Introducing FFVA’s newest emerging leaders

Members of Class 6 of FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program are excited, motivated and ready to learn.

Travis Kuhn, one of the new class members, summed it up this way: “I’m looking forward to interacting with industry leaders in Florida and building relationships with the next generation of Florida agriculture!”

Here’s an introduction to the 12 members of Class 6 who will spend the next year learning about all facets of Florida specialty crop agriculture. The program identifies up-and-coming leaders and equips them with the knowledge they need to become effective advocates for FFVA and agriculture. They will be introduced to the industry at FFVA 2016, our 73rd Annual Convention, in September.

Simon Bollin

As agribusiness development manager for the Hillsborough County Economic Development Department, Simon serves as a liaison between farmers and the county on state and county regulatory and legislative issues. He assists in the promotion, development and expansion of agriculture and agribusiness in the county. Simon graduated with a degree in agronomy from Purdue University and is a Soil Science Society of America certified crop advisor. He is a member of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau and serves on many committees and volunteer projects.

“I’m looking forward to this great opportunity and to meet and getting to know current and past ELDP class participants,” Simon said. “The relationships nurtured along with knowledge gained during the program will be a significant benefit to my professional development as an emerging leader in the Florida agriculture industry.”

Andrew Bryan

Andrew is a sod supervisor for A. Duda and Sons in Lake Placid. He graduated six years ago from the University of Florida with a degree in Food and Resource Economics. He serves as vice president of the Highland County Young Farmers and Ranchers and is active in the Heartland Jaycees, Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Turfgrass Association.

“I believe FFVA is one of the stronger voices advocating for our fresh produce industry,” he said. “As part of the ELDP, I plan to further develop my current skill set and awareness of the industry in order to return and fulfill my part in being a voice for our industry.”

Emily Duda Buckley

Emily is government relations manager for Jones Walker, a law firm that offers clients a central point of access to the state’s legislative, judicial and executive branches.  She received her bachelor’s degree in political science and criminology from Florida State University. Emily serves the firm’s clients by working on agricultural issues such as water, land management and agribusiness. She is a member of the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists, Florida Farm Bureau, the Florida Ag Coalition and more.

By participating in the ELDP, Emily hopes to “be able to better articulate the issues facing Florida agriculture and ensure that it remains a priority of our elected officials.”

Tony Flottemesch

Tony is a senior financial analyst for Lipman Family Farms in Immokalee.  He and his team are responsible for budgeting, cost analyses of operations by farm and by commodity, tax preparation, audits and financial reporting. He earned a degree in accounting from Bowling Green University and enjoys volunteering his time at the numerous Lipman community service functions.

Tony believes his ELDP experience will further his knowledge and help him gain a deeper understanding of the industry. “I have been with Lipman for more than four years and have a good understanding of how our company works, the issues we face and how we grow our product,” he said. “I would like to expand on that knowledge by networking with others in the industry to see how they are dealing with the same issues, what success they have had and what upcoming challenges they see.”

Rachel Giles

As environmental compliance manager for Bedner Growers Inc., Rachel supervises a variety of vegetable production aspects including spray record documentation, food safety records and compliance, employee training, WPS training, environmental sampling and equipment calibrations.  A graduate of the Florida Culinary Arts Institute, she has completed PrimusGFS auditor and other professional level training relevant to vegetable production. She enjoys volunteering with the Boy Scouts.

“ELDP will provide an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge about many different types of agricultural operations,” she said. “I feel the ELDP will give me the skills to become a stronger leader within my company and help them produce a safe, fresh, and sustainable product.”

Kyle Hill

Farming runs deep in Kyle Hill’s family. A third-generation FFVA member, he serves as farm manager at his family’s operation, Southern Hill Farms, growing blueberries north of Orlando. Kyle holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a minor in Spanish from the University of North Florida. He’s active in volunteer projects with the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity and was elected as its “Brother of the Year.”

“In order for a business to be successful, it has to be run by a great leader. It all starts by leading by example. As the farm manager of a 40-acre blueberry farm, I take pride in having earned the respect of my employees. I believe that in order to do so, you must be out there in the field showing them exactly what it is that needs to be done. The FFVA program will help me acquire the additional skills that it takes to lead successfully,” he said.

Travis Kuhn

Travis serves as a strategic business analyst for Spring Valley Farms in Umatilla. He works with management to improve and streamline processes, perform strategic analyses of future expansions and take care of packinghouse operations when needed. He earned a degree in food and resource economics from the University of Florida and is active in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity. He also enjoys participating as a panelist in industry events.

“The Emerging Leaders Program will be a piece of my continuing education, meeting with policy makers, farmers and other industry professionals to learn about the challenges being faced by the industry and what I, as the next generation of agriculture, can do to protect and carry on the legacy into the future,” he said.

John McIntyre

John is a technical sales representative with HM Clause Inc. in Stuart. He earned a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and a master’s degree in plant and environmental sciences from Clemson University.  He has been a member of the National and the North and South Carolina Associations of County Agricultural Agents, the Florida Seed Association and the Clemson University Horticulture Club.

Regarding his participation in the leadership program, John said, “Having chosen to make my career in the specialty crop industry, starting off as a fruit and vegetable extension agent and then transitioning into the vegetable seed industry, I feel that it is important to get involved and be a part of the industry. If agriculture is to have a viable future, it is imperative for the younger generations to step up and take an active role.”

Scott Payne

Scott is supply chain manager at J&J Family of Farms. He graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in multidisciplinary studies with a concentration in religious studies. Scott is responsible for managing all aspects of the operation’s supply chain including communicating with purchasing staff to maintain proper inventory levels. He has a well-rounded background in management and sales.

Scott looks forward to meeting people in many sectors of the ag industry and learning about their areas of expertise “so I can bring those lessons back to the company I work for and hopefully help facilitate changes within our particular business. I believe information is the key to success and I strive to become as knowledgeable in my field as possible,” he said.

Jeff Searcy

Jeff is a sales representative for Helena Chemical Co. in Bradenton. He has a master’s degree in agribusiness and a bachelor’s degree in food and resource economics from the University of Florida. He is a Florida Certified Crop Advisor and is active in Little League baseball and church volunteer programs.  Jeff also was selected to serve on the Manatee County Vegetable Advisory Committee.

“Becoming a member of the FFVA Emerging Leader Development program will provide the opportunity to gain a more complete understanding on the current state of Florida agriculture and an outlook into the future of our industry.  The Emerging Leader Development Program will introduce me to peers in the industry that together I can grow with and help promote Florida agriculture for many years to come,” Jeff said.

Zachary Sweat

Zachary is a sales consultant for TriEst Ag Group Inc., a seller of a variety of soil fumigants and plastic mulch. Besides selling, he sets up and calibrates products, consults and provides customer service. He received a degree in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida. He gives his time to many industry, academic and church causes.

“The time I have spent working alongside Florida’s farmers and producers has not only given me a better appreciation for our most valuable industry, it has made me proud to be a small part of it.  Because of this, I would like to continue my journey of personal development and leadership in the Florida agricultural industry by participating in the FFVA ELDP,” Zachary said.

Jordan Yancy

As a forecaster for Driscolls, Jordan is responsible for forecasting of more than 2,300 acres of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and New Jersey. While attending the University of Florida, he was a Bud Adams Scholarship recipient. Jordan is a believer in volunteer work and has served in numerous capacities – even playing Santa Claus for many years to entertain local children.

Jordan looks forward to expanding his agriculture horizons with ELDP and especially looks forward to the Tallahassee visit “to learn how legislation affects the agriculture industries and our communities,” he said.

To learn more about the Emerging Leader Development Program and follow along with the year’s events, visit the ELDP website.

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