CENTRAL: 2 seats
Julie Betschart – Ripon, CA
As a 4th 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 dollar budget, supervising a staff exceeding 500 and working with all stakeholders to collectively ensure that the best decisions are made.
Justin Finsley – El Dorado Hills, CA
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 15 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 am now self-exporting and working with foreign companies on branding their products with a sense of place to connect quality with location/origin in their consumer products.
Lisa Hawkins – Waterford, CA
My husband and I have been farming almonds in Stanislaus County since 1989. We started with 19 acres in Waterford and in 1991 applied for a first time farmer loan with FSA to purchase 44 more acres in Hickman. Currently, my husband and his brother formed Hawkins Legacy Farms, LLC and farm approximately 250 acres on Hawkins Rd. in Hickman, 125 acres they own outright and another 125 acres in a lease hold. In 2019, my husband and I purchased another 128 acres adjacent to the Hawkins Legacy Farms orchards. My husband is the primary farm manager and together we handle the financial duties on the Hawkins Farming entities. My brother in law handles the financial responsibilities for Hawkins Legacy Farms and I assist when necessary. I recently retired after 11 years working for my mother and late stepfather as the Administration Manager for the R.L. & C.W. Reynolds Family LLC. They have 50+ years of farming grapes and cherries, partnerships in M&R Packing & Oakridge Winery in Lodi.
HAWAII: 2 seats
Michelle Galimba – Naalehu, HI
I am the Vice President of our family cattle ranch, Kuahiwi Ranch, running about 1600 mother cows on 9000 acres, as well as raising approximately 700 head a year for grass-fed beef for our local markets in Hawaii. We also send 700-900 head of weanlings to Texas to be fed per year. I have worked for our cattle ranch from its inception, helping to grow it from a startup to its present operation, and am passionate about continuous improvement for our ranch and agriculture, especially in terms of sustainability and more resilient rural communities.
INTERMOUNTAIN: 2 seats
Lani Estill – Cedarville, CA
I was the accountant and CFO for our cattle and sheep operation from 1992-2017. We have fed cattle in Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado, but the root of our business is High Desert range livestock. I was instrumental in acquiring financing for the operation and enjoyed our interactions with American AgCredit. In 2017, I started a yarn company using the wool that we produce on the ranch. As a small business owner, I am still doing the accounting, but also the yarn development, fabric design, marketing and sales. Our wool can be found in The North Face, Cali-Wool Collection, and in the Coyuchi, Climate Beneficial Collection, as well as in the project bag of many knitters!
Peter Olsen – Fallon, NV
I operate a dairy farm operation in partnership with my two brothers. We have 2500 head milking cows, farm 600 acres owned, lease 700 acres to grow feed for the dairy. We run our own harvesting operation for our own farm and my son’s dairy operation.
Preston Wright – Deeth, NV
Marys River Ranch is a cow/calf operation, running on private rangeland and BLM allotments, with occasional stocker or custom pasture enterprises to supplement cattle numbers during the growing season. Hay is grown and harvested on extensive flood irrigated hay meadows, and on a few pump irrigated center pivots. Since 1992 I have managed the day to day ranching operations, and have been the primary liaison with state and federal agencies relative to the rights and permits associated with livestock and hay production. Over the past 15 years I have taken the lead role in negotiating leases and contracts relative to mineral rights and oil and gas rights owned by Wright Land Company, the limited partnership owning the real property associated with Marys River Ranch.
NORTHERN: 2 seats
Damien Caton – Napa, CA
Walnut farming. I formally play the role of Treasurer in our small family corporation and informally as the General Manager / Administrator. In terms of my overall business experience: I have 20 years of experience in the food and wine industries while performing leadership roles in the areas of accounting/finance, procurement, supply chain and operations. I have ascended to the Vice President of Supply Chain for the second largest family owned winery in the United States.
Eric Flanagan – Healdsburg, CA
I own Flanagan Wines which I started in 2001. I also manage a vineyard investment fund called Russian River Partners that I launched in 2015. I oversee all the vineyard management, make all the acquisition decisions, raise all the capital, and manage the business. I have raised $16mm in equity and used additional financing from American AgCredit to acquire 370 acres of vineyards across the North Coast. Previously I was the majority owner and founding partner of a fixed income arbitrage hedge fund. I was active in financial markets from 1985 when I joined Citicorp Investment Bank (after my graduation with a BA in Economics from Wake Forest), until March of 2014 when I closed my hedge fund. My areas of expertise include a very deep understanding of money, leverage, and risk management. Over the last 20 years I have added an in depth knowledge of all aspects of the wine business including: vineyard and winery acquisition, vineyard management, wine business management, and sales.
Stephanie Honig – Rutherford, CA
My husband and I run our family’s business. I have been the Director of Sales, Communications and Export since 2006. My main responsibilities are marketing our brand, promoting Honig wines in 50 states and 25 countries and working with media to expose the brand to as many people as possible. Before coming into the family business; I worked for LVMH in New York and also produced, imported and marketed my own wine brand from Argentina (where I grew up).
John Muhlner – St. Helena, CA
My wife and I farm and sell to local wineries four varieties of wine grapes and buy, feed, and sell black Angus cattle. After spending approximately 40 years in commercial banking, we purchased land east of St. Helena, CA about 20 plus years ago and began a new carrier in farming/ranching. We have enjoyed the opportunity to return to our roots.
SALINAS: 2 seats
Tom Bengard – Salinas, CA
Most of my time is spent helping to manage our Salinas vegetable growing/shipping operation with other members of my family and our management team. I worked for over 16 years in the production department of our business where I was involved in all aspects of farming the vegetable crops. I also spent several years developing and managing the food safety department of our business. In total I have over 28 years of experience working full time in the vegetable growing and shipping business.
Daisy Huang – Saratoga, CA
I am new farm owner, actively involved in farm operations. Actively manage the accounting of the farm. Currently residential loan agent since 1999.
SOUTHERN: 2 seats
John Redmond – Escondido, CA
Wine Grower (2016-Current), owner of 105 acre estate in San Diego County with 10 acres of wine grapes and boutique winery. Bought bare dirt and installed 10 acres of vines in 2016. Built winery and vinted wine in 2019. Anticipate opening tasting room in 2020 with business model of DTC wine sales. Avocado Orchard (2010-2018), owned 7 acres of mature producing avocado trees in San Diego county harvesting up to 120,000 pounds of Hass Avocados. Cattle Rancher, grew up on my parent’s cow/calf ranch in North Dakota working all aspects of farming and ranching.
Steve 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 CFO role for the past 6 years and COO was added to my responsibilities last year. 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.