Candidate information includes a brief description of their farming operation, role in that operation, and/or business experience.
Julie Betschart – Ripon, CA
As a fourth generation family farmer, I have been blessed to be raised surrounded by hard working, dedicated and caring individuals. Current commodities include almonds and walnuts. My role ranges from partner and Chief Financial Officer to laborer. Having the opportunity to address the legal requirements affecting the ag industry, yet still being able to drive equipment in the orchards provides a sense of balance. My experience also includes maintaining and investing a $500 million annual budget, supervising a staff exceeding 500 and working with all stakeholders to collectively ensure that the best decisions are made.
Walter de Bruyn – Escalon, CA
I have been a part-time almond farmer since I was 25 years old, while working in banking. I am currently in the process of redeveloping 20 acres of almonds. I make all the management and financial decisions and leave the actual farming practices to a professional ranch manager/farmer. I was in banking for over 30 years and currently the credit manager for a family-owned feed grain company. During my banking career, I have worked with a wide variety of ag producers in a number of western states. This has provided me insights to people and issues that are common to agriculture and what issues are localized.
Lisa Hawkins – Waterford, CA
My husband, Ross and I have been farming almonds in Stanislaus county since 1991. Most recently we have added over 300 acres on Hawkins Road in Hickman, which is the family homestead. Additionally, my family has been farming in the Lodi area for over 50 years with grape, cherries and a packing operation.
Michelle Galimba – Naalehu, HI
My family operates a beef cattle ranch in the district of Ka’u on Hawai’i Island, providing grass-fed beef to local restaurants and supermarkets. We also ship cattle to be fed in Texas. I am the VP of our operation, mostly doing administration and project management, but also everything else. I have been VP of our company for the past six years.
David Rowe – Hilo, HI
I currently grow Macadamia nuts on Hawaii Island. Our family farm is also beginning viability trials for three additional future crops. I own and manage the farm, with help from family members as well as seasonal workers. I have twenty years of farm and ranch experience, with the majority of that time spent in far Northern California with Alfalfa, potatoes, and cattle. I also previously co-owned an ATV/AG equipment dealership.
Mark Higgins – Adin, CA
Own and operate a first-generation 1,450+/- acre Registered Black Angus seed stock ranch in northern Lassen County, CA. I oversee the production of our hay and forage needs, maintain all of our equipment, develop marketing strategies for our cattle, and assist commercial beef and other seed stock producers with breeding decisions. Management of CAL FIRE battalions, training programs, hiring committees, tire stations, conservation camps. Worked with personnel at all levels in private industry as well as local, state, and federal governments on project development and mitigation of emergency incidents.
Holly Camozzi – Rohnert Park, CA
I am the co-owner of a beef cattle operation that was formerly a dairy we ran. We also plant and harvest our own hay for the cattle. In addition, with the physical work on the ranch, I have been in charge of the bookkeeping and required reporting (including employees). We have owned the operation since 1984 and worked with American Ag Credit to purchase the land previously rented. Previous job experiences include Office Manager for a CPA firm that dealt with agricultural businesses to my recent retirement from Petaluma City Schools where I held many positions and volunteered to organize many community events such as job fairs and giving tree for the district.
Eric Flanagan – Healdsburg, CA
I own and operate a winery and vineyard in Sonoma County, California, that I started in 1999. I manage all of the farming, all wholesale sales, and am involved in every aspect of the business. I also manage a group that owns six north coast-area vineyards with 370 acres in vine. Previously I owned and ran a fixed income arbitrage hedge fund and, prior to that, traded for several other groups. I closed my fund at the end of 2013 and am now fully occupied with my farming and winery businesses. As owner and CEO of such different businesses, I have enjoyed diverse experiences. Because both were (are) small businesses I wore many hats at each business.
Claudia Lima – Arcata, CA
My husband and I are in the logging and timberland business in Humboldt County. My role in our operation is co-owner and administrative duties. My business experience has been in lumber, logging and timberlands for over 40 years.
Daisy Huang – Saratoga, CA
I own an almond farm in Herald, California.
Greg Pruett – Carmel, CA
I am the CEO of Vaquero Farms which farms olives, cherries, and almonds in Contra Costa County and processing tomatoes, garlic, and cotton in Fresno County. Vaquero supplies tomatoes to Ingomar Packing Company, which is a grower-owned business with four other partners. Vaquero Farms is the majority owner and managing partner of Ingomar. Located in Merced County, Ingomar is the second-largest tomato processor in the U.S. I have been the President/CEO of Ingomar since 1990 and of Vaquero Farms since 2002.
Ed Embly – Escondido, CA
I have been involved in farming almost my entire life. My father started an egg production farm in 1947. This operation grew into a family farming business that eventually comprised three generations of our family. At peak production, we had over 20 farms, in three states, with over two million laying hens, a 200 head cow/calf operation, and extensive processing and distribution facilities. After serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, I was involved in all aspects of this family operation. I also spent many years representing two agricultural equipment manufacturers, both within the United States and many foreign countries. Since I retired in 2004, I have been an avocado producer and a vineyard/winery owner. We grow five varieties of white grapes and 11 varieties of red grapes. Our production runs between 2,000 to 3,500 cases of wine per year, which is sold directly to the consumer.
Steven Van Houten – Murrieta, CA
I have had a successful 20+ year business career. My current role is as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer of Rancon Group and its subsidiary Europa Village Winery and Resort. I have served in this role for the past nine years. My core responsibility is to lead and manage the diverse company as it transitions and prepares for a different market and opportunities. I have also advised other companies and served as a college professor in Business Finance. At the Europa Village winery, we have developed a strategy to build and operate a winery resort. This winery will include vineyards, wine production, restaurant, hotels, and event facilities. Our plan is to build a resort-themed around the wine-producing regions of Europe, including Spanish, Italian, and French wineries. In this past year, we have successfully expanded by building our Spanish winery and adding additional vineyards.