← About Board, Staff & Core Faculty Meet the Board Michael Young / Chair Wegis & YoungClass 35 Read Bio Michael Young Chair Mike Young (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. Cameron Boswell / Vice Chair J.G. BoswellClass 42 Read Bio Cameron Boswell Vice Chair Cameron Boswell (Class 42) is a fourth generation member of J.G. Boswell Company, which farms and processes in the Central Valley. 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. Emily Rooney / Secretary-Treasurer Agricultural Council of CaliforniaClass 39 Read Bio Emily Rooney Secretary-Treasurer 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 20 years, including time spent at California Farm Bureau and working for two members of Congress in Washington, D.C. 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 UC Davis, and she and her husband, Pat, have one son. Yissel Barajas Reiter Affiliated CompaniesClass 40 Read Bio Yissel Barajas Yissel Barajas (Class 40) is the chief human resources officer for Reiter Affiliated Companies (RAC), the world’s largest fresh multi-berry producer. Prior to her current role, she managed RAC’s philanthropy program, where she launched an initiative designed to prevent obesity and diabetes in the farm worker community. The program was developed in partnership with UC Davis and UC Berkeley, creating a successful model for public-private partnerships for the benefit of public health. She has served on the boards of the California Coalition for Rural Housing, the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition and the American Red Cross of Ventura County. She currently serves on the Ventura County Farmworker Resource Program committee, the Museum of Ventura County board, the Ventura County Agricultural Museum board and the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety’s external advisory board. Yissel earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA. She and her husband, Jaime, have two children. They live in Camarillo, where they enjoy hikes, bike trails and participating in community events. Jason Cole Cole LimitedClass 42 Read Bio Jason Cole Jason Cole (42) is a third-generation avocado, citrus and cattle rancher from Santa Paula. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in agricultural science and a minor in ag business. He is a certified crop advisor. From 2012-2014, he was chairman of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County’s (FBVC) Young Farmers & Ranchers committee, serving in that capacity as an advisory member of the FBVC Board of Directors. He also served on the California Avocado Commission (CAC) governance committee and Santa Paula Rotary Club. Currently, Cole is a member of the CAC board. Correen Davis The Gorrill RanchClass 45 Read Bio Correen Davis Correen Davis (Class 45) is the managing partner and chairman of The Gorrill Ranch, her family’s diversified fourth-generation farming operation in Butte County. The farm primarily produces premium California rice, but also grows almonds, pecans and walnuts. The Gorrill Ranch, which celebrated its centennial in 2018, has a long history of successful habitat conservation projects and partnerships. Correen served on Ag Leadership’s Alumni Council as a CALF Education Team liaison prior to joining the CALF board of directors. She currently serves on the boards of the California Rice Commission and the California Foundation for Ag in the Classroom, and on the Northern California Water Association’s communications committee. She is a graduate of the Clark D. Honors College at the University of Oregon. She and her husband, Bradley, who is head coach of the women’s basketball program at University of the Pacific, live in Stockton with their two daughters. Rob Goff Wonderful OrchardsClass 45 Read Bio Rob Goff Rob Goff (Class 45) manages the farming operations on approximately 21,000 acres of almonds, pistachios and pomegranates, the harvest of 30,000 acres of pistachios and the research and development department for Wonderful Orchards. His academic background and early career were focused in forestry and natural resources management, however, for the past 13+ years, he has enjoyed a career in the Kern County ag industry. A graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Rob earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry and natural resources management. He stays involved with multiple industry and community related boards and committees. He is a certified arborist/utility specialist, pest control advisor, qualified applicator and certified crop advisor. Rob and his wife, Joyel, enjoy spending time with their children, Katie and Thomas. They like to visit Central Coast beaches, backpack the Sierra Nevada Mountains and visit family in upstate New York. Fidela Irigoyen Wells FargoClass 21 Read Bio Fidela Irigoyen Fidela Irigoyen (Class 21) has extensive financial services experience, including more than 35 years with Wells Fargo Bank. She has held numerous management positions and individual contributor roles within the company's commercial banking, international banking and retail banking areas. In her current role with Wells Fargo, Irigoyen is the agribusiness market executive for the Southern and Coastal California, Southwest and Mountain States region, where she leads a team of relationship managers focused on agribusiness companies. Her lending experiences include consumer, agricultural, international, real estate and middle market/commercial lending. Irigoyen has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Santa Clara University and remains involved in her family’s agribusiness ventures. Joel Kimmelshue Land IQClass 37 Read Bio Joel Kimmelshue Dr. Joel Kimmelshue (Class 37) is a founding partner and principal agricultural scientist with Land IQ. He has over 27 years of experience focusing on practical and applied solutions for the development and management of agricultural-based soil/water/plant systems. Kimmelshue also has firsthand production agriculture experience from growing up and continuing to participate in a diversified tree and row crop farming operation in Northern California. He holds a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and Ph.D. in soil science with concentrations in agricultural engineering and water resources from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Carolina State University, respectively. Kimmelshue is also registered as a certified professional soil scientist. Paul Parreira Parreira Almond Processing Co.Class 44 Read Bio Paul Parreira Paul Parreira (Class 44) is a third-generation agriculturalist with more than 40 years of experience in almond farming, hulling, shelling, processing and marketing and byproduct market development and sales. He is a partner in Parreira Almond Processing Co. LLC, an almond hulling and shelling business which serves more than 24,000 acres of almonds for outside growers, in addition to 1,800 acres of their own trees. He is also a partner in RPAC, LLC, an almond processing and marketing company which supplies quality California almonds to customers in the United States and to more than 75 countries. He manages strategic planning, business development, sustainability and innovation for both Los Banos-based companies. Additionally, he is co-founder of HermetiaPro, a Black Soldier Fly vertical farming company, which converts agriculture waste products into high protein livestock feed. Paul serves as vice chair of CDFA’s feed inspection advisory board, vice chair of the Almond Board of California’s biomass working group and chair of the Almond Alliance of California’s co-products committee. He is a longtime member of the Merced County Spring Fair Board and helped found the Spring Fair Heritage Foundation. Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Read Bio Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz Dr. Martin Sancho-Madriz is the interim dean of the Cal Poly Pomona Don B. Huntley College of Agriculture. He is on leave as the associate vice president for faculty affairs, a position he’s held since June 2018. Sancho-Madriz joined Cal Poly Pomona in 1997 and developed the undergraduate degree program in food science and technology. He served as chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science for seven years, vice chair and chair of the Academic Senate and associate dean of the College of Environmental Design. He earned a bachelor’s/licentiate degree in food technology from the University of Costa Rica and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in food science and technology from Cornell University. Meet the Staff Dwight Ferguson President & CEOEmail Read Bio Dwight Ferguson President & CEO Dwight Ferguson joined the foundation as president/CEO in October 2020, following 30-plus years in senior leadership positions at top produce and floral companies (both domestic and international). He was most recently the president and CEO of Naturipe Farms, LLC in Salinas. He has also been active with several industry and trade associations, most notably the Produce Marketing Association, where he served as board chairman for 2020-21. Dwight is the ninth president to serve CALF. As president, he is responsible for directing all foundation activities and guiding its widely recognized and highly respected leadership program. Dwight holds a BS degree from Ohio University and a MM degree from Aquinas College. He and his wife, Nancy, have two grown children. Abby Taylor-Silva Executive Vice PresidentEmail Read Bio Abby Taylor-Silva Executive Vice President Abby Taylor-Silva (Class 45) joined the foundation as executive vice president in November 2020. In the newly created role, she will apply her industry and alumni experiences to advance the foundation’s mission. She comes to Ag Leadership after 10 years as vice president of policy and communications for the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. She is a native of Monterey and San Benito counties and serves on the boards of the Salinas Rotary Club (current president) and the Community Foundation for Monterey County. Abby earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science with a minor in agricultural and managerial economics from UC Davis. She lives in Salinas with her husband, Paul, and their daughters. Dane White Director of EducationEmail Read Bio Dane White Director of Education Dane joined the foundation in November 2022 as the new director of education. He is responsible for CALF’s curriculum – in coordination with the four partner university deans – and for delivery of the leadership content presented in the campus and travel seminars. He works closely with the core faculty from the four campuses, as well as CALF's president and CEO. He will also support other CALF educational programs. Dane has a background in empowering leadership, learning design and instructional practice. A former high school agriculture teacher, he developed curricula that are used in more than 200 California schools. He previously consulted to the California Department of Education and worked for Vivayic, Inc., a learning solutions company. Dane earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agricultural education from California State University, Chico. He is a self-described student of learning philosophy, leadership principles and educational theory who seeks to learn from and leverage unique experiences in order to do good in the world. Sharon Harney Finance ManagerEmail Read Bio Sharon Harney Finance Manager Sharon joined the foundation as finance manager in January 2017. She is responsible for the accounting operations of the foundation. She brings more than 30 years of accounting, human resource, 401(k) plan administration and office management experience in the agricultural, construction and medical fields. Sharon is a member of the Jeffery family and is a fifth-generation Salinas resident. Along with her husband Brian, and their respective families, they have deep roots in Salinas Valley agriculture. Away from the office, Sharon loves spending time with her family, being of service to her community and staying healthy by working out. Jodi Litz Development ManagerEmail Read Bio Jodi Litz Development Manager Jodi joined the Ag Leadership staff in May 2023. She is responsible for setting fundraising targets; engaging current and new donors; collaborating with alumni, staff and board committees to cultivate stakeholder relationships; and maintaining the donor database and customer relationship management tools. Jodi most recently worked as the development director for Community Human Services in Monterey and previously served in the same role for Meals on Wheels of Western South Dakota. Born and raised in the Black Hills of South Dakota, she followed her family’s mining legacy by attending South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, earning her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary sciences. Later in her career, she joined a statewide cohort of nonprofit development professionals who trained at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy – Purdue University Indianapolis. Litz received her certificate in fundraising management by completing the courses Principles and Techniques of Fundraising, Developing Annual Sustainability, Developing Major Gifts and Engaging Women as Donors. Judy Sparacino Programs ManagerEmail Read Bio Judy Sparacino Programs Manager Judy supports the fellowship program, the fellow selection process and the domestic and international seminars, as well as serving as the foundation’s archivist. Judy also assists with efforts to sustain and expand the D.C. Exchange, California Exchange and County Exchange. She grew up in Sacramento and currently resides in Monterey. In her free time she can be found in a dance studio either teaching or taking class. From an early age, Judy has been very passionate about dance and it continues to play an important part of her life. She also enjoys traveling and spending quality time with her amazing friends and family. Deanna van Klaveren Alumni Engagement ManagerEmail Read Bio Deanna van Klaveren Alumni Engagement Manager Deanna van Klaveren (Class 32) is responsible for the advancement of the foundation through the development and implementation of alumni relations and outreach programs. She works closely with the Alumni Council (AC) to carry out activities and programs and to provide expanded service and opportunities for growth and connection to alumni, as envisioned in the strategic plan. Deanna has served as the Region 4 co-director, AC liaison to the board of directors and the Class 32 liaison. She has also served on the AC’s leadership team and committees for the Legislative Reception, All Class Reunion, alumni conferences, D.C. Exchange, California Exchange and Lifelong Leadership Learning (L4) seminars. In 2016, she was presented with Ag Leadership's Profiles in Leadership Award. Deanna and her husband, Roger, own Generation Growers, Inc., a family operated nursery. They live and work on the property, where they are raising their two children, Abby and Micah. Meredith Rehrman Ritchie Marketing & Communications CoordinatorEmail Read Bio Meredith Rehrman Ritchie Marketing & Communications Coordinator Meredith Rehrman Ritchie (Class 28) joined the foundation as marketing and communications coordinator in October 2021. She works with staff to plan, develop and execute the foundation’s marketing and communications strategies, and ensures strategies are infused in all organizational efforts. Meredith has more than 25 years of communications experience in food and agriculture, including positions with the California Association of Winegrape Growers, Western Crop Protection Association and International Food Information Council. She also served as Ag Leadership’s writer/editor from 2003 to 2015. Meredith grew up on a farm in Dixon, Calif. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in agriculture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She and her husband, Brian, live in Folsom. Their children, Marisa and Brandon, attend Cal Poly SLO. Mia Mirassou Administrative AssistantEmail Read Bio Mia Mirassou Administrative Assistant Mia joined the foundation staff as administrative assistant in February 2022. Her role is providing office support for the foundation team. Mia’s duties include implementation of development activities as well as helping illustrate the vision, mission and values of the foundation. Her previous work includes over 25 years of administrative support in the ag industry. In addition, over the last eight years, Mia was active and coordinated local, national and international service and advocacy programs for Palma School in Salinas. She enjoys hiking, traveling and exploring new walking trails. Mia and her husband, Greg, recently moved to Monterey and they have three grown sons, Caisen, Henry and Oliver. Liza Teixeira Robertson Writer/EditorEmail Read Bio Liza Teixeira Robertson Writer/Editor Liza works in a freelance writing and editing role for the foundation. Her responsibilities include writing and editing Horizons magazine, In Touch e-newsletter, impact report, news releases, website content, media relations and other projects. Her previous work experience includes serving as director of communications for the International Agri-Center and public relations specialist for the California Strawberry Commission. She studied agricultural communications at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and graduated with a degree in agricultural science and a minor in agricultural business. Liza and her husband, Kevin, live in Hanford with their three children. Meet the Core Faculty Dr. Athanasios "Alex" Alexandrou California State University, Fresno Read Bio Dr. Athanasios "Alex" Alexandrou Dr. Athanasios "Alex" Alexandrou teaches undergraduate courses in mechanized agriculture. His research focuses on mechanical weed control as part of organic farming, tractor-implement interaction, soil mechanics with particular interest in soil compaction and its assessment. His research interests also include assistive technology for people with disabilities so that they will remain engaged in agriculture, technology into the classroom and ancient Greek technology. Alexandrou joined the department in 2006. Dr. Amanda Crump University of California, Davis Read Bio Dr. Amanda Crump Dr. Amanda Crump is a lecturer and researcher in international agricultural development at University of California, Davis. She has over 10 years of university teaching experience and currently teach courses for undergraduate and graduate students in international agricultural development theory and practice, program management and evaluation and social change. Her research focuses on improving educational outcomes for women and other underserved adults. She has managed over $40 million in international and domestic agricultural research projects and her mentees now work as gender equity specialists, program managers and evaluators in Mali, Rome, Chile, El Salvador and many other places. She earned a Ph.D. in education from UC Davis, a master's degree in plant pathology and weed science from Colorado State University and a bachelor's degree in agricultural education from the University of Idaho. Crump grew up on a farm and likes to spend her free time in her garden. Dr. Erin Gorter California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Read Bio Dr. Erin Gorter Dr. Erin Gorter (Class 50) is third-generation born and raised in San Luis Obispo. She attended San Luis Obispo High School, where she was an active member of the FFA, graduating in 1999. Gorter earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas Tech University in 2004. She then spent time in the telecommunications industry prior to returning to school to complete her teaching credential at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She obtained her master’s degree in agriculture education from Cal Poly in 2011. She recently earned an Ed.D. in agricultural education in the Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University Doc @ Distance Program. Gorter taught agriculture and leadership courses at San Luis Obispo High School (2008-2010) and Templeton High School (2010-2014). She is a part-time lecturer teaching some classes and supervising student teachers. She currently serves as the president-elect for the California Agricultural Teachers' Association. Gorter was influenced by her high school agriculture teachers to choose agriculture education as a career and hopes to instill the same passion in others. She and her husband, Travis, live in Atascadero with their two dogs TJ and Lady. She enjoys gardening and has recently started an extensive home brew operation with her husband, where they are looking forward to brewing with their home-grown hops. Dr. Peggy Sears Perry California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Read Bio Dr. Peggy Sears Perry Dr. Peggy Perry (Class 9) is a professor emeritus at Cal Poly Pomona and has spent her career teaching in the fields of plant science and leadership. Her teaching specialties have included California native plant materials, culinary produce, women in agriculture, leadership development and various issues related to agricultural literacy. Her research has focused on faculty vitality and institutional leadership and adult development. Dr. Perry has been a member of the CALF Education Team since 1986. She has also led the coaching element of the program for the past 10 years. Her role as co-interim director of education began in May 2021 and is expected to last until February 2023 to coincide with the commencement of Class 51.