Skip to main content

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

bio-modal

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. 

 

bio

Paul Ewing

Sales and Grower Relations Manager, RPAC

bio-modal

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.

bio

Joe Gardiner

National Sales and Marketing Manager, Treehouse California Almonds

bio-modal

Christine Gemperle

Grower, Gemperle Orchards

bio

Christine Gemperle

Grower, Gemperle Orchards

bio-modal

George Goshgarian

Vice Chair, 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.

bio

George Goshgarian

Vice Chair, Goshgarian Farming Company

bio-modal

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!

bio

Mel Machado

Co-op Handler, Blue Diamond Growers

bio-modal

Bill Morecraft Jr.

Senior VP, Blue Diamond Growers

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

 

A: I joined Blue Diamond Growers in December 1986, early in my career.

 

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

 

A: I enjoy working on the Board at ABC because it allows me to share the insights I have gained in more than 30 years of varied experience and to hear and understand other’s point of view.

 

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

 

A: There is a measurable level of camaraderie within the almond industry… a serious but friendly competition. Everyone involved shares an interest in promoting almond consumption, protecting the almond industry’s reputation, and delivering economic success to the almond growers of California.

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: Blue Diamond was a leader, with ABC, in promoting mandatory pasteurization as the science emerged in the 2000s. Following that path has protected the California almond industry and been a great source of competitive advantage for all the handlers who followed that trend.

 

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

 

A: Learn as much as you can about all aspects of the business including farming, processing, sales, and marketing. The broader your experience the deeper your understanding.

 

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

 

A: My favorite almond product might be Nonpareil Inshell because it has been so meaningful to California almond growers. But of course, I like our Blue Diamond flavored snack almonds, as well.

bio

Bill Morecraft Jr.

Senior VP, Blue Diamond Growers

bio-modal

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.

 

bio

Darren Rigg

Sales Representative, Minturn Nut Co.

bio-modal

Alexi Rodriguez

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.

bio

Alexi Rodriguez

Director of Operations, Campos Brothers Farms

bio-modal

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. 

bio

Bob Silveira

Director of Sales and Marketing, Vann Family Orchards

bio-modal

Brian Wahlbrink

Chair, Sperry Farms

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

 

A: I am a transplant. Originally born in Orange County, CA, as a stereotypical surfer and beach guy, I married into the almond industry in 2004. I took a summer job on my father-in-law’s ranch and found a new passion. The past 14 years have been an amazing journey as my brother-in-law and I now own the ranches that we farm.

 

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

 

A: It is a great honor to represent great California almond growers. I was involved with the Board as an alternate in 2010 and have been involved in the Global Market Development committee dating back to 2007. It is amazing to work with such a great group of individuals in dealing with industry-wide — and ultimately global — issues.

 

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

 

A: The growers, hands down. The more than 6,800 almond growers that make up this industry are incredible to work with. We have problem solvers, entrepreneurs and hard workers, and throughout the industry runs a deep-rooted passion and pride in supplying 80% of the world’s almonds. I take pride in our California almond growers’ commitment to excellence. We all go through the same highs and lows, in both good times and bad, but at the end of the day California almond growers know how to pull together and help one another out.

 

Q: What industry accomplishment are you most proud of?

 

A: Doing more with less. When you look at the tonnage increase in almonds over the years, keeping in mind our major water use reduction (reducing the amount of water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 33% ) it’s incredible to see what we’ve done. 

 

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

 

A: Pace yourself. It’s a marathon and not a sprint, and if you are planting for the first time you have a long road ahead of you. And always double check your planned budgets and expect the unexpected. It is probably better to buy an old, broken-down orchard that you can farm and redevelop in a few years than it is to plant in fresh, open ground.

 

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

 

A: Dry roasted with a light dusting of salt. But on the weekends bring on the flavors: butter toffee, wasabi and sea salt & vinegar!

bio

Brian Wahlbrink

Chair, Sperry Farms

Staff

bio-modal

Julie Adams

Vice President, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs

Julie Adams is Vice President, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs of the Almond Board of California. Julie joined the Board in 2000. 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 which impact worldwide production and shipment of California almonds. She 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 USDA and global authorities related to import controls 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 (INC) Scientific Committee. She has served for several years on the U.S. Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Fruits & Vegetables.   

 

Prior to joining the Board, Julie spent over 15 years with the American Peanut Council, based in Washington, DC and London. 

bio

Julie Adams

Vice President, Global Technical & Regulatory Affairs

bio-modal

Toni Arellano

Senior Coordinator Marketing Order Services

bio

Toni Arellano

Senior Coordinator Marketing Order Services

bio-modal

Rebecca Bailey

Specialist, Industry Relations

Rebecca Bailey joined the Almond Board of California in 2014 as an intern for Industry Relations. Following her summer internship, she was hired on as a full-time member of the Industry Relations team. Today, she is a specialist in Industry Relations. Her efforts are focused on the various industry-related programs and events. Rebecca is responsible for helping to oversee the planning and execution of the annual Almond Conference, as well as other industry events aimed toward growers and processors. She co-leads the Almond Leadership Program and Ag in the Classroom. She also travels throughout the growing regions representing ABC at trade shows and California Almond Sustainability (CASP) workshops. Rebecca graduated from Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications in 2012, followed by a master’s degree in agricultural communications from OSU in 2014. She was raised on her family’s farm in Turlock, CA, where she resides today. Rebecca enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and live music.

bio

Rebecca Bailey

Specialist, Industry Relations

bio-modal

Tim Birmingham

Director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services

Tim Birmingham joined the Almond Board of California in 2007 as the Associate Director of Industry Relations/Food Quality and Safety. His efforts are focused on actions that will continue to help address emerging and existing food safety issues, as well as ensure the ability to effectively address and identify issues that impact almond quality. Tim serves as the staff liaison for the Almond Quality and Food Safety Committee and is integral in execution of the food quality and safety program. He manages research efforts in these areas helping to ensure confidence in almonds as a safe, healthy, quality food product. He was integral in the implementation of the 2007 program for mandatory pasteurization of almonds and continues to be at the forefront of evaluation of technologies which may be of use for almond pasteurization. His professional career includes over fifteen years of experience in food processing, product and process quality, process validation, food safety and microbiology. Tim is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served in Operation Desert Storm.

bio

Tim Birmingham

Director, Quality Assurance and Industry Services

bio-modal

Geoffrey Bogart

Principle Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

The grandson of a Modesto farmer, Geoffrey joined the Almond Board in early 2019 after a 15-year career overseas as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Geoffrey served at U.S. embassies and consulates in Latin America and the Middle East helping U.S. companies access foreign markets. He speaks fluent Spanish, masters Brazilian Portuguese and has just enough Arabic to hail a cab or order from the menu.

 

Geoffrey is responsible for tackling global regulatory issues that affect almond exports, assisting handlers and traders in navigating the complexities of exporting and compliance with international regulations and health standards. In his duties he regularly interfaces with foreign public officials and private companies. 

 

Geoffrey earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, highlighted by one year of study at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.  He has a master’s degree in Public Administration from American University in Washington, D.C.  

 

Geoffrey has two sons and two grandchildren. He and his wife have a farm in Colombia where they grow fruits and coffee. Geoffrey spends his free time playing the drums at local establishments in Modesto.

bio

Geoffrey Bogart

Principle Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

bio-modal

Connie Calhoun

Director, Human Resources and Organizational Development

Connie Calhoun is the Director, Human Resources and Organizational Development where she heads up our people processes and strategies including total rewards, recruiting, staff relations, performance development and legal compliance. Connie joined the Almond Board of California in 2018. 

 

Prior to joining ABC, Connie spent over 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. Connie greatly enjoys the challenge of servicing such a diverse workforce and helping each person achieve their full potential while driving the organization forward. 

 

A native of Michigan, Connie holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University as well as a Senior Professional of Human Resources certification. 

bio

Connie Calhoun

Director, Human Resources and Organizational Development

bio-modal

Adam Casso

Coordinator, Logistics & Special Events

bio

Adam Casso

Coordinator, Logistics & Special Events

bio-modal

Tom Devol

Senior Manager, Field Outreach and Education

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

 

Tom is driven to provide ongoing education to tackle the challenges of understanding and applying technologies as part of the daily practice in a farming operation. Joining the Almond Board in the summer of 2019 has been a perfect fit, with a community of growers he knows well and is excited to help each day.

 

Prior to coming on staff he was honored to serve as a mentor to the Almond Board of California's Almond Leadership Program and was a member on the Global Communications Committee.

bio

Tom Devol

Senior Manager, Field Outreach and Education

bio-modal

Carlos Diaz

System Administrator Specialist

bio

Carlos Diaz

System Administrator Specialist

bio-modal

James Fillmore

Information Technology Supervisor

bio

James Fillmore

Information Technology Supervisor

bio-modal

Emily Fleischmann

Vice President, Global Market Development

Emily is the Senior Director 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. She joined the Almond Board of California in 2016, after 12 years in Brand Management at food companies. First, at Kraft Foods working on the Oscar Mayer and Lunchables brands followed by 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 global finance with Nike and InFocus Systems.  

 

Emily graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University with a BA in Accounting and the University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler School of Business with an MBA in Brand Management. She relocated to California’s Central Valley in 2016 and resides in Turlock, CA along with her husband, son, and daughter.  Emily enjoys spending time with her family and embracing all the beautiful outdoor activities California has to offer.

bio

Emily Fleischmann

Vice President, Global Market Development

bio-modal

Jenn Freeman

Regional Director, North America

Jenn is the Director of Marketing for North America where she leads marketing efforts for Canada, Mexico and US. She joined ABC in 2019 after working as a VP of Marketing at Smucker and ConAgra. Jenn has 20 years of brand management experience and started her marketing career at Kraft.

 

Jenn has her undergraduate degree in accounting from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and her MBA from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, Jenn is married with two teenagers.

bio

Jenn Freeman

Regional Director, North America

bio-modal

Ann Friedrich

Senior Administrator, Global Market Development

Ann joined the Almond Board of California in 2017 to support 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. 

 

After spending a year as an exchange student in Belgium, Ann earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in International Management at Santa Clara University and Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. She worked in the Bay Area and Portland in market research and product development. She took a career break to raise her five children. As the fourth generation of a California farming family, Ann is excited to be back in the valley, supporting an industry near to her heart. She enjoys cycling, traveling, tasting local craft beers, and grilling pizzas.
 

bio

Ann Friedrich

Senior Administrator, Global Market Development

bio-modal

Sara Geer

Senior Manager, Finance and Administration

Sara Geer joined the Almond Board in November 2016 as a Senior Accountant.  Today, she leads the team overseeing the day-to-day accounting, administration and logistics functions at the Almond Board of California as the Senior Manager, Finance and Administration.

 

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from CSU Stanislaus in 2005 in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting.  Sara has received a vast overall accounting experience while working in local governmental and public accounting specializing in political reporting, general and fund accounting, tax and auditing. 

 

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

bio

Sara Geer

Senior Manager, Finance and Administration

bio-modal

Charice D.E. Grace

Manager, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

Charice Grace, Manager, Trade Marketing and Stewardship is new to the ABC team.   She is responsible for leading the execution of all food professional public relations and advertising tactics for North America.

Charice has over 20 years CPG 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 of Science degree in Marketing from Morgan State University and an MBA in International Business from the University of Miami.

bio

Charice D.E. Grace

Manager, Trade Marketing and Stewardship

bio-modal

Jenny Heap

Manager, Global Health & Nutrition Communications

Jenny Heap, MS, RDN, joined the Almond Board of California in June 2010. As corporate nutritionist for the Almond Board, she oversees the translation of nutrition research to messages about the health benefits of almonds across ABC’s global markets and is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance of our almond nutrition messaging with marketing and advertising regulations around the world. A self-proclaimed agriculture enthusiast, Jenny began her career in Washington, D.C. as an intern with the International Food Information Council, after which she spent seven years supporting U.S. egg farmers as Director of Scientific Communications with the American Egg Board. Since then, she has continued to pursue her passion for promoting nutritious, whole foods with the Almond Board of California.

 

Jenny is originally from Bountiful, Utah. She completed her undergraduate degree at Weber State University and her master’s degree in nutrition at the University of Utah.

bio

Jenny Heap

Manager, Global Health & Nutrition Communications

bio-modal

Taylor Hillman

Senior Specialist, Industry Communications

bio

Taylor Hillman

Senior Specialist, Industry Communications

bio-modal

Guangwei Huang

Associate Director, Food Research and Technology

Guangwei has worked at the Almond Board of California since 2001 in various roles, most recently as Associate Director, Food Research and Technology. He directs and manages research in almond quality, safety and processing technology, co-product utilization, harvesting technologies, etc., and he conducts trade education events and food professional outreach activities. Guangwei had played an instrumental role in development of the almond mandatory pasteurization rule. The thermal lethality and surrogate microbial challenge validation guidelines that he developed for existing almond processes and new pasteurization processes based on the findings from extensive research are now widely followed by other nut and low moisture food industries. Presently, he is spending more time in finding more value-added options for almond coproducts including almond hulls, shells, and woody biomass, and better solutions to reduce dust during almond harvest.

 

Before joining ABC in 2001, Guangwei worked for companies in business of dried fruits and nuts, Mexico frozen foods, organic baby foods and almond processing in California. He had also spent about seven years with the China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment to develop national methods and standards for pesticide residues and contaminants in foods before coming to California in 1990. 

 

Guangwei obtained a B.S. degree in sanitary inspection and technology in 1983 from Sichuan University, and M.S. degree in Food Science from University of California, Davis in 1993.

 

Guangwei is a member of IFT, IAFP and AACC, an Executive Board of Director for Subcommittee of China Snack Foods. He had also served as a secretary and president for CAFS, and Board of Director for CIFST.

bio

Guangwei Huang

Associate Director, Food Research and Technology

bio-modal

Becky Jeffers

Manager, North America Marketing, Almond Board of California

Becky Jeffers, Manager, North America Marketing joined the ABC in April 2007. During her time at the ABC, she has managed multiple export-oriented programs in China, South Korea, India, and Japan to build demand for California Almonds in Asia. In August 2016 Becky joined the North America marketing team.

 

She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in International and Regional Studies and French Studies from the University of the Pacific, and a Master of Arts degree in French from Middlebury College.  She completed extended study abroad programs in France as part of both her undergraduate and graduate education, as well as an internship program at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

bio

Becky Jeffers

Manager, North America Marketing, Almond Board of California

bio-modal

Lynn Jordan

Executive Assistant

bio

Lynn Jordan

Executive Assistant

bio-modal

Swati Kalgaonkar

Associate Director, Nutrition Research

Dr. Swati Kalgaonkar is Associate Director, Nutrition Research Program and has extensive nutrition clinical research experience. Swati’s primary focus is on oversight of ABC contracted nutrition research, public policy analysis and synthesis, and information dissemination in support of the almond industry’s global strategies. Additional priorities include identifying current and future strategic needs for almond nutrition research, liaising with researchers, analyzing and interpreting results, writing for scientific and review articles, position papers and substantiation documents for USDA and/or FDA, coordinating the Nutrition Research Committee and administering its budget. Swati also travels extensively to represent the Almond Board at US and international nutrition conferences and meetings by networking and giving presentations to health influencers, and other stakeholder audiences.

bio

Swati Kalgaonkar

Associate Director, Nutrition Research

bio-modal

Murielle Kim

Consultant, South Korea/Japan Markets

Murielle Kim has represented the Almond Board of California in Japan and Korea as a market development consultant since 2017. She offers her professional market services including trade program management, communications marketing and advertisement management, consumer campaign development, media outreach management, health professional outreach, digital and social channel management, and nutrition regulatory counsel. 

 

She has over 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 the ABC’s communications marketing and trade activities; She has an international trade experience from working at CJ CheilJedang as a global B2B raw materials sales and marketing specialist. She earned her expertise in media from working at a PR agency and working as a nutritionist columnist for health and cooking magazines.

 

Murielle is an USA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) certified Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, and completed her clinical and community dietetics education and internship from Columbia University, New York City, USA.

 

She completed her Ph.D courses in Food Marketing at Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea; Earned M.S. degree in Nutrition Education and Public Health from Columbia University, NYC, USA; Double majored in B.A. Behavioral Psychology and Sports Science at Smith College, Northampton, MA, USA. 

bio

Murielle Kim

Consultant, South Korea/Japan Markets

bio-modal

Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni

Principal, Technical & Trade Issues

Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni is Principal, Technical & trade Issues. He joined the Almond board in July 2000. 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.

Abhi has a Master’s in Biological & Agricultural Engineering from UC Davis. 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, along with his wife, often travel, hike, and camp.  He has visited every continent.

bio

Abhijeet (Abhi) Kulkarni

Principal, Technical & Trade Issues

bio-modal

Rahima Kunari

Specialist, Finance and Administration

Rahima joined the Almond Board of California in October 2018 to take on the new position of Finance and Administration Specialist. Her position allows to take responsibility for the Unified Export Strategy (UES) 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 various accounting projects for large companies such as Foster Farms, Savemart and Hancock Financial Services.   

 

Rahima graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Master of Business Administration. 

bio

Rahima Kunari

Specialist, Finance and Administration

bio-modal

Rick Kushman

Manager, Media Relations, Global Communications

bio

Rick Kushman

Manager, Media Relations, Global Communications

bio-modal

Josette Lewis

Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Josette Lewis has worked in agriculture for more than twenty-five 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 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 US 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 US 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.

bio

Josette Lewis

Chief Scientific Officer

bio-modal

Gabriele Ludwig

Director, Sustainability & Environmental Affairs

Dr. Gabriele Ludwig has been working for the Almond Board of California for more than 10 years. Gabriele combines her passion for agriculture and the environment with research and policy. As Director for Sustainability and Environmental Affairs, she was instrumental in the development of the California Almond Sustainability Program and continues to encourage a diverse range of research on almonds and environmental issues.  

 

She is currently 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, DC.  She received her Ph.D. in plant physiology from the University of California, Davis and her B.A. in Biology from Wellesley College.

bio

Gabriele Ludwig

Director, Sustainability & Environmental Affairs

bio-modal

Harbinder Maan

Associate Director Trade Marketing and Stewardship

Harbinder joined ABC in July 2005 as Manager, Food Service and Industrial Marketing. In her position, she is responsible for developing and implementing the Almond Board’s foodservice and industrial marketing programs, including agency management and tradeshow supervision. Her last position allowed her to spend three years working in the non-profit sector for MedicAlert Foundation in Turlock, California, where, in her role as Marketing Manager, she was responsible for developing and executing targeted disease group marketing campaigns. Prior to arriving in the United States from the United Kingdom, she held management positions in brand marketing and business development for United Business Media, Boo.Com Group, Ltd., and Alfred Dunhill. In addition to an engineering degree from the University of Huddersfield, Harbinder holds an MBA from the University of Cambridge. Harbinder is fluent in Punjabi.

bio

Harbinder Maan

Associate Director Trade Marketing and Stewardship

bio-modal

Kath Martino

Consultant, Europe

Working alongside Dariela Roffe-Rackind, Kath oversees and manages the delivery of marketing campaigns in the UK, France, Germany and Italy to promote the health and sustainability credentials of almonds to consumers and food manufacturers. Kath joined the ABC team in June 2018, after leading the European PR programmes for ABC since 2015 while working at Porter Novelli, London, where she was Director of Food and Nutrition.

 

Kath has close to two decades of brand communications experience, with a strong background in  and passion for food and sustainability. She has worked with several global FMCG companies including Nestlé, Unilever and Mars, running consumer-facing and food professional campaigns, and she also 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 cat mother to nine-year-old Persian, (Prince) William.

bio

Kath Martino

Consultant, Europe

bio-modal

Melissa Mautz

Associate Director, Global Marketing

bio

Melissa Mautz

Associate Director, Global Marketing

bio-modal

Sudarshan Mazumdar

Consultant, India

Sudarshan is responsible for driving the strategy, execution and the growth of the almond industry in India. In this capacity, he is entrusted with the job of drawing out the marketing strategy for India; and leading the advertising, communication and trade stewardship programs.

 

With over 30 years of experience in strategy, management and brand building, Sudarshan has been working towards establishing the importance of including almonds as an integral part of a healthy diet in India by consistently demonstrating their multiple health benefits through international nutrition research and a network of credible nutritionists, experts and media.

 

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

 

Prior to his association with the Almond Board of California, Sudarshan was the Director for Marketing and Corporate Communications at Fortis Healthcare Ltd. His previous employers also include GlaxoSmithKline, Rasna, J. Walter Thomson (JWT), FCB Ulka and Lowe Lintas. Sudarshan has completed his Masters in Business Administration from Faculty of Management Studies (FMS Delhi), one of the top business schools in India; and also holds a Masters degree in Physics from St. Stephens’ College, University of Delhi.

bio

Sudarshan Mazumdar

Consultant, India

bio-modal

Karen J. Montgomery

Senior Administrator, Global Marketing and Global Communications

Karen Montgomery joined the Almond Board of California in 2007 as the department Administrator/Secretary for Global Marketing & Communications. Her responsibilities included accounting and financial-related matters for both North American and International Programs, the compliance side of the Almond Board MAP & EMP programs and serving as the Staff Coordinator for both the International and PR & Advertising committees.

 

Today, Karen is a Senior Administrator for the Global Marketing and Global Communications departments, supporting 25 staff with a second Senior Administrator, Ann Friedrich. Karen’s responsibilities include accounting and financial-related matters for both Global Marketing and Global Communications departments, logistic support for meetings and events and assisting with travel needs including visas, passports and known traveler programs.

 

After a year as an AFS exchange student in Germany, she started college and graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, a concentration in Human Resource Management and a minor in German.  Prior to joining the Almond Board, Karen served as Executive Assistant for Trinity United Presbyterian Church in Modesto and previously enjoyed a distinguished career with Bank of America in branch operations and customer service. 

 

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

bio

Karen J. Montgomery

Senior Administrator, Global Marketing and Global Communications

bio-modal

Jenny Nicolau

Senior Manager, Industry Relations and Communications

Jenny Nicolau joined the Almond Board of California in 2008 as a coordinator for Industry Relations. Today, her duties include overseeing industry programs and events, such as The Almond Conference, Ag in the Classroom, the California Almond Sustainability Program, and the Almond Leadership Program. She also oversees all industry communications including the weekly electronic newsletter, In the Orchard, the every-other month printed newsletter, How We Grow, as well as the industry’s social media and website presence.

 

Jenny attended Turlock High School and began her higher education at Modesto Junior College where she earned an Associate of Science in Poultry Science. She then went on to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and received a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Communications. She later earned her master’s degree in Ag Leadership from Oklahoma State University.

 

Jenny resides in Patterson with her husband and two young girls, and any free moment between playing with Play Dough and baby dolls, she enjoys baking.

bio

Jenny Nicolau

Senior Manager, Industry Relations and Communications

bio-modal

Brian Peterson

Sr. Director, Finance, Analytics & Administration

bio

Brian Peterson

Sr. Director, Finance, Analytics & Administration

bio-modal

Dariela Roffe-Rackind

Director, Europe and Global Public Relations

Dariela joined the Almond Board of California in September 2008. She is responsible for oversight and implementation of market development program activities in the European Region and globally for consumer public relations (PR). Her European responsibilities include planning and managing trade development and marketing programs in Western Europe. 

 

Dariela also oversees global consumer PR program planning for ABC, cross-region coordination, identification of efficiencies and measurement and reporting standards across all regions.

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 20+ year career in both London and New York City, she 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 including the PRCA Evaluation award, O’Dwyers best international campaign and two Scorissimi advertising awards for the Almond Board of California; the ABC European program was also a finalist in the European Excellence Awards. The Global M&M’s campaign she led received a Sabre award for best consumer campaign, and was awarded first prize in the International Galaxy awards for best international public relations campaign, also being 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 (USA).  She now lives in St. Albans, UK with her husband and daughter.  She is fluent in English, French and Spanish. 

bio

Dariela Roffe-Rackind

Director, Europe and Global Public Relations

bio-modal

Michael Roots

Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

Michael joined the Almond Board in January of 2021 with the Field Outreach and Education team, covering the Central Region of the Valley. In his position, he works with growers to disseminate resources, like the California Almond Sustainability Program, as well as working to solve any issues they have in their fields. He enjoys interacting with growers and looks forward to helping them in any way that he can.

In his previous role, he worked as a farm manager for 5 years after graduating college. He directly managed 3,000 acres of almonds, as well as other tree nut crops, in Madera, Stanislaus, and Sacramento counties. He experienced the day-to-day farming operations as well as overseeing the budgets of farming and capital improvement project costs.

Michael was born, raised, and currently lives in Modesto. He graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Systems Management. He enjoys walks, hiking, and road trips to the coast with his dog Bella, as well as exploring and supporting local businesses and events in the area.

bio

Michael Roots

Specialist, Field Outreach and Education

bio-modal

Jesse Roseman

Principal Analyst

Jesse is a Policy Analyst in Environmental and Regulatory Affairs and joined ABC in 2016. In his role he touches a wide range of topics and issues, including pesticide use, water supply, water quality and air quality regulations impacting almond production. A primary responsibility is addressing impacts from the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act on the almond industry. He also leads development of GIS 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 driving grower adoption of sustainable solutions through incentive programs.

 

Jesse is the staff liaison for the Ag Regulatory Subcommittee and Pest Management Workgroup, and a staff collaborator for the Technical & Regulatory Affairs Committee.

 

In his previous position as Project Director for The Nature Conservancy, he managed wildlands, farms and rangeland for wildlife benefits and sustainability, and developed large scale, process based, restoration projects.

 

He received 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. Living in Modesto, when not in the office, he can often be found playing music locally, or exploring the central valley’s beautiful river systems.

bio

Jesse Roseman

Principal Analyst

bio-modal

Sebastian Saa

Associate Director, Agricultural Research

Sebastian Saa joined the Almond Board of California in 2017 as the Senior Manager of Agricultural Research in the Agriculture and Environmental Affairs department. However, Sebastian is not a stranger in our industry and his involvement with ABC goes all the way back to 2009 when he was a PhD student at UC Davis. Thanks in part to Sebastian’s PhD work, the California almond industry developed and updated best nitrogen management practices that allow our growers to be more sustainable, provide adequate nutrients to their trees, and adhere to current California regulations. Sebastian continued to work in almond trees after successfully finishing his PhD and Postdoctoral work in 2013, but he did so from outside of the country. From 2014 through 2017 Sebastian worked in Chile, where he held a tenured position as professor of deciduous fruit trees at the Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso. Working from the other corner of the planet, Sebastian helped ABC to better understand how almond trees work and how we can reach sustainable yields, publishing more than 20 ISI scientific manuscripts, assisting multiple growers, and giving key international talks in countries such as Italy, Spain, Australia, and others.  

 

Sebastian has been instrumental in developing better management systems as well as strategic research plans to improve the research portfolios that he oversees. Sebastian serves as the staff liaison for the following almond workgroups: Harvest Workgroup, Orchard, Tree & Rootstock Workgroup, and Irrigation, Nutrients & Soil Health Workgroup. Together, with our stakeholders and researchers, Sebastian develops and implements long term strategic research plans that align with the guidance provided by the Strategic Agricultural Innovation Committee and with the overall Board of Director’s recommendations. Sebastian’s unique background, blended with his farming experience (he is a third-generation table grape grower in Chile) and technical expertise, allows ABC to build a natural bridge between the California almond industry’s needs and the talent of our scientific researchers.  

bio

Sebastian Saa

Associate Director, Agricultural Research

bio-modal

Terri Sanders

Senior Accountant

bio

Terri Sanders

Senior Accountant

bio-modal

Keith Schneller

Trade Policy Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

Keith recently joined the Almond Board after spending the last two years with the US Trade Representative’s office in Washington, DC, assisting in the negotiation and implementation of the agricultural chapter of the U.S.-China Phase One agreement.  Keith grew up on a farm in northeastern Colorado and when on to spend 20 years with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.  Much of his time included assignments in Vienna, Guangzhou, Taiwan, and Shanghai.  He has worked with groups like ABC over the years, to address market access issues, implement market development strategies, and helped to serve as a bridge between industry and government authorities.  

Keith earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from Colorado State University and a Master’s Degree in Agricultural Economics from the University of London at Wye College after receiving an International Rotary Scholarship.  Keith and his wife have a son and daughter who are both in college.  Keith enjoys traveling, singing and most outdoor sports.  Keith will be working remotely from his home in Fargo, ND. 

bio

Keith Schneller

Trade Policy Specialist, Global Technical and Regulatory Affairs

bio-modal

Amanda Scott

Program Coordinator

bio

Amanda Scott

Program Coordinator

bio-modal

Kiku Severson

Specialist, Reputation Management & Sustainability Communications

Kiku joined the Almond Board in 2019. Prior to that, Kiku studied at California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, earning a Bachelor of Science in Agricultural and Environmental Plant Science with a concentration in crop and fruit science.

 

Kiku is a fourth-generation almond farmer, her family farm is in Turlock, CA. Along with her technical education background and her on-farm experience, she brings her passion for the almond community and sustainability to work with her each day.

 

At the Almond Board, Kiku specializes in sustainability communications with specific attention in honeybee health and water. Her goal at the Almond Board is to communicate the efforts of the almond community’s commitment to grow almonds in a responsible, sustainable manner. 

bio

Kiku Severson

Specialist, Reputation Management & Sustainability Communications

bio-modal

Bryce Spycher

Manager, Marketing Order Services

Bryce is the Manager of Marketing Order Services at the Almond Board of California and has been with ABC since 2011. His focus is on being an entry point at ABC for industry stakeholders and providing timely service concerning topics which affect California almond handlers/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 various other committees and workgroups. 

 

Bryce is a graduate of the University of California, Davis with a BS in Agricultural Managerial Economics and is proud to have grown up in the Central Valley on an almond farm like many he works with daily. Bryce 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.

bio

Bryce Spycher

Manager, Marketing Order Services

bio-modal

Melissa Stewart

Human Resources Specialist

Melissa is a Modesto native who joined the Almond Board of California in 2019 as the Senior Coordinator of Human Resources.  She works on a wide variety of areas in the HR department, with a focus on payroll, benefits, and recruitment.

 

Prior to the Almond Board, Melissa worked in the staffing world where she gained valuable human resources experience, and a love for working with people.

 

Melissa graduated from California State University, Stanislaus in 2015 where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resources Management.

bio

Melissa Stewart

Human Resources Specialist

bio-modal

Miranda Thomas

Program Assistant, Research and Innovation

Miranda Thomas joined the Almond Board of California in October 2020. Her work includes supporting industry engagement through the working groups of the Strategic Ag Innovation Committee and elevates research outreach efforts in collaboration with the communications department by coordinating ABC’s Training Tuesdays. She is also involved with the creation and design of the research knowledge center.

 

Miranda graduated from the University of Colorado with a B.S. in Biochemistry and a minor in Chemistry. Miranda lives in Turlock and in her free time enjoys riding horses, snow skiing, and camping with her family and friends. 

 

bio

Miranda Thomas

Program Assistant, Research and Innovation

bio-modal

Danielle Veenstra

Senior Manager, Reputation Management & Sustainability Communications

Danielle joined the organization in 2013. Prior to that, Danielle studied at San Francisco State University earning a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Management and a Bachelor of Art in Geography.

 

The third generation of a family almond farm in San Joaquin County, Danielle combines her almond industry background with knowledge of natural resource management to provide a unique perspective to the Almond Board. Raised on the family farm, Danielle knows firsthand what it takes to grow almonds and brings that understanding and passion to her work each day.

 

At the Almond Board, Danielle specializes in production and environmental issues, research, and extension with particular attention to water and honeybees. Her efforts are focused on ensuring that the almond community continues to grow almonds responsibly and sustainably as well as communicating that commitment to the world over.

bio

Danielle Veenstra

Senior Manager, Reputation Management & Sustainability Communications

bio-modal

Richard Waycott

President and Chief Executive Officer

The Almond Board of California’s President and CEO, Richard Waycott, joined the organization in 2002. Prior to heading up the ABC, Mr. Waycott worked for over 20 years, mostly in Latin America, in the food manufacturing and agribusiness industries, with extensive experience in the consumer products and B-to-B grains and oilseeds market segments.

 

Richard’s experience complements the other professionals at the Almond Board by bringing strategic leadership to the global development of the California almond industry. Almond production and worldwide almond shipments, as well as the activities of the ABC, have grown tremendously over the past two decades, with Almond Board programs now touching every aspect of the industry’s interests.

bio

Richard Waycott

President and Chief Executive Officer

bio-modal

Daren Williams

Senior Director, Global Communications

Daren joined the Almond Board of California in February 2018 as Senior Director of Global Communications, directing the Board’s Reputation Management, Industry Relations and Communications, and Field Outreach and Education programs. In this role, he oversees communications to almond growers to drive adoption of best practices throughout the industry and, in turn, share the positive story with customers and consumers. 

Prior to joining ABC, Daren was senior executive director of communications at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, where he led issues and crisis response, media relations and grassroots advocacy efforts for more than a decade.

 

A native Kansan, Daren began his career on the 1988 presidential campaign of Senator Bob Dole (R-KS). When that effort fell short of the White House, he joined Agri/Washington, a Washington, D.C.-based agricultural public affairs firm, representing clients in the halls of USDA, FDA, EPA, and Capitol Hill. 

 

After 10 years in the Nation’s Capital, Daren returned to his Midwestern roots to join the Kansas City office of Fleishman Hillard International Communications, where he provided communications counsel for a wide variety of clients in food and agriculture, health care, and consumer products. 

 

Daren holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Ottawa University in Kansas, where he met his wife, Leslie. Daren and Leslie have two grown daughters, Shelby and Haley.   

bio

Daren Williams

Senior Director, Global Communications

bio-modal

Drew Wolter

Senior Specialist, Pest Management

bio

Drew Wolter

Senior Specialist, Pest Management