(May 23) The new class of produce industry leaders has been announced by the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C.

Each year, the foundation selects 12 new candidates to participate in a leadership class that focuses on the goals of leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public communications, said senior vice president of member services and foundation Victoria Backer.

“The benefit of the program is that it’s multifaceted,” Backer said. “(Class members) get to see a lot of the industry beyond what they normally see. They develop relationships not only within the class but also with people they meet.”

The program expands class members’ understanding of the produce industry through customized field and facility tours, training with expert educators, and meeting with industry leaders and innovators, Backer said.

The program is presented through the United Fresh Research and Education Foundation and is sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection.

This year’s class:

  • Katy Blowers, Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, Calif.

  • Ricardo Crisantes, Cris-P Produce Co. Inc., Nogales, Ariz.

  • Maile Shanahan Geis, Buy California Marketing Agreement, Sacramento, Calif.

  • John Gurrisi, Darden Restaurants, Orlando, Fla.

  • Robert Kirch, Caito Foods Service Inc., Indianapolis

  • Amy Kunugi, Southern Colorado Farms, Center, Colo.

  • Justin Parnagian, Fowler Packing Co. Inc., Fresno, Calif.

  • Todd Penza, Pinto Bros. Inc., Philadelphia

  • Mark Shaw, Markon Inc., Salinas

  • Tammy Sparkman, Wal-Mart Stores, Bentonville, Ark.

  • Brian Thure, River Ranch Fresh Foods LLC, Salinas

  • Michael Wise, Horton Fruit Co., Louisville, Ky.