring they maintain a high quality and safe product. He maintains relationships with regulatory agencies and works with the industry on Food Safety Modernization Act education and compliance. He has served as a part of the U.S. delegation on the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene, providing input on low moisture food hygiene practices, and he was a member of the U.S. delegation at the UN Economic Commission for Europe Working Party on Ag Quality Standards. His professional career includes more than 25 years of experience in food processing, product quality, process validation, food safety, microbiology and regulatory affairs.

 

Tim is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served in Operation Desert Storm. In his spare time now, he enjoys chasing his teenage kids around the ski slopes, watching his boys play soccer, listening to his daughter play music and travelling to new and old places with his wife.

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Tim Birmingham

Director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services

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Connie Calhoun

Director, Human Resources and Organizational Development

Connie Calhoun is the director, human resources and organizational development for the Almond Board of California where she heads up the people processes and strategies, including total rewards, recruiting, staff relations, performance development and legal compliance.

 

Connie holds a Senior Professional of Human Resources certification and prior to joining ABC she spent more than 20 years leading human resources teams in both the private and public sectors. 

 

She has successfully started HR departments from the ground up at multiple organizations and led the global expansion at one of those companies as they made the Inc 500’s list of fastest growing companies on two consecutive years. She greatly enjoys the challenge of servicing such a diverse workforce and helping each person achieve their full potential while driving the organization forward. 

 

Connie is a native of Michigan now living in the Central Valley. In her spare time, she enjoys glamping in Northern California and trying her hand at home renovations. 

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Connie Calhoun

Director, Human Resources and Organizational Development

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Valerie Cash

Junior Accountant

Valerie Cash is a junior accountant for finance and administration for the Almond Board of California. She oversees the corporate credit card program, including adherence to internal control policies on back up documentation, signatures and disbursement of funds. She is also responsible for companywide office document storage and disposal, maintaining records, the accountability of ABC cars, maintaining all USDA correspondence and approval notices, plus many other office administrative and accounting duties.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Valerie worked for many years in accounting at various companies, including 13 years at a beverage distributor in Stockton where she was responsible for the day-to-day accounting/operations of six Valley offices.

 

Valerie lives in Salida with her husband, Travis, and their four-legged furry kids. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, tending to her home garden, barbequing and family poker nights.

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Valerie Cash

Junior Accountant

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Adam Casso

Coordinator, Logistics & Special Events

Adam Casso is the logistics and special events coordinator for the Almond Board of California, supporting human resources and all departments at ABC in a wide range of activities.

 

He has been with ABC since 2007 and said he is grateful to work for a fantastic Industry. Adam has long had a strong appreciation and respect for agriculture. He was an active member of 4-H and FFA, where he was awarded the American FFA degree.

 

Adam lives in Modesto and enjoys spending quality time with family and friends.

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Adam Casso

Coordinator, Logistics & Special Events

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Gary Castillo

Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

Gary Castillo is a specialist in field outreach and education for the Almond Board of California covering the southern region of the Central Valley. Acting as a point of contact for growers, he connects them with information and other resources they may need and is passionate about finding ways to help. Gary also heads the continuing education efforts at events and seminars hosted by ABC.

 

In his previous role, he worked as an irrigation specialist providing field-specific weekly irrigation recommendations for about 8,000 acres of various crops – predominantly almonds – in a region from Fresno to Porterville. 

 

Gary is originally from Modesto and moved in 2012 to attend CSU Fresno, where he earned a bachelor’s in agriculture, and he continues to live in Fresno. Outside of work, Gary enjoys being outdoors, going on adventures and spending time with friends and family.

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Gary Castillo

Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

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Connie Cheung

Consultant, China

Connie Cheung is a market development consultant representing the Almond Board of California in China. She is responsible for both consumer and trade marketing, advertising campaigns, social media management, media outreach management and health professional and nutrition outreach.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Connie was an accomplished advertising and communication professional with more than 25 years of experience. Her expertise in advertising gives her a solid foundation in creating effective integrated marketing strategies and she has a strong understanding of consumer behaviour and insights, which has allowed her to create campaigns that resonate with target audiences and drive engagement. She has a record of delivering exceptional results and is always looking for new and innovative ways to achieve almond industry goals.

 

Connie is a Hong Kong native and lives there now. She has a bachelor’s in marketing from the University of Oregon. Outside of work, she has three cats and has a passion for all furry animals and insects. In her free time, she practices ballet and drawing and enjoys exploring nature.

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Connie Cheung

Consultant, China

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Courtney Collins

Data Analyst

Courtney Collins is a data analyst for the Almond Board of California. She is responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting data related to the almond industry and ABC initiatives. Her analyses include global marketing data, global import and exports, trade regulation, production, economic impact and more.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Courtney worked as an advisor and analyst for the U.S. Air Force Academy Athletic Department, where she specialized in designing and implementing low-cost processes to advance the Air Force’s budgeting, analytics and reporting. Courtney worked closely with coaching staffs for 27 intercollegiate teams to improve budget and expense reporting, and her reports were key in successfully securing proper funding for the athletic department from Air Force personnel at the Pentagon.

 

She also lived in Germany, working for the U.S. Department of Finance and Accounting as a lead government liaison, handling high profile international contract issues in Europe and Africa. Courtney received recognition for her work from the Director of DFAS and Principal Deputy Director.

 

Courtney is a Northern California native and she moved back with her family to California near loved ones after living all over the U.S. and Europe while her husband, Matt, was in the Army. She now lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, daughter and her two canine children, Dobby the House Poodle and Kazy the Crazy little energetic mix. Courtney enjoys traveling, sports (Go Air Force Falcons) and on weekends, she and her family are out and about hiking, biking and exploring the beauty all around California.

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Courtney Collins

Data Analyst

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Brock Densel

Senior Analyst, Government Affairs

Brock Densel is the senior analyst for government affairs for the Almond Board of California. His responsibilities include monitoring federal legislative and regulatory developments that affect the industry, educating and informing federal authorities on the almond industry, and representing the industry in various stakeholder and specialty crop trade organizations.

 

Prior to joining the Almond Board, he served in various roles at USDA including as Chief of Staff for the Agricultural Marketing Service, Senior Policy Advisor for the Research, Education, & Economics Mission Area, and Congressional and Policy Advisor in the Office of Congressional Relations.

 

Brock lives in Modesto with his fiancée, Megan, who are huge supporters of the Buffalo Bills, no matter what.

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Brock Densel

Senior Analyst, Government Affairs

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Tom Devol

Senior Manager, Field Outreach and Education

Tom Devol is the senior manager of field outreach and education leading a team focused on interfacing between growers and industry research and resources. The team provides ongoing education to help growers tackle the challenges of understanding and applying technologies as part of their daily farming operations.

 

Tom has long been one of the industry’s most forward-looking and outspoken advocates for the use of technology in agriculture. Starting in agriculture as an irrigation designer with growers in northern California, he found a passion for field monitoring and ag technologies. For over two decades, he worked with farming operations across the country, leveraging plant, soil and weather sensing tools to enable growers to monitor and control their irrigations more effectively and produce more crop per drop with limited resources.

 

Prior to joining ABC, he was honored to serve as a mentor to ABC’s Almond Leadership Program and was a member on the Global Communications Committee. Tom is proud of the three kids he helped raise and now spends much of his time hiking around the world with his wife, Peg. In 2022, they walked the width of Spain along the pilgrimage path Camino de Santiago.  

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Tom Devol

Senior Manager, Field Outreach and Education

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Lauren Fann

Senior Specialist, Pest Management

Lauren Fann is the senior specialist for pest management at the Almond Board of California. She oversees the pest management research portfolio which includes insects, plant diseases and weeds. Additionally, she works to help develop effective new tactics that growers can use to expand their sustainable pest management options and engages with the industry on the development and use of pest management strategies to communicate with growers and PCAs.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Lauren earned her Ph.D in Entomology from the University of Kentucky. Her research focused on the management of the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) using biological control agents, attract and kill strategies, and trap cropping in small acreage and organic vegetable systems.

 

Lauren, a native of the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, moved to the Central Valley to join ABC. She is based in Modesto and enjoys hiking and exploring California with her dog, Dylan.

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Lauren Fann

Senior Specialist, Pest Management

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James Fillmore

Senior Manager, Information Technology

James Fillmore is the Senior Manager of Information Technology for the Almond Board of California managing the entire Information Technology, DevOps and security infrastructure.

 

Prior to joining the Almond Board, James spent seven years as a business manager, IT director, and part owner, with Charter Solutions and H-Wire Technology Solutions where he helped several schools implement new technology infrastructure and policies to ensure the safety of employees and students.

 

James moved to the San Francisco Bay area just before middle school and has called California home ever since, growing up in the Bay Area during the silicon revolution of the 1990’s. He started working in technology at 16 years old and has been in IT ever since. He holds two Microsoft Certified System Engineer certificates, as well as Pro Audio certificates and several other industry specific certificates.

 

James moved to Modesto after meeting his wife, Tara, there. They continue to live there with their two dogs, Macey and Riley.

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James Fillmore

Senior Manager, Information Technology

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Emily Fleischmann

Vice President, Global Market Development

Emily Fleischmann is the vice president of global marketing at the Almond Board of California, where she leads the strategy and implementation of the Board’s global marketing investment, including both consumer and trade activities.

 

Before joining ABC, Emily spent 12 years in brand management at food companies, first at Kraft Foods working on the Oscar Mayer and Lunchables brands, then at California-based Foster Farms managing the company’s prepared foods business.

 

Prior to her career in marketing, she worked in accounting and finance. She honed her analytic and general business skills in roles at one of the Big 5 accounting firms and in global finance with Nike and InFocus Systems. 

 

Emily lives in Turlock with her husband, son and daughter and enjoys spending time with her family and embracing all the beautiful outdoor activities California has to offer.

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Emily Fleischmann

Vice President, Global Market Development

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Sara Geer

Associate Director, Finance & Administration

Sara Geer is the associate director of finance and administration for the Almond Board of California, leading the team overseeing the day-to-day accounting, administration and logistics functions at ABC.

 

Sara brought vast overall accounting experience to the Almond Board. Previously, she working in local governmental and public accounting, specializing in political reporting, general and fund accounting, taxes and auditing. 

 

Sara grew up in Escalon among grape vineyards, but she’s been a fan of almonds since birth as her grandfather was an almond grower in Ripon. She now lives in Manteca with her husband, son and daughter who you can find on either the baseball or soccer fields. 

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Sara Geer

Associate Director, Finance & Administration

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Charice D.E. Grace

Manager, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

Charice Grace is the manager of trade marketing and stewardship for the Almond Board of California and is responsible for leading the execution of all food professional focused public relations and advertising tactics for North America.

 

Charice has more than 20 years of consumer packaged goods experience in brand marketing and business development, including roles at top manufacturers such as Bimbo Bakeries and ARYZTA. 

 

She is a proud HBCU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Morgan State University and an MBA in International Business from the University of Miami. In her spare time, Charice enjoys re-reading Jane Austen novels, working out, hiking and traveling the world. She hopes to retire on a beach when the time comes.

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Charice D.E. Grace

Manager, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

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Elena Hemler

Nutrition Research Program Lead

Elena Hemler is the associate director of nutrition research at the Almond Board of California, overseeing the nutrition research program. In this role, she manages a broad portfolio of research projects contributing to the scientific evidence on the impact of almonds on human health.

 

Elena has more than eight years of experience in public health and nutrition research in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the U.S. Prior to joining the Almond Board, Elena worked in healthcare technology and conducted nutrition research at the Harvard School of Public Health. 

 

At Harvard, she led planning, implementation and monitoring for nutrition research projects aiming to improve global dietary quality across 10+ countries. She has published over 25 peer-reviewed publications in high-impact journals and holds a Master of Public Health in Global Health from Harvard.

 

She lives in Boston where she grew up and in her spare time enjoys hiking, biking and camping in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

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Elena Hemler

Nutrition Research Program Lead

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Taylor Hillman

Senior Specialist, Industry Communications

Taylor Hillman is a senior specialist of industry communications at the Almond Board of California. He plans and implements ABC’s communications to growers, handlers, processors and allied industry members. He also analyzes ABC’s communication strategies and tactics to better serve the almond growers of California.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Taylor spent nearly a decade in agriculture radio talking to growers, researchers and industry leaders, sharing information that is critical to producers. During this time, he was a proud member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters and National Agricultural Marketing Association, serving as the Western Pacific Chapter of the latter.

 

After a brief stint in firefighting, Taylor began his professional communications career working for a decade at KSEE24 and CBS47 – sister stations that are the Fresno NBC and CBS television affiliates – directing live newscasts, shooting and editing video and running remote live reports.

 

Taylor is of Dutch and Portuguese decent, groups with long Central Valley farming histories, with parents originating from Tulare County where family members still farm row crops and almonds. He lives in Clovis with his wife, Robin – an educator and drama teacher – and daughter, Vivian. The family enjoys camping and watching baseball games, a favorite pastime of Taylor’s as he cheers on the San Francisco orange and black.

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Taylor Hillman

Senior Specialist, Industry Communications

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Guangwei Huang

Associate Director, Food Research and Technology

Guangwei Huang is the associate director of food research and technology at the Almond Board of California and has been with ABC since 2001. He directs and manages research on almond quality, safety and processing technology, utilizing co-products and technologies for harvesting. He also conducts trade education events and food professional outreach activities.

 

Guangwei played an instrumental role in developing the almond mandatory pasteurization rule, including some of the guidelines based on extensive research that are now widely followed by other nut and low moisture food industries. Presently, his work includes finding more value-added options for almond coproducts, including hulls, shells and woody biomass, and he’s working toward developing better solutions to reduce dust during almond harvest.

 

He came to California in 1990 and before joining ABC, Guangwei worked for the dried fruits and nuts, Mexico frozen foods and organic baby foods industries and in almond processing in California. Previously, he spent seven years with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment to develop Chinese national methods and standards for pesticide residues and contaminants in foods. 

 

Guangwei holds a bachelor’s in sanitary inspection and technology from Sichuan University and a master’s in food science from UC Davis. He is a member of Institute of Food Technologists and International Association for Food Protection and served as secretary and president for Chinese American Food Society and on the board of directors for Chinese Institute of Food Science and Technology.

 

Guangwei was born and grew up in China, but he calls the Central Valley his home where he and his wife have lived for more than half their lives and raised a daughter and a son.

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Guangwei Huang

Associate Director, Food Research and Technology

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Becky Jeffers

Manager, North America Marketing, Almond Board of California

Becky Jeffers is the manager of North America marketing for the Almond Board of California, responsible for almond promotional activities in the U.S. and Mexico. Becky works with a range of accomplished spokespeople who represent almonds to the public and is integral in creating unique marketing campaigns that highlight all the benefits almonds offer.

 

Prior to her current role, Becky managed ABC’s almond marketing activities in Asia and put her knowledge of French to use in both Canada and Europe. She has long had a passion for languages and cultures, which helps her understand consumer behaviors and trends in and outside the U.S.

 

Becky grew up in Oregon and now calls Modesto home. She often gets a travel bug to explore new places. Becky is a proactive volunteer with Girl Scouts and leads her daughter’s troop, which provides an excellent opportunity to share adventures.

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Becky Jeffers

Manager, North America Marketing, Almond Board of California

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Lynn Jordan

Executive Assistant

Lynn Jordan is the executive assistant of the Almond Board of California. Her responsibilities include coordinating information and activities for the Board of Directors and the Technical and Regulatory Committee. She provides administrative support for Richard Waycott, president and CEO, and Julie Adams, vice president of global technical & regulatory affairs.

 

Lynn says working for and supporting the amazing, industrious and kind members of the California almond Industry is the best part of her job.

 

She has been with the Almond Board since 2007.  Lynn and her husband, Lee, live in Modesto with their dog, Queenie, a few cats and a revolving variety of visiting grandkids.

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Lynn Jordan

Executive Assistant

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Elisa Keener

Administrative Support Technician

Elisa Keener is an administrative support technician contributing to the day-to-day Human Resources team while providing administrative support to a number of departments.

 

Prior to joining ABC, Elisa worked in the wine industry, where she gained a knowledge of the agricultural community and a strong appreciation for the work it takes to develop a sustainable product from farming. Shortly after having her youngest child, Elisa entered the world of property management, where she worked closely with members of the community and the housing industry.

 

Elisa is a Bay Area native who now calls Modesto home. She is pursuing her education in business administration, enjoys entertaining, reading and crafts and is actively involved in her son’s high school

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Elisa Keener

Administrative Support Technician

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Luwam Kidane

Junior Database Administrator

Luwam Kidane is the junior database administrator for the Almond Board of California where she creates and manages database objects, helps ensure data security and assists Help Desk personnel with daily tasks.

 

Prior to joining ABC, she worked as a business intelligence developer spanning different roles and industries. In her latest role, she was a freelance Power BI developer working primarily with privately owned small businesses. Luwam graduated with a bachelors in marketing in her home country of Eritrea. After relocating to the United States in 2015, she earned her MBA from the University of Mississippi. In addition, Luwam holds Microsoft certifications for Power BI Data Analyst Associate and Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012/2014.

 

Luwam lives in Tracy, California with her husband and daughter. She enjoys spending time with her family, baking and watching docuseries in her leisure time.

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Luwam Kidane

Junior Database Administrator

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Murielle Kim

Consultant, South Korea/Japan Markets

Murielle Kim is a market development consultant representing the Almond Board of California in Japan and Korea. She supplies high-level market services including trade program management, communications marketing, advertisement management, consumer campaign development, media outreach management, health professional outreach, digital and social channel management and counsel on nutrition regulations. 

 

Muriel has more than 10 years of experience in food and nutrition related communications marketing, consumer promotion and international trade. Prior to joining ABC, she was the food and beverage sector lead of Edelman Korea, a global public relations agency, where she oversaw ABC’s communications marketing and trade activities. She also has international trade experience from working at CJ CheilJedang in Korea as a specialist in global business-to-business raw materials sales and marketing. In addition, her media expertise was developed working at a public relations agency and as a nutrition columnist for health and cooking magazines.

 

Murielle is a USA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and completed her clinical and community dietetics education and internship with Columbia University in New York City. As much as she loves sitting down and cuddling her two calm cats, she also enjoys diverse outdoor sports – she’s a Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher, a Scuba Diving International certified diver and a snowboard enthusiast.

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Murielle Kim

Consultant, South Korea/Japan Markets

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Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni

Principal, Technical & Trade Issues

Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni is Principal, Technical & Trade Issues and his responsibilities include monitoring international trade and technical issues that could affect the almond industry exports, providing assistance to industry members in resolving regulatory compliance issues, and representing the industry in various stakeholder forums.

 

Prior to joining the Almond board, he spent almost 10 years at the California Walnut Board & Commission as an Assistant Director of Regulatory & Industry Affairs. And having started his career at Blue Diamond Growers in early 2000s, he brings a wealth of tree nut industry experience.

 

Being a travel and photography enthusiast, Abhi and along with his wife, Veronica, often travel, hike and camp around California.  Among his favorite areas to photograph are the redwood forests in Northern California. He has visited every continent.

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Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni

Principal, Technical & Trade Issues

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Rahima Kunari

Specialist, Finance and Administration

Rahima Kunari is a specialist with the finance and administration team at the Almond Board of California. She is responsible for the Unified Export Strategy program expense claims, credit back reimbursement claims, industry conference revenue management, petty cash management and accounts receivable management. 

 

Prior to joining ABC, Rahima worked on a number of accounting projects for large companies such as Foster Farms, Save Mart and Hancock Financial Services.   

 

She lives with her husband in Atwater and in her spare time, Rahima likes to read, watch movies and spending time with her family.

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Rahima Kunari

Specialist, Finance and Administration

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Rick Kushman

Manager, Media Relations, Global Communications

Rick Kushman is the manager of media relations for global communications at the Almond Board of California, assisting all media – including agriculture-focused, trade, California and global outlets – in their connections to the almond industry and the Almond Board. He also oversees the Almond Board’s media outreach to help share the almond industry’s latest developments and wide range of positive stories.

 

Rick is a New York Times bestselling author, an award-winning journalist and does on-air wine segments for Capital Public Radio, Sacramento’s NPR affiliate. He is also the creator and co-host of the popular podcast “Bottle Talk with Rick and Paul.” He has years of journalistic experience covering agriculture, wine, food, entertainment, business and politics from local to national. His writing has appeared in newspapers across the country and in publications ranging from Time Magazine to Sommelier Journal to Daily Variety.

 

Before joining the Almond Board, he worked as a columnist and reporter at The Sacramento Bee, in the wine industry as a consultant and as a communications strategist for E. & J. Gallo Winery, and as a public affairs senior writer and executive communications expert at UC Davis Health. He is the author of two books, and the second, “The Barefoot Spirit,” a business book set in the wine world, spent two months on the New York Times Bestseller list.

 

Rick is also an accomplished competitive runner and a professional wine judge. He lives in Sacramento with his wife, Deborah Meltvedt, a high school teacher, and with their rescued cat, Anchovy Jack, who they think used to be a pirate.

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Rick Kushman

Manager, Media Relations, Global Communications

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Josette Lewis

Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Josette Lewis is the chief scientific officer of the Almond Board of California. She oversees grower-funded research on all aspects of growing almonds, on innovative new uses of almond co-products and on the health benefits of almond consumption.

 

Josette has worked in agriculture for more than 25 years, spanning government, industry, university and non-governmental organizations. Most recently, she led the Environmental Defense Fund’s collaborations with grower organizations, food companies and policy makers to promote sustainable agriculture practices. Josette also led the launch of the World Food Center at UC Davis and worked in international business development with Arcadia Biosciences.

 

Prior to that, Josette spent 16 years at the U.S. Agency for International Development. As Director of the Office of Agriculture at USAID, she worked with senior levels of the U.S. government to develop a $1 billion per year global food security initiative. She has served on the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture’s advisory committee on Agricultural Biotechnology in the 21st Century, the Foundation for Agricultural Research’s Food Systems Innovation Advisory Committee, the James Beard Foundation Impact Program Advisory Committee and is a member of the board of directors for the International Life Sciences Institute Research Foundation.

 

Having worked with agriculture around the globe, Josette enjoys the chance to contribute to the Central Valley where she lives, and to discover the rich history and diversity of farming families who, like her own family, came to the Valley from around the world.

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Josette Lewis

Chief Scientific Officer

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Gabriele Ludwig

Director, Environmental Policy

Dr. Gabriele Ludwig is the director for sustainability and environmental affairs for the Almond Board of California and combines her passion for agriculture and the environment with research and policy. She was instrumental in the development of the California Almond Stewardship Platform and continues to encourage a diverse range of research on almonds and environmental issues.  

 

She is a participant of the California Roundtable for Ag and the Environment, board chair for the non-profit Coalition for Urban/Rural Environmental Stewardship and serves on several government agencies’ advisory committees.  Prior to joining the Almond Board, she worked for the consulting firm Schramm, Williams & Associates in Washington, D.C.  She received her Ph.D. in plant physiology from UC Davis and her B.A. in Biology from Wellesley College.

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Gabriele Ludwig

Director, Environmental Policy

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Harbinder Maan

Associate Director, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

Harbinder Maan is the associate director of trade marketing and stewardship at the Almond Board of California. She leads global strategy for marketing to the food trade and is responsible for identifying key target categories, channels and food companies. She leads the team that guides ABC advertising and PR programs focused on those essential almond markets.
 

Harbinder has deep experience managing ABC’s relationship with the food industry, helping it grow and evolve for nearly two decades. Previously, Harbinder worked in the non-profit sector as Marketing Manager for MedicAlert Foundation in Turlock, CA, where she developed and executed targeted disease group-marketing campaigns. Prior to arriving in the U.S from the UK, where she grew up, she held management positions in brand marketing and business development for United Business Media, Alfred Dunhill and Boo.Com Group, Ltd.

 

Harbinder holds a bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Huddersfield and an MBA from the University of Cambridge and is fluent in Punjabi. She enjoys spending time with her three kids and husband and has a newfound passion for basketball.

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Harbinder Maan

Associate Director, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

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Haille Margarite

Program Coordinator, Research and Innovation

Haille Margarite is the program coordinator of the research and innovation team at the Almond Board of California, assisting all research activities – including research grant contracts, consulting agreements, relative program budget expenditures and tracking the progression of the overall department’s research portfolio. She also supports industry engagement by coordinating the activities of the Strategic Ag Innovation Committee and Nutrition Research Committee.

 

Haille also led the development, implementation and continued evolution of an in-house grants management software platform, SmartSimple, that enhanced all processes for contracting and grant management purposes. 

 

Before joining ABC, she worked as a community education specialist and program coordinator for University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Haille oversaw 500 volunteers in Stanislaus County and another 2,500 throughout California.  

 

Away from work, Haille returned to academics and is currently seeking her master's in agriculture education from Chico State.  

 

She is also an almond farmer in the Modesto area, an avid equestrian and a dog mom with three large dogs and often has at least one foster dog. In her spare time, she and one of her dogs, her Great Dane, “Dottie,” volunteer with multiple therapy dog organizations.  

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Haille Margarite

Program Coordinator, Research and Innovation

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Kath Martino

Global Lead, Reputation

Kath Martino is the deputy director of Europe PR and strategic communications lead for the Almond Board of California. She leads EU sustainability communications and reputation management as well as managing PR campaigns promoting the health and sustainability credentials of almonds to consumers and food manufacturers in France, Germany, Italy and the UK.

 

Before Kath joined the ABC team, she led the European PR programs for the Almond Board as Director of Food and Nutrition at Porter Novelli, London.

 

Kath has 25 years of reputation and brand communications experience, with a strong background in and passion for food and sustainability. She has worked with several global fast-moving consumer goods companies including Nestlé, Unilever and Mars, running consumer-facing and food professional campaigns, and she has experience in managing complex issues and crises.

 

Before becoming an almond marketeer, Kath’s most recent work included running PR programs for UK industry bodies, the British Soft Drinks Association and the British Fruit Juice Association, campaigning to set the record straight about the health benefits of sweeteners in soft drinks, and educating consumers, health professionals and retailers about the natural goodness of 100% fruit juices. She also worked with UK grocery store, Sainsbury's on a campaign to increase awareness of the retailer's sustainability credentials through the launch of its Waste Less, Save More campaign.

 

Kath has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Modern Languages from the University of Bristol and a Postgraduate Degree in Public & Media Relations from Cardiff School of Journalism. She is a qualified yoga instructor, all round health and wellness enthusiast and lives in Bath, England, but her heart is in California.

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Kath Martino

Global Lead, Reputation

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Melissa Mautz

Associate Director, Global Market Development

Melissa Mautz is the associate director for marketing services at the Almond Board of California. She leads marketing initiatives that cross multiple markets, oversees the strategic approach for ABC’s website in 10-plus markets, and is the marketing operations lead for the Global Market Development team. Additionally, she oversees the Credit Back Program for ABC.

 

Melissa has served in a number of marketing roles for the Almond Board, including managing the consumer work in the U.S., Canada and South Korea. Prior to joining ABC, she worked for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Dallas.  

 

Melissa lives in Ohio with her husband, Brody, and their two children.

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Melissa Mautz

Associate Director, Global Market Development

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Sudarshan Mazumdar

Consultant, India

Sudarshan Mazumdar is the Almond Board of California consultant in India. He is responsible for driving the strategy, execution and growth of the almond industry there, which includes developing the marketing strategy and leading the advertising, communication and trade stewardship programs in India.

 

With more than 30 years of experience in strategy, management and brand building, Sudarshan continues to emphasize the importance of including almonds as an integral part of a healthy diet in India by consistently demonstrating their multiple health benefits through both international nutrition research and a network of credible nutritionists, experts and media.

 

His experience spans the spectrum of the marketing industry, having worked with some of the leading consumer marketing and advertising agencies in the country. He has a deep understanding of consumer research, advertising, public relations and trade management. Since 1984, Sudarshan has played key roles in various industries ranging from consumer products and automotive to consumer healthcare.

 

Prior to consulting for the Almond Board, Sudarshan was the director of marketing and corporate communications at Fortis Healthcare Ltd., and his previous employers include GlaxoSmithKline, Rasna, J. Walter Thomson, FCB Ulka and Lowe Lintas. Sudarshan earned an MBA from Faculty of Management Studies in Delhi, one of the top business schools in India, and he holds a master’s degree in physics from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi.

 

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Sudarshan Mazumdar

Consultant, India

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Karen J. Montgomery

Senior Administrator, Global Marketing and Global Communications

Karen Montgomery is a senior administrator for Global Marketing and Global Communications departments for the Almond Board of California, supporting a large staff with a second senior administrator, Ann Solo. Karen’s responsibilities involve a wide range of matters for both Global Marketing and Global Communications, including logistical support for meetings and events and assisting with travel needs including visas, passports and known traveler programs.

 

Prior to joining the Almond Board, Karen enjoyed a distinguished career with Bank of America in branch operations and customer service and served as executive assistant for Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Modesto.

 

Karen was born and raised north of Modesto in Stanislaus County, where she lives today on the family land surrounded by a small almond orchard. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, baking, dinner parties and Pokémon.

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Karen J. Montgomery

Senior Administrator, Global Marketing and Global Communications

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Laura Morin

Director, North America and China

Laura Morin is the director of North America and China marketing for the Almond Board of California. She oversees all ABC marketing activities across the United States, Mexico and China.

Laura has spent all her career in advertising and has a deep passion for commodity marketing. She joined the Almond Board in January 2023 after many years working on behalf of ABC at their US-based advertising and research agency. During that time, Laura led the advertising efforts for many of ABC’s markets, including the U.S., UK, France, Germany and Italy. She also has extensive experience working with different commodity boards, bringing both depth and breadth to her role at the Almond Board.

Laura was born and raised in Colorado and spends her time running around after her two little girls. When she has a free moment, she loves hitting the slopes, practicing yoga or cultivating her newfound love of tennis.

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Laura Morin

Director, North America and China

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Jenny Nicolau

Senior Manager, Industry Relations and Communications

Jenny Nicolau is the senior manager of industry relations and communications and oversees all of ABC’s industry outreach efforts, working directly with the Industry Communications & Relations and Field Outreach & Education teams to serve California’s almond growers and processors. She guides all industry communications from growers’ guides to How-To videos and electronic newsletters, and she oversees special projects and events, including The Almond Conference – the largest gathering of almond professionals in the world.

 

Recent achievements include leading the Almonds.com website relaunch in 2020, creating a suite of identification tools for almond growers and elevating the prominence and quality of the Almond Leadership Program.

 

As a Central Valley native and current resident who grew up in the agriculture industry, she prides herself on creating useful tools that help growers’ bottom line and that guide the industry in the journey to remain profitable and sustainable.

 

She lives in Patterson with her husband, Tim, and their two young daughters, and any free moment between playing with Play Dough and Barbies, she enjoys baking.

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Jenny Nicolau

Senior Manager, Industry Relations and Communications

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Brian Peterson

Senior Director of Finance, Analytics and Information Technology

Brian Peterson is the senior director of Finance, Analytics and Information Technology for the Almond Board of California. He leads the teams responsible for general accounting, financial reporting, budgeting, analysis and information technology.

 

Before joining ABC, Brian had a long tenure as the chief financial officer for a national financial services company. He graduated from DePaul University with a bachelor’s in accounting and from St. Louis University with an MBA in finance.

 

As a native Californian, Brian, his wife, Joanna, and daughters, Kristen and Julia, relocated to the Central Valley in 2003 and live in Elk Grove. These days, ocean fishing, camping and spending time with his two grandchildren fulfill his passions outside of the office. Bodega Bay is his home away from home.

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Brian Peterson

Senior Director of Finance, Analytics and Information Technology

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Sabrina Poth

Specialist, Marketing Order Services

Sabrina Poth is a specialist for Marketing Order Services for the Almond Board of California. She oversees compliance with handlers in multiple programs, including the Pre-Export Checks Program and handler treatment plans. She also coordinates the pesticides and heavy metals surveys.

 

Before coming to ABC, Sabrina worked in a number of positions with agriculture and almonds, including as an ag inspector with the Stanislaus County Ag Commissioner, as an almond inspector for California Department of Food & Ag, and as a conservation coordinator and analyst for the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District in Utah. She also worked with the Red Cross in Salt Lake City as a quality control lab technician.

 

Sabrina grew up in the Central Valley surrounded by almond orchards and always had a passion for the ag industry. She lives in Oakdale with her husband, two sons and two dogs. In her free time, she plays drums – her stress reliever – and has played in local bands. She also donates time to local charities including Make a Wish and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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Sabrina Poth

Specialist, Marketing Order Services

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Dariela Roffe-Rackind

Director, Europe and Global Public Relations

Dariela Roffe-Rackind is the director of Europe and global public relations for the Almond Board of California and is responsible for oversight and implementation of market development program activities in the European Region and globally for consumer public relations.  Her European responsibilities include planning and managing trade development and marketing programs in Western Europe. Dariela also oversees the global strategy and implementation of the Almond Board’s nutrition research communication program.

 

Before joining ABC, Dariela was the director of the food practice at Talk PR/Saatchi & Saatchi and prior to that the account director at Porter Novelli UK for ABC's European consumer, trade and health professional PR programs. 

 

During her 30-year career in both London and New York City, Dariela developed and implemented public relations programs for an array of consumer clients including Absolut Vodka, Masterfoods (M&M’s, Uncle Ben’s, Starburst, Skittles), UNICEF, The Dannon Company, Twinings and Kellogg’s. 

 

Dariela’s work has won a number of awards for her work including O’Dwyers best international campaign for the Almond Board of California. The M&M’s Global Color Vote campaign she led won first prize for international public relations campaigns and was named one the "10 product launches you couldn't miss" by PR Week.

 

Dariela was born in Chile and has lived in Geneva, Switzerland, and New York City.  She now lives in St. Albans, UK, with her husband and daughter. She is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

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Dariela Roffe-Rackind

Director, Europe and Global Public Relations

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Michael Roots

Senior Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

Michael Roots is a senior specialist in field outreach and education, covering the central region of the Central Valley. He facilitates communication to and from the growers, working directly with growers to disseminate information, connect them to resources and help any way he can.

 

In his previous role, he worked as a farm manager, directly managing more than 4,000 acres of almonds as well as other tree nut crops in Madera, Stanislaus and Sacramento counties. He managed all the day-to-day farming operations and oversaw the operational farming and capital improvement project budgets.

 

Michael was born and raised in Modesto where he still lives. He enjoys walks, hikes and road trips to the coast with his dog Bella, as well as exploring and supporting local businesses and events in the area.

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Michael Roots

Senior Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

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Jesse Roseman

Principal Analyst

Jesse Roseman is a principal analyst in environmental and regulatory affairs at the Almond Board of California and manages a wide range of topics and issues impacting almond production, including pesticide use, water supply, water quality and air quality regulations. A primary responsibility is addressing impacts from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on the almond industry.

 

He also leads development of geographic information system projects, such as the annual acreage estimates with Land IQ, a Sacramento-based consulting firm. Other current projects include expanding on-farm groundwater recharge, developing Integrated Pest Management solutions through research, and ensuring growers are fully aware of incentive programs and all options in a range of areas, including stewardship solutions.

 

Jesse is a staff collaborator for ABC committees and working groups, including the Technical & Regulatory Affairs Committee.

 

Before coming to ABC, he was Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, managing wildlands, farms and rangeland for wildlife benefits and sustainability, and he developed large-scale, process-based restoration projects.

 

Jesse received both dual bachelor’s degrees (in anthropology and environmental studies from UC Santa Cruz) and dual master’s degrees (in landscape architecture and city planning from UC Berkeley) with a focus in environmental planning. Jesse lives in Modesto, and when not in the office, he can often be found playing music locally or exploring the Central Valley’s beautiful river systems.

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Jesse Roseman

Principal Analyst

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Sebastian Saa

Associate Director, Agricultural Research

Dr. Sebastian Saa is the associate director of agricultural research for the Almond Board of California. He focuses on developing and implementing strategic research plans for ABC and serves as a staff liaison for the Almond Production Stewardship Workgroup, where he analyzes priorities around sustainability, harvest, pest management, irrigation, pomology and nutrients.

 

Before joining ABC, Sebastian was a professor of deciduous fruit trees at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso in Chile and a project scientist at UC Davis. Sebastian earned a Ph.D. in horticulture and agronomy at UCD, where he developed guidelines for best nitrogen management practices in almonds that allow growers to be more sustainable, provide adequate nutrients to their trees, and adhere to California regulations. Sebastian has also done significant work to better understand the main horticultural factors that affect the productivity of almonds, walnuts and cherry trees.

 

Sebastian’s is a third-generation table grape grower in Chile where he grew up, and the combination of his farming background and technical expertise allows him to help ABC bridge the California almond industry’s needs with a range of scientific researchers.

 

He is also an accomplished amateur magician. Sebastian has been fascinated with the art of illusion, card tricks and hand manipulations since he was a young teenager and spent many years developing his hand dexterity and showmanship. Sebastian has performed magic shows for local events in the U.S. and Chile, and in 2010, he won the Sacramento IBM Close-Up Competition. When he’s not making things appear or disappear, he enjoys hiking, tennis, golf and skiing with friends and family.

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Sebastian Saa

Associate Director, Agricultural Research

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Terri Sanders

Senior Accountant

Terri Sanders is the senior accountant for finance and administration at the Almond Board of California, overseeing accounts payable, petty cash, prepaids, contract review and preparing various reports and analyses. She works with department representatives on account/contract analysis and general accounting and policy questions.

 

Prior to joining the Almond Board, Terri worked for many years as an operations manager at Stanislaus County and California State University Stanislaus. She managed the department day-to-day operations, ensuring compliance with accounting practices, purchasing policies and contract management.

 

Terri is a native Californian, growing up in Gilroy. She moved to the Central Valley in the 90’s with her four children. She enjoys time out with friends, playing games with family and being a grandmother to six grandchildren and three grandpuppies.

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Terri Sanders

Senior Accountant

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Keith Schneller

Senior Trade Policy Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

Keith Schneller is a trade policy specialist for the Almond Board of California’s Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs team, responsible for helping ABC and the industry deal with market access issues overseas. Keith has been helping handlers meet the complex facility registration requirements needed to export almonds to China, one of the industry’s largest export markets. He is continually looking for new markets and ways to expand global exports.  

 

Prio to joining ABC, he spent two years with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office in Washington, D.C., assisting in the negotiation and implementation of the agricultural chapter of the U.S.-China Phase One agreement. In 2020, Keith relocated to Fargo, ND to be closer to his in-laws.

 

Keith grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado and went on to spend 20+ years with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. His work included international assignments in Vienna, Guangzhou, Taiwan and Shanghai. He has assisted groups like ABC over the years implement market development strategies around the globe and helped serve as a bridge between industry and government authorities.  

 

Keith’s education included time in London, where he earned a master’s in agricultural economics from the University of London at Wye College after being awarded an International Rotary Scholarship. Keith and his wife have a son and daughter who are both in college. Keith enjoys traveling, singing in the church choir and scuba diving. He and his wife love exploring the Caribbean during those long cold winters in the Great White North. 

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Keith Schneller

Senior Trade Policy Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

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Judy Scott-McKay

Technical Specialist, Marketing Order Services

Judy Scott-McKay is a technical specialist in the Marketing Order Services group for the Almond Board of California. She is responsible for managing the pasteurization program for direct verifiable users, custom processors and handlers. This includes the equipment validation process for new equipment, direct verifiable users and California Department of Food and Agriculture specialty point inspection audits and yearly program renewals.

 

Judy brings more than 25 years of database design, development, analysis and management experience to her role at ABC. She manages the program data and workflows, and interfaces with the program participants, almond industry members and Technical Expert Review Panel members to ensure the program remains in compliance with the Federal Marketing Order. She also assists with the Almond Quality/Food Safety Services Research program and committee.

 

Her professional experience includes roles as a software QA manager, software testing specialist and technical support specialist at several Bay Area tech organizations. She is a native Californian, met her husband in a band and spends her free time catering to the hummingbirds, frogs and other residents of her backyard.

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Judy Scott-McKay

Technical Specialist, Marketing Order Services

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Ann Solo

Senior Administrator, Global Market Development

Ann Solo is a senior administrator for the Global Market Development team, along with Karen Montgomery. In addition, she serves as the staff coordinator for the Global Market Development Committee and the Global Communications Committee. 

 

Before joining ABC, Ann worked in the Bay Area and Portland in market research and product development. She took a career break to raise her five children.  

 

Ann spent time in Belgium as an exchange student, then earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in international management at Santa Clara University and Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

 

As the fourth generation of a California farming family, Ann is excited to be back in the Central Valley, supporting an industry near to her heart. She enjoys cycling, traveling, tasting local craft beers and grilling pizzas.

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Ann Solo

Senior Administrator, Global Market Development

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Bryce Spycher

Senior Manager, Marketing Order Services

Bryce is the senior manager of marketing order services at the Almond Board of California. His focus is on being an entry point at ABC for industry stakeholders and providing timely service concerning topics which affect California almond handlers and processors. 

 

Bryce is responsible for industry compliance with Marketing Order provisions, shipment statistics, handler outreach and other marketing order operational activities. He also serves as the staff liaison for the Organic Advisory Panel and helps support a range of other committees and work groups. 

 

Bryce is proud to have grown up in the Central Valley on an almond farm like many he works with daily. He and his wife have three children and enjoy spending time adventuring across California and seeing new sights with his family. On any given weekend, you might find Bryce and his family at the beach, exploring a new city or on a hike in a national park.

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Bryce Spycher

Senior Manager, Marketing Order Services

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Melissa Stewart

Human Resources Specialist

Melissa Stewart is a specialist in human resources at the Almond Board of California, working in a wide variety of areas in the HR department with a focus on recruitment, benefits and payroll. 

 

Prior to ABC, Melissa worked in the staffing world where she found her love for human resources and working with people. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and certification as a Professional in Human Resources.

 

Melissa is a Central California native and continues to live there with her two children. She loves the mountains, family game nights, watching football with her 49er fanatic dad and reading – she averages about 70 books a year with her book club.

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Melissa Stewart

Human Resources Specialist

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Miranda Thomas

Program Assistant, Research and Innovation

Miranda Thomas is a program assistant for research and innovation for the Almond Board of California. Her work includes supporting industry engagement through the working groups of the Strategic Ag Innovation Committee and elevating research outreach efforts in collaboration with the communications department. She is also involved with the creation and design of the research knowledge center.

 

Miranda holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the University of Colorado and now lives in Turlock. In her free time, she enjoys riding horses, snow skiing and camping with her family and friends. 

 

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Miranda Thomas

Program Assistant, Research and Innovation

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Clarice Turner

President and CEO

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Clarice Turner

President and CEO

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Danielle Veenstra

Senior Manager, Global Stewardship + Impact

Danielle Veenstra is the senior manager for global stewardship and impact for the Almond Board of California, leading ABC’s global stewardship programs and communication. This work educates consumers around the world about the California almond industry’s commitment to responsible farming and stewardship.

 

Danielle is a third-generation almond farmer and knows firsthand what it takes to grow almonds. She combines that understanding and her deep roots in agriculture with a background in science that includes degrees in natural resource management and geography. Her range of experience allows her to play an important role as an ambassador and spokesperson for the California almond industry and as a subject expert on all things farming and sustainability. At the Almond Board, Danielle serves as the bridge between ABC’s agronomic and environmental research team and external audiences, with particular attention to water, zero waste, pollinators and climate change

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Danielle spends her free time doing odd jobs around the farm, gardening and enjoying California’s natural spaces by paddleboard, kayak or with her trusty hiking boots.

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Danielle Veenstra

Senior Manager, Global Stewardship + Impact

Meet the Board & Staff

The Almond Board of California is a diverse group of almond professionals that is advancing almonds throughout the world, maximizing the impact of California almonds, and embracing innovation and research. Meet the Board of Directors, and key staff members who work at the Almond Board.