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United Fresh introduces Class 26 of the Produce Industry Leadership Program

United Fresh Produce Association logo

WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 25, 2021) – Today, United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 announced the members of the 2021-2022 United Fresh Produce Industry Leadership Program Leadership Class 26.

United Fresh introduced the 12 members of Class 26 during a live webinar, which included a celebration of Class 25, before they graduate next month at the United Fresh Washington Conference.

Sponsored by Corteva Agriscience, the leadership program was launched in 1995 and has graduated more than 250 program participants.

The Produce Industry Leadership Program welcomes the following professionals to its 26th Class:

• Sonya Carrillo, Wonderful Citrus
• Travis Catalani, B. Catalani, Inc.
• Kyle Hackett, Dayka & Hackett
• John Haycox, Costco Wholesale
• Austin Kirtley, Kesi Management
• Meaghan McGrath, Local Bounti
• Kathy Michael Sponheim, Michael Family Farms
• William Nardelli Jr., Nardelli Brothers
• Rachelle Schulken, Renaissance Food Group
• Jeremy Taylor, DNO Produce
• Joseph Vargas, FirstFruits Marketing
• Jennifer Velasquez, Full Tilt Marketing

“Class 26 comprises a great mix of up-and-coming leaders throughout the fresh produce industry,” said Amanda Griffin, Vice President, Education & Program Management, United Fresh. “We have an engaging leadership journey lined up for the class over the next year, including an exciting return to in-person events.”

Beginning this September, the members of Leadership Class 26 will participate in a number of educational events and outings centered on the four core focus areas of the program: leadership development, business relationships, government and public affairs, and media and public communications.

“We are proud to continue supporting the industry’s premier leadership program, investing in future industry leaders as well as the fresh produce industry as a whole,” said Joe Kelsay, US Food Chain CoNNEXT, from program sponsor Corteva Agriscience. “We are excited for the first fellows of the next quarter-century of the program to begin their journey soon.”

During the year-long fellowship, participants will take part in a series of customized trips which include face-to-face meetings with leading industry players, hands-on training with top industry experts and educators, interactive experiences with influential leaders in Washington, and more.

First up, Class 26 will attend the annual United Fresh Washington Conference, September 20-22 in Washington, D.C.

Candidates selected for the program submitted an application including essays on what they consider the most important challenges affecting the produce industry, and had interviews with members of the Leadership Advisory Committee comprised of United Fresh Board members and program alumni.

The committee is responsible for assessing each candidate based on their experience and expertise, as well as developing a class that is balanced and representative of the industry.

For questions or additional information on the Produce Industry Leadership Program, visit or contact Amanda Griffin, Vice President, Education & Program Management, United Fresh at or 202-303-3412.

About United Fresh Produce Association
Founded in 1904, the United Fresh Produce Association brings together companies across every segment of the fresh produce supply chain, including growers, shippers, fresh cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations.

We empower industry leaders to shape sound government policy. We deliver the resources and expertise companies need to succeed in managing complex business and technical issues. We provide the training and development individuals need to advance their careers in produce. Through these endeavors, we unite out industry with a common purpose – to build long-term value for our members and grow produce consumption. For more information, visit


Ben Massoud