Next Generation of Leaders Gets Yearlong Almond Immersion

Almond Board of California (ABC) has unveiled its 2017 Almond Leadership Program class, a group of 18 future leaders representing nearly every aspect of the industry: growers, processors, suppliers, retailers, and pest control advisers.

Participants will spend the next year in a structured program, with the oversight of volunteer mentors, preparing them to become leaders not just within the California almond industry, but also in their communities.

The class will complete specialized training in a wide variety of topic areas, such as food safety, biomass utilization, honey extraction, and nutrition research. Over the course of the year, they will spend time in nurseries, almond orchards, a USDA research facility, and other venues where they will get hands-on experience and training.

Along the way, the participants will build relationships and develop communications skills; gain a clear understanding of current social, political, scientific, and economic issues facing the almond industry, as well as how to effect change; and learn how all sectors along the almond supply chain work together.

At the end of the year, each participant will have to present their findings from a yearlong self-directed project designed to advance industry knowledge in an area of interest to them. In the past, some of these projects have led to important breakthroughs for the industry. ABC is currently conducting follow-up research on the promising initial project of one of last year’s almond leaders around an alternative use of almond hulls and shells.

“We are so fortunate to have this program,” said Kent Stenderup, a member of the ABC Board of Directors and also a volunteer mentor for this year’s Almond Leadership Program. “As an industry, we get to interact with the best and brightest individuals who will lead us in the decades to come. This program grounds these participants in the latest industry knowledge, but also teaches them how to be leaders, and to understand the responsibilities that come with that.”

This year’s class has also pledged to raise $25,000 for California Future Farmers of America (FFA) scholarships.

Over the past eight years, the program has graduated more than 100 participants. Daniel Bays of Westley is one of those alumni. The third-generation grower was in the program in 2013.

“I loved going through the Almond Leadership Program,” he said. “It was invaluable for me. Even as someone who grew up in the industry, I had a lot to learn. The attention to the curriculum, as well as the emphasis on leadership and the responsibility we have to give back to our communities, are what I took from the program.”

Members of this year’s class include: Lucas Avila, Farmland Management Services; Annie Benisch, Stewart & Jasper; Christina Brichetto, Terra Nova Trading Inc.; Brennon Christopher, Semios; Devin Clarke, Stanislaus Farm Supply; Kevin Esau, Arysta LifeScience; Luke Heuer, Heuer Farms; Ashley Hollis, Almond Alliance of California; Robert Holtermann, Holtermann Farms; Marcus McClure, Gar Tootelian, Inc.; Chris Parreira, RPAC; Michelle Penney, Del Rio Nut Company; Sharon Rucker, Law Office of Sharon E. Rucker, PC; Bret Sill, Sill Properties Inc.; Bikramjit Singh, Bapu Almonds Co., Inc.; Katelynn Staack, Grizzly Nut; Ryan Sunzeri, Sunworks; and Cameron White, Sierra View Ranch.

The 2017 Almond Leadership Program is sponsored by Sunworks, Inc. .

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