2023-2024 Nominating Committee Candidates
Candidate information includes a brief description of their farming operation, role in that operation, and/or business experience.
Jaime Esteves – Denair, CA
Almond farmer. My husband and I bought our first farm in 2015 and developed the ground the following year into an almond orchard. Since then we have purchased other parcels and developed the ground. We farm in Glenn County and Stanislaus County. I run the financials for the farming business.
Justin Finsley – Las Vegas, NV
As a first-generation farmer lacking family farming heritage, I leverage my graduate education in agriculture and the existing relationships with university researchers and my community farmers to make the best decisions. My 18 years in the US Air Force as a Director of Flight Operations and Combat Pilot taught me that I’ll never be fully prepared for the next operation or decision. My experience in value investing and financial equity options premium selling also gave me exposure to risk and uncertainty for my business to thrive in the uncertain industry of agriculture. After these experiences I developed bare land into a 120-acre Chandler Walnut Orchard, reestablished a 40-acre Chardonnay vineyard into Independence Almonds, and manage 15 acres of Old Vine Zinfandel in San Joaquin County. I now run the farming operations for these 175 acres of walnuts, almonds and grapes in Central California’s San Joaquin County.
Janie Gatzman – Oakdale, CA
Grower/Huller-Sheller/Processor-Handler of CA Almonds (Travaille & Phippen/TAP); almond grower (N&J Gatzman Farming). No official role in TAP or N&J, though involved in succession discussions and I keep up with what they’re doing. I advise on property acquisitions for TAP Land, and N&J Gatzman Farming as well. As part owner of N&J I sign the loan docs as well! I operate my own agricultural property appraisal business (Gatzman Appraisal), specializing in investment-size nut crop holdings throughout CA’s Central Valley and in northwestern AZ. I have operated this business for six years and worked as an appraiser for American AgCredit for 14 years prior (roles there included: staff appraiser, senior appraiser, and regional appraisal manager).
Lee Ann Kreps – Madera, CA
I farm 40 acres of pistachios with my husband. We started the field from open cattle ground and took it from its initial planning stage to development and scaffold training, to its current 8 leaf production status. Last year we harvested 66,000 pounds of nuts and hope to double that this year.
Michelle Galimba – Na’alehu, HI
Cattle Ranch, Vice President.
Thomas Greenwell – Kealakekua, HI
Coffee farming and processing for the past 38 years. Manager of Greenwell Farms (Family-owned operation) since 1992 to present.
Eric Flanagan – Healdsburg, CA
I own and operate my wine business and also manage a vineyard investment fund where I farm 370 acres of grapes.
Louis Venturini – Chico, CA
Currently own and operate a 100+- cow/calf operation. Custom care service for 500+- stockers. Grain hay production for personal and some retail sales. Agricultural operations originated with my own capital and inputs. Retired after 37 years in the agriculture lending field, 25 years with Farm Credit, balance with a local community bank and large insurance company lending department. Now performing agricultural and chattel appraisals on a part time basis. Previous agricultural experience includes 4 years with a large row crop and orchard operation, along with 4 years with a large livestock operation, both in Northern California.
Daisy Huang – Saratoga, CA
I and my partner own a 50 acres almond farm since 2018. Also working in real estate and mortgage industry for more than 20 years.
Kevin Tottino – Salinas, CA
I am 4th generation of Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville, CA. I grew up working summers in various positions on the farm from moving sprinkler pipe and drip tape to harvesting artichokes. I also worked at the cooling facility as a mechanic for forklifts, ammonia systems and loaded semi-trucks. I had done internships throughout college for Mission Avocado and Ocean Mist Farms in sales and marketing. Once graduated I started as a commodity harvest manager and later on took on establishing Ocean Mist Farms processing plant as operations manager. working in operations has always interested me the most, working with the entire team from grower all the way through sales. I was able to work with everyone across the company to create our end product.
Edward Embly – Escondido, CA
I have been involved in farming almost my entire life. My father started an egg production farm in 1947 and this operation grew into a family farming business that eventually comprised three generations of our family. At its peak we had over 20 farm locations, in four states, with over 2 million laying hens, a 200 head cow/calf operation, and extensive processing and distribution facilities. I was involved in most aspects of this business. I also spent many years representing two agricultural equipment manufacturers, both in 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 5 varieties of white grapes and 11 varieties of red grapes. Our wine production is approximately 2,000 cases per year, which is sold direct to consumers.
Steven Van Houten – Murrieta, CA
I have had a successful 25+ year business career. My current role is as Chief Executive Officer of the Rancon Group and its subsidiary Europa Village Winery & Resort. I previously served as CFO and COO for this same company. My core responsibility is to lead company strategy and manage the diverse company as its expands and prepares for market 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 the finest winery resort. Our strategy is to build a resort themed around the wine producing regions of Europe, including France, Italy and Spain. This winery includes vineyards, wine production, restaurant, hotels and
event facilities. We recently won winery of the year and 25 of our wines were awarded with 25 points or more by Wine Spectator.
Bryan Vander Dussen – Ontario, CA
Owner/operator of Bryan and Son’s, LLC. Primary business is raw milk production on a dairy in southern California. In addition, cow/calf operation for the private sale of beef. I am also brokering forages from Arizona and California such as alfalfa, straw, sudan, bermuda and klein for resale to the dairy industry.