Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Jeff Elder, CHAIR

Oritain Global

Jeff has recently joined Oritain – a world leader in verifying the origin of products – as Managing Director, North America.  Using forensic science and data analysis, Oritain analyse naturally-occurring chemical properties within products to trace them back to their true origin, from any point in the supply chain. Operating globally, they work with some of the world’s largest food, textile and pharmaceutical suppliers. Jeff joins Oritain after 21 years with J.G. Boswell Company, where he oversaw the sales and marketing of the company’s primary crops, and more than 40 years with California agriculture. He has been active in and served on the boards for many agricultural organizations. Jeff is past president of the Cotton Warehouse Association of America and immediate past chair of the Supima organization. Jeff attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and continued to study through North Carolina State College of Textiles, the California Agri-Business Seminar, various trade events and seminars.

James R. Maxwell, VICE CHAIR

Agriland Farming Company, Inc.

Jim founded and serves as CEO of various California agricultural companies, including Agriland Farming Company, Inc.; Agri Systems, Inc.; Agri Capital, Inc.; Madera Ag Supply, Inc. and Growers Fig Company, Inc. These companies combine to form a fully integrated, nationally ranked, permanent crop operation specializing in almonds, pistachios, grapes, walnuts, figs, mandarins and kiwifruit. Related operations include an agricultural tree and vine nursery, a custom nut harvesting business, well drilling, Idaho field crop farming, beef cattle operations, wholesaler of ag hardware, safety products and farm supplies, agricultural real estate brokerage and secured agricultural lending. Maxwell earned an MBA from California State University, Fresno, where he also served as part-time faculty in the Craig School of Business. Prior to founding his own companies, he served as COO of a public agricultural company. He has served on various community organizations and has been a volunteer at Children’s Hospital of Central California for the past five years.

Loren Booth, Immediate Past Chair

Booth Ranches LLC

Loren (Class 27) is a fifth generation Californian born in Pasadena. She is president of family-owned and operated Booth Ranches, a premium citrus grower in the San Joaquin Valley. Loren lives on her family ranch in Orange Cove. In addition to managing acres of citrus, Loren operates a commercial cattle herd in the foothills surrounding Booth Ranches in Orange Cove. She also enjoys raising and showing Quarter horses and specializes in reining. Loren serves as a director for the Hills Valley Irrigation District and as a board member of Western Growers Association. She was the first woman to serve as a board member for the Citrus Research Board. Loren is one of six children. She attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where she majored in animal science.

Karm Bains

Karmdeep S. Bains Farms/Bains Ranches

Karm (Class 40) is a fourth generation California farmer who grows peaches, prunes, walnuts and almonds in Sutter and Butte counties. He has been owner-partner at Coldwell Banker Commercial Valley Brokers since 2010 and owner and operator of Karmdeep S. Bains Farms/Bains Ranches since 2006. He was farm manager at Didar Singh Bains Farms from 1992 to 2006. Bains is involved with numerous agricultural and community organizations. In 2014, he was reappointed to the 13th District Agricultural Association (Yuba-Sutter Fair board), where he has served since 2012. Bains also serves on the Yuba City Planning Commission and the Sutter County Board of Education, as well as on the board of directors of the Walnut Bargaining Association, the California Cling Peach Association, the Prune Bargaining Association and the Rideout Health Foundation. Born and raised in Yuba City, Bains attended Fresno State, where he majored in business. He and his wife, Harpreet, have four children.

Cameron Boswell

J.G. Boswell Company

Cameron (42) is a fourth generation member of J.G. Boswell Company, which farms and processes in the Central Valley and New South Wales, Australia. It is primarily known for pima cotton, processing tomatoes, pistachios and safflower. Cameron is the grandson of James G. Boswell II, co-founder of the California Ag Leadership Foundation. Cameron currently serves as the vice president of administration for the company. 

Cameron earned his bachelor’s degree at Prescott College in 2004 with a double major in political economy and human development. Cameron and his wife, Cherilyn, met in college and were married in 2005. Originally from the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, Cherilyn has a master’s degree in counseling psychology and has worked as a child and family therapist. They live in Santa Clarita with their two sons.

Rick Burnes

Sunridge Nurseries

Rick recently became the President of Sunridge Nurseries in Bakersfield. Prior to his current position, he was the Chief Operating Officer for Agriculture Capital Management, which is a sustainability-driven agriculture and food investment firm. Previously, Rick spent more than 18 years working for The Wonderful Company in the almond, pistachio, citrus, pomegranate, wine and grapevine sectors. He was also president of Wonderful Nurseries based in Wasco. He is a graduate of California State University, Bakersfield as well as an alumnus of Class 41 of the Ag Leadership Program.

Karen Caplan

Frieda’s, Inc.

Karen Caplan is president and CEO of Frieda’s, Inc. The company markets and distributes exotic fruits and vegetables. As the daughter of entrepreneur Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan – founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce – Karen began working with produce at the age of 10. After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Business Management from the University of California, Davis, she joined Frieda’s full time. Learning the business from the ground up, she worked in just about every department at the company, from packing boxes to sales and marketing. At the age of 30, she was promoted to president and CEO. In 1990, Karen and her sister purchased the company from their mother. With Karen at the helm and her sister by her side, Frieda’s became the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce.

Robert B. Cherenson

Lander Veterinary Clinic

Dr. Cherenson (Class 29) is one of eight partners at Turlock-based Lander Veterinary Clinic, which serves large production-oriented food animal operations, particularly dairy farms. He joined Lander in 1990. Cherenson’s area of focus is evidence-based herd health decision making, especially in the areas of reproduction, calf health and preventative medicine. He also has primary responsibility for the clinic’s 525-cow Jersey dairy farm and for QMS, the clinic’s pharmaceutical and supply business. Previously, Cherenson practiced and dairy farmed in New England. He currently serves on the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners and formerly served on the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education. In his community, he presided over and coached Turlock American/American East Little League for several years. Cherenson has also served on various Ag Leadership committees, including several screening and final selection committees and the program advisory committee. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children. A New Jersey native, he earned his DVM from Purdue University in 1984.

Dr. Andrew Thulin

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Andrew J. Thulin began his role as dean of Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES) in June 2014. Prior to his current role, Thulin concurrently directed strategic initiatives for the university and served as head of CAFES’ Animal Science Department. Before joining Cal Poly in 1998, Thulin managed technology deployment at Cargill, Inc., the nation’s largest private company. His responsibilities included spearheading new international business ventures and deploying new technologies to bring greater efficiencies and increased profitability to the company. Prior to joining Cargill, Inc., Thulin was a professor at Michigan State University, where he held a three-way appointment in extension, teaching and research. Thulin graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and completed his master’s and doctorate degrees at Kansas State University.

Michael Hollister

Driscoll Strawberry Associates

Michael Hollister is the senior vice president of the market group, for the Americas for Driscoll Strawberry Associates. He oversees sales, category development, marketing and product business management and global expansion. Hollister has been with Driscoll’s for more than 30 years. He is currently a director on the California Strawberry Commission’s board, serving since 1999, and also on multiple government affairs committees and working groups throughout the produce industry.

Bill Van Skike

Consultant Bill serves as a senior management level consultant to both public and private entities. Prior to joining his current employer A-C, Bill served as Chief Operating Officer at Precision Pharmacy, Chief Operating Officer at national architecture and construction firm Klassen Corporation, President of Mazzei Injector Company, and President of California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors (CPCS). He is a charter member of the San Joaquin Chapter of YPO (Young President’s Organization) is a graduate of Stagen Integral Leadership Program; and a graduate California Agricultural Leadership Program (Class 32). Bill completed his MBA and undergraduate degrees at California State University at Fresno where he was an active member of Sigma Chi fraternity.  His passions away from work include horseback riding, golf and spending time with his daughter, Jordan.


Mike Mendes

Wonderful Company

As Vice President, Eastside Farming, for Wonderful Orchards, and as part of the Wonderful Company which is the world’s largest grower of pistachios and almonds as well as a major producer of citrus, Mike (Class 39) supervises the production of some of the most popular and healthy crops that come out of the Golden State. Prior to current position, he was General Manager Agriculture for Newhall Land and Farming as well as previously serving as the Director of Water Resources for Kings River Conservation District and Crop Manager for Woolf Enterprises. He is a graduate of Fresno State with a BS in Agricultural Business. He and his wife, Ellen, are the proud parents of three sons.


Eugene Peterson

Wells Fargo

Gene is a senior vice president and the division manager for the National Food & Agribusiness Division of Wells Fargo & Company. Gene oversees operations in California’s Inland Empire and Central Valley, as well as locations across the United States. He is also leading the group’s expansion to untapped markets in the Midwest and on the East Coast. A 28-year financial services veteran, he began his career in 1985 with the USDA, extending and administrating loan programs.

Emily Rooney

Agricultural Council of California

Emily Rooney (Class 39) joined Ag Council in 2008 and became president in 2010.  Ag Council represents approximately 15,000 farmers across California, ranging from small, farmer-owned businesses to some of the world’s best-known brands.  Ag Council manages legislative and regulatory matters for its members in Sacramento. Emily has been involved in public policy for twenty years, including time spent at California Farm Bureau and working for two Members of Congress in Washington, DC. Emily’s family owns a livestock operation in San Joaquin County.  She also serves on the statewide FFA Foundation Board and the Executive Council for National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.  Emily is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, and she and her husband, Pat, have one son, who manages the household.

Mike Young

Wegis & Young

Mike (Class 35) is principal of Wegis & Young and a fourth generation agricultural entrepreneur. He manages the family operations with his father, uncle, brother and cousin. Wegis & Young has several ag-related businesses under its umbrella. The diversified farming operation grows a variety of tree and row crops and manages more than 100,000 acres of agricultural property for individual and institutional investors. Along with the agricultural interests, Mike is a partner in Water Associates, the only OEM (original equipment manufacturer) dealer of Cummins industrial engines in Kern County. Water Associates was named to the Inc. 500/5000 list. In addition, he successfully launched REDtrac systems, an assets management company. Young serves on numerous industry and community boards and is a graduate of University of the Pacific. He resides in Bakersfield with his wife, Jennifer, and their three children, Emma, Halle and Jake.

Board Committees Roster 2019 – 2020

Executive [per bylaws and charter]

Jeff Elder – Chair

Jim Maxwell – Vice Chair

Gene Peterson – Secretary/Treasurer

Immediate Past Chair – Loren Booth

Audit [per bylaws and charter]

Rick Burnes – Chair

Cameron Boswell

Mike Mendes

Bill Van Skike

Finance & Investment [in accordance with statute, bylaws and charter]

Jim Maxwell – Chair

Gene Peterson

Mike Young

Advisor (non-voting): Pierre Tada

Governance [per bylaws and charter]

Jeff Elder – Chair

Mike Young, Alumni Council Board Representative

Karm Bains

Michael Hollister

Mike Young

Program Advisory Committee [per bylaws and charter]

Bob Cherenson – Chair

Karen Caplan

Mike Mendes

Bill Van Skike

Deans’ Council

Dean Andy Thulin, Cal Poly SLO – Chair (representative on Board)

Dean Sandra Witte, Fresno State

Dean Helen Dillard, UC Davis

Interim Dean Lisa Kessler, Cal Poly Pomona

Development Advisory Committee [per bylaws and charter]

Karm Bains – Chair

Cameron Boswell

Karen Caplan

Jim Maxwell

Communications Advisory Committee [per bylaws and charter]

Karen Caplan – Chair

Emily Rooney

Dean Andy Thulin