The Southeast is well-represented on the list of new United Fresh officers and board members unveiled this week by Immediate Past Chairman Brian W. Kocher, President and CEO, Castellini Company LLC, Newport, KY.
The new board takes office April 26.
Ascending to Chairman of the Board is Susan Reimer-Sifford, Director, Produce & Bakery Purchasing & Distribution for Darden, in Orlando, FL. Susan is responsible for oversight of procurement, distribution and quality assurance of all fruit and vegetable items for Darden’s popular concepts such as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House restaurants. Susan began her career at Darden in 2005 as Director of Restaurant Distribution Services. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Nutrition and a Master’s Degree in Dietetics from Illinois State University.
Chairman-Elect is Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing, California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, CA. Cindy is responsible for strategic planning and developing and executing all marketing and communications programs for California Giant. A key component of her work includes a social media platform and image campaign tied to inbound marketing engagement with consumers and building brand loyalty. She leads the company’s issues management and serves as the company spokesperson with consumers and the media. Prior to joining California Giant, Cindy served as Executive Vice President of the California Strawberry Commission, where she worked for 19 years. She is a graduate of Class 30 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Cindy will assume the Chairmanship of United Fresh in 2018.
Secretary-Treasurer is Danny Dumas, Vice President N.A. Sales & Product Management, Del Monte Fresh Produce, N.A., Inc., Coral Gables, FL. He started his career in produce at Dole Fresh Fruit Company where he held various positions. In 1997, he joined Montreal produce wholesaler J.B. Laverdure as a produce buyer and seller. A year later, he joined Del Monte Fresh Produce to manage its first and only Canadian office as District Sales Manager. Since that time, he has held various positions within Del Monte Fresh, including Vice President of Operations for Europe and Africa at its office in Monte Carlo, Monaco. In 2014, he returned to Florida to assume his current position.
Current United Fresh Chairman of the Board, Tony Freytag, Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, for Crunch Pak, in Cashmere, WA, will move to the position of Immediate Past Chairman and remain on the Board and the Executive Committee.
New members of the United Fresh Board for a two-year term beginning April 2017 are:
Jeff Cady, Director of Produce & Floral for Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, NY. Jeff began his retail produce career in 1986 in Akron, OH working for Giant Eagle. In 1990, he started working for Finast Supermarkets and in 1996 Tops Friendly Markets and Finast merged. Jeff has held many positions including Assistant Produce Manager and Produce Manager, and in 2002 he relocated to Rochester, NY to take on the role of Produce & Floral Field Specialist. In 2008, he began working at Tops corporate headquarters as a Produce Buyer/Merchandiser and in 2014 was promoted to his current position. He is a graduate of United’s Produce Industry Leadership Program Class 20. Jeff has been nominated as Vice Chairman of the Retail-Foodservice Board.
Jerry Callahan is Group Vice President, Produce and Floral for Albertsons Companies in Boise, ID. In this role, Jerry manages all aspects of the produce and floral operations for the 2,300-store chain. Albertsons Companies operates stores across 35 states and the District of Columbia under 19 different store banners. Jerry is a past instructor for Dale Carnegie’s Leadership Training program, offering corporate training and team building, to improving leadership qualities. Passionate about fresh produce and floral, Jerry has 35 years of industry experience.
Michael Castagnetto, Vice President, Global Sourcing for Robinson Fresh in Eden Prairie, MN, uses his nearly 20 years of experience and knowledge to open global, perishable supply chains and continue to build relationships with those in the fresh produce industry. He has built and sustained relationships with growers, suppliers and customers with a goal of helping them build, develop and evolve their businesses. His ability to integrate logistics with fresh produce helps to drive growth for Robinson Fresh and the company’s industry partners. He is a graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California.
Chris Ciruli, Chief Operations Officer, Ciruli Brothers, LLC, Tubac, AZ grew up alongside his brother and father in the fields and offices of Ciruli Brothers and Amex Distributing Company, where he gained a thorough understanding of the business operations by the time he officially joined the company in 1994. Chris is responsible for overseeing shipping operations and the development of sales and marketing programs. Chris recently served a two-year term as Treasurer of the National Mango Board and is past Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. He is a graduate of the United Fresh Leadership Program Class 13.
Michael Cochran, Merchandise Manager, Produce for Walmart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, AR is responsible for managing the temperate produce portfolio for Wal-Mart Supercenters and Neighborhood Market stores. Michael has worked for Walmart for 18 years, holding positions including SAM’S Club Fresh Operations Director, Corporate Procurement Director Global Sourcing, and SAM’S Club Produce Buyer. Prior to joining Walmart, he held management positions with Stemilt Growers and Fresh America Corporation.
Mark Girardin, President, North Bay Produce, Inc., Traverse City, MI has over 41 years of experience in the fresh produce industry, including 31 with North Bay Produce. As one of the world’s leading global marketing cooperatives, North Bay has 29 stockholders in the United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Mark currently serves on the United Fresh Government Relations Council, and is a past Co-Chair of the Midwest Salad Bars to Schools. He is also active with the US Apple Export Council, US Apple and North American Blueberry Council.
Christian Harris, Vice President Fresh Produce, US Foods in Rosemont, IL is responsible for all aspects of the company’s fresh produce business, overseeing 60 distribution centers across the United States serving more than 250,000 customers every day. Prior to joining US Foods in 2015, Chris served as a Director with Robinson Fresh and in a management position with Fresh & Easy (Tesco). He began his career with one of Europe’s largest lettuce growers in southern England before relocating to the United States in 2004.
Chris serves on the boards of several charities dedicated to supporting families of children with special needs. He holds an MBA from Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA.
Jim Hay, North America Regional Business Director, DuPont Crop Protection, Wilmington, DE, leads DuPont’s crop protection business in North America. Jim began his career with Engineering Polymers, spending more than 15 years concentrated on the automotive marketplace. He joined DuPont in 1985 in the Nylon Intermediates business, where he held process engineering and leadership positions in manufacturing, followed by a wide variety of roles including Regional Director for DuPont Performance Polymers, Asia Pacific; Regional Director, Europe Middle East and Africa and Regional Director, Americas. He earned his Bachelor of Engineering Science degree from the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. Currently Jim serves on the Board of Directors of CropLife America and is a supporter of the Farm Journal Foundation’s HungerU, a university-focused student education program.
Brian Jenny, Vice President/GM -Value Added Fresh, Naturipe Farms, LLC, Sugar Hill, GA started his career in the produce industry working for Naturally Fresh in operations and then as a Retail Zone Manager. Brian has also worked for the Halifax Group and Monterey Mushrooms. In 2011, he joined Naturipe as Director of Business Development before advancing to his current position. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from Clemson University. He is a graduate of the United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Class 17 and served on the Leadership Alumni Organization Board. Brian has been nominated as Chairman of the Fresh-Cut Processor Board.
Drew McDonald, VP Quality, Food Safety, & Regulatory, Church Brothers Farms, Salinas, CA has over 20 years of experience in fresh produce and fresh foods. Drew oversees quality and food safety programs for Church Brothers, as well as sustainability initiatives. Over the course of his career, Drew has worked with growers and processors of fresh produce all over the world. Prior to Church Brothers, he worked for Danaco Solutions, and also worked for Taylor Farms for 10 years where he was Vice President of National Quality Systems. He currently serves on numerous food safety-related technical committees and has participated in the authorship of many produce food safety guidelines. Drew has been nominated as Chairman of the Food Safety & Technology Council.
Phil Muir, President & CEO, Muir Copper Canyon Farms, Salt Lake City, UT has had the experience of working in many segments of the industry including grower shipper, terminal market, fresh cut processor, broker and wholesale distributor during his 40-year career. Phil has served on numerous industry committees and boards including Chairman and Director of Pro*Act, LLC, Director/Chairman of IFS -Fresh Link Produce and Kool Logistics, the United Fresh Board of Directors and the United Fresh Start Foundation Board of Trustees. One of his passions is bringing good nutrition to America’s school children through the proactive integration of fresh fruit and vegetables into school meals, snacks, and curriculum. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Utah and an MBA from University of Southern California. Phil has been nominated as Chairman of the United Fresh Start Foundation.
Mark Munger, Vice President, Sales & Marketing, 4Earth Farms, Los Angeles, CA has more than 30 years’ experience in the produce industry. He joined 4Earth Farms in 2013, where he oversees sales, business development and strategic marketing activities. Mark’s industry experience includes 10 years as the Vice President of Marketing for Andrew Williamson Fresh Produce, eight years as Marketing Director with Driscoll’s, three years as Retail Division Director with the Produce Marketing Association, and various marketing and merchandising positions with California commodity boards. Mark received his Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Science and Management from UC Davis. He has served on the Center for Growing Talent by PMA Board of Directors since 2015, was Chairman of the Produce for Better Health Foundation in 2009, and has held various volunteer roles for United Fresh and the Produce Marketing Association. Mark has been nominated as Chairman of the Produce Marketing & Merchandising Council.
Raina Nelson, Vice President of Sales for Renaissance Food Group, Oldsmar, FL was raised in a produce family as the daughter of a second-generation Central Florida citrus farmer. At an early age, she was drawn to the diverse efforts, work ethic and unrelenting passion demonstrated by her family. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition and a Master’s degree in Food Science from the University of Florida College of Agricultural & Life Sciences.She has worked in the fresh produce industry for 14 years in the areas of food safety and quality systems, new product development, imports management and most recently in fresh produce sales for Renaissance. Raina has been nominated as Vice-Chairman of the Fresh-Cut Processor Board.
Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, CEO, Seald Sweet International/Greenyard USA, Vero Beach, FLis originally from Havana, Cuba. Her family moved to Miami when she was three years old. While in college, she took an entry-level position with a Florida-based imports company where she discovered her passion for the international fresh produce trade. She eventually took a position with Great American Farms and worked her way up to Director of Imports. In 2000, Mayda accepted a position at Seald Sweet and was instrumental in developing the company’s imports programs. In 2004, she was promoted to Senior Vice President, and advanced again in 2008 becoming the company’s first female CEO in its 100-year history. Mayda was the 2011 United Fresh Women in Produce honoree and has served on several industry boards and committees, including the Produce Marketing Association’s Board of Directors and Director of the Global Development Committee.