Foundation Staff

Dwight Ferguson, President & CEO

Dwight Ferguson joined the California Agricultural Leadership 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’ll serve 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 President

Abby Taylor-Silva, a graduate of Ag Leadership’s Class 45, joined CALF 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 ten 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 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 her daughters.

Peggy Perry, Co-Interim Director of Education

Dr. Peggy Perry 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. Perry was a member of Class 9 of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (CALP), and has been a member of the Education Team since 1986. She has also led the coaching element of the program for the past 10 years. Perry’s 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.

Robert Flores, Co-Interim Director of Education

Dr. Robert Flores recently retired from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after a 37-year career in higher education. He joined Cal Poly in 1983 after teaching high school for five years. At Cal Poly, he served as a department head and professor in the Agricultural Education and Communication Department. Flores has been a member of CALP’s Education Team for almost 25 years and served as director of education from 1997 to 2000. He has also served as a presenter on the topics of preferential behavior, learning styles and values programming. In retirement, Flores continues in his role as a member of the Education Team. Additionally, he is a member of the Medical Service Corp for the County of San Luis Obispo and a co-advisor to the Latinos in Agriculture student organization at Cal Poly. Flores’ 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.


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. and CA Exchange programs. 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 Manager

Deanna van Klaveren (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 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, Alumni Council liaison to the board of directors and the Class 32 liaison. She has also served on the Alumni Council’s leadership team and committees for the Legislative Reception, All Class Reunion, alumni conferences, California Exchange, D.C. Exchange and Life-Long Leadership Learning 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 teenagers, Abby and Micah.

Meredith Ritchie, Marketing & Communications Coordinator

Meredith Rehrman Ritchie, a member of Class 28, joined Ag Leadership 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 and are the proud parents of Marisa and Brandon.

Sharon Harney, Finance Manager

Sharon joined the staff of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation 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.

Kelli Coffey, Donor Relations Manager

Kelli joined the Ag Leadership staff in March 2022. She is responsible for fundraising activities and donor relations. Previously, Kelli worked as assistant director of reunion giving at Santa Clara University. She brings her experience in alumni giving, matching gifts, legacy planning and stewardship to the foundation. Kelli holds an MBA in agribusiness and a BA in business and Spanish. Kelli lives in Monterey with her husband, Tom and their daughter, Devon.

Mia Mirassou, Administrative Assistant

Mia joined the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation staff 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/Editor

Liza works in a freelance writing and editing role for the foundation. Her responsibilities include writing and editing Horizons magazine, the In Touch e-newsletter, annual reports, news releases, website content, social media, 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.

Darlene Din, Exchange Programs Consultant

Darlene Din (35) provides guidance and assistance to staff and exchange programs committees, following many years of volunteer and contractor support to the foundation. She also supports staff and the Education Team related to the domestic and international seminars, organizing exchange activities and developing and proposing exchange program expansion options, consistent with the strategic plan.