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Presenter Biography's

Kevin Spafford, Event Partner

Just prior to the publication of his book Legacy by Design: Succession Planning for Agribusiness Owners (Marketplace Books®) in 2006, Kevin founded Legacy by Design, a succession planning firm dedicated exclusively to serving the succession planning needs of farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness owners. Since then, he’s identified strategies and spearheaded initiatives to help America’s farm families plan for success.

As the architect, talent, and creative resource behind the Farm Journal Legacy Project, Kevin effected consumer behavior and improved the way farmers, ranchers, and agribusiness owners engage in the succession planning process. Over the last 8 years, Kevin has:

  • Been published more than 300 times in the Ag industry’s leading magazines.
  • Facilitated more than 100 live presentations across the U.S. to 10,000+ participants.
  • Written multiple workbooks and created approximately 50 original client engagement tools.
  • Produced 250 weekly eNews pieces which were distributed to recipients across the U.S.
  • Hosted/wrote/co-produced 5 seasons of ‘Leave a Legacy’ TV.

Today, as a succession planning consult and wealth manager, Kevin serves client families throughout California.

Visit with Kevin in the trade show or catch him as the event emcee

Legacy By Design, LLC
Ryan Wealth Management



KAREN ROSS was appointed Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture on January 12, 2011, by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Secretary Ross has deep leadership experience in agricultural issues nationally, internationally, and here in California. Prior to joining CDFA, Secretary Ross was chief of staff for U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a position she accepted in 2009. Prior to that appointment, she served as President of the California Association of Winegrape Growers from 1996- 2009, and as Vice-President of the Agricultural Council of California from 1989-1996. Before moving to California, Secretary Ross served as Director of Government Relations for the Nebraska Rural Electric Association and as Field Representative for U.S. Senator Edward Zorinsky.
Secretary Ross is passionate about fostering the reconnection of consumers to the land and the people who produce their food, and to improving the access of all California citizens to healthy, nutritious California-grown agricultural products, celebrated for their diversity and abundance in serving local, national and global markets.
During Secretary Ross' tenure, the Department has focused on core functions to protect and promote California agriculture in a time of significant budget reductions, and it has emphasized change-management to position the agency to more effectively and efficiently serve its stakeholders in meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.
Secretary Ross has strengthened partnerships across government, academia and the non- profit sector in the drive to maintain and improve environmental stewardship and to develop adaptation strategies for the specific impacts of climate change. She has initiated programs to provide greater opportunities for farmers and ranchers to engage in sustainable environmental stewardship practices through water conservation, energy efficiency, nutrient management and ecosystem services.
Secretary Ross grew up as a 4-H kid on a farm in western Nebraska. She and her husband, Barry, own 800 acres of the family farm where her younger brother, a fourth-generation farmer, grows dryland wheat, feed grains and cattle. The Secretary has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is a graduate of the Nebraska Ag Leadership Program. She has served on numerous boards and committees in California
agriculture and with various academic institutions.

See Secretary Ross speak to the Future of Food and Farming in California at 8:30 am on Wednesday, November 8th

California Department of Food & Agriculture

David Shabazian, Program Manager, SACOG

David Shabazian was named as the Program Manager for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments’ Rural-Urban Connections Strategy in 2007. This unprecedented program strives to enhance rural economic viability through strategies that expand the region’s food systems. To that end, David has pioneered spatial agricultural economic modeling and market analyses to help public and private interests make better-informed decisions. His work is recognized nationally, including by Harvard’s Ash Center as a “Top 25” program in the 2015 Innovations in American Government Awards competition. David was raised on a small farm in California’s Central Valley. He attended UC Davis where he earned a BS in Agricultural Economics and an MS in regional planning. David serves on the boards of the Center for Land-Based Learning and the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. David is also an alumnus of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation.

See David speak on Agriculture Development Opportunites in the North State at 9:00 am on Tuesday, November 7th

Sacramento Area Council of Governments
RUCS Report


Dr. Marrone is currently CEO/Founder of Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI), a company she started in 2006 to discover and develop bio-based products for pest management and plant health. On August 2, 2013, MBI listed its stock as MBII on NASDAQ. The company’s award winning products, Regalia® Biofungicide, Grandevo® Bioinsecticide, Venerate® Bioinsecticide and Majestene® Bionematicide are used in fruit, nut, vegetable and row crop markets. MBI also is marketing Zequanox® for invasive zebra and quagga mussels. MBI has several more products (bioherbicides, another biofungicide and a biofumigant) in the pipeline. In October 2014, Dr. Marrone was awarded Agrow’s “Best Manager with Strategic Vision” for her career-long leadership in biopesticides. Dr. Marrone received the NRDC’s Growing Green Award in “Business Leader” category, to recognize new pioneers in sustainable farming and food. The company received the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award and a California Department of Pesticide Regulation IPM Innovator award. Dr. Marrone founded AgraQuest in 1995 and served as its CEO, Chairman and President until March 2006. AgraQuest commercialized several biopesticide products that became the biological standards for their categories. Before AgraQuest, she was founding president and business unit head for Entotech, Inc. in Davis (CA), a biopesticide subsidiary of Denmark-based Novo Nordisk. At Monsanto, she led the Insect Biology group, which was seeking alternative ways to control insect pests. Dr. Marrone is an alumni-elected trustee of Cornell University, and is on the Board of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research commissioned by the Farm Bill to fund cutting edge food and Ag research. She is also the Treasurer of the Association for Women in Science and is past-Treasurer of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. She is Founding Chair of the Biopesticide Industry Alliance (BPIA), a trade association of more than 100 biopesticide and related companies. She is on the UC Davis Ag and Environmental Sciences and the Cornell University College of Ag and Life Sciences Dean's Advisory Councils. Dr. Marrone holds more than 40 patents and is in high demand to deliver keynote addresses on the future and potential of biologicals for pest management. She was elected by her peers as a Fellow of AAAS (American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science). She has a B.S. in entomology with Honors and Distinction from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in entomology from North Carolina State University.

See Pam speak on Innovations in Entrepreneurship and Agriculture at 10:00 am on Wednesday, November 8th.

Marrone Bio Innovations


Dr. Stark is President of Holganix LLC where he leads the company’s efforts to expand its business into agriculture. Previously, he was a Senior Associate with the Context Network, a strategy and business management firm that helps companies along the food value chain navigate the ever-changing landscape of agriculture and ag technology.

Dr. Stark spent over 25 years with Monsanto Company where he held various senior leadership roles in technology, corporate affairs and business operations. Most recently he was Vice President, Global Trade Partnerships where he led the platform involving all value chain interactions for the global vegetable business. Prior to joining Monsanto's vegetable business, Dr. Stark was Vice President, Consumer Traits for Monsanto and a member of the Global Technology and Corporate Affairs Leadership teams. In this role he initiated and led Monsanto's efforts to develop crops with enhanced attributes for the food industry and consumer, as well as leading all biotechnology (GMO) issue management with the global food value chain. Prior to this Dr. Stark was Co-President of Monsanto’s global potato biotechnology business, NatureMark, where he helped Monsanto develop and launch its first product of biotechnology, the NewLeaf potato.

Dr. Stark has a B.S. in genetics from The Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Washington University.

See David speak on Will Mircobes Put a Dent in the Market for Inputs? at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7th



Eric started his career at The Pillsbury Company, receiving his training in classic commodity merchandising as a trader. In 1988, he became a Corporate Officer of International Proteins Corporation (IPC). Along with the former Chairman and President of IPC, Eric purchased the IPC trading book and name, and recapitalized the business in 1990. In 1998, Eric architected the sale of IPC to The Scoular Company, joining the Board of Directors and forming their Industrial Markets Division. In 2007, he left Scoular and formed CP Holdings, LLC, and in 2009 he cofounded Conservis, a management software platform for large-scale farming enterprises. Eric left Conservis at the end of 2016 to lead Pipeline Foods. Eric received his B.S. in Agricultural Economics from the University of Illinois.

Pipeline Foods


Gregory R. Kriehn received his B.S. summa cum laude degree in Physics and Applied Optics from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1997 and his M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1999. He was a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow from 1999 to 2002, and in 2003 completed the requirements for his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering, where he specialized in adaptive optical signal processing of very large, broadband, RF antenna arrays for applications pertaining to RADAR, communications, and radio astronomy.

Since 2003, Dr. Kriehn has been employed, tenured, and promoted to Full Professor at California State University, Fresno, and was awarded “Teacher of the Year” within the Lyles College of Engineering in 2009. He continues to specialize in optics, opto-electronics, and is a founding member and the principle investigator of Fresno State's Unmanned Systems Research Team. He has partnered with Edwards Air Force Base in the testing and development of Unmanned Aerial Systems, and is currently focusing heavily on the application of unmanned systems/drone technology toward agricultural needs within the Central Valley of California. Over the years Dr. Kriehn has received external grants and contracts from Edwards Air Force Base, the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, and NASA, and has worked as a consultant for Toyon Research Corporation and LOHKO Innovation. He is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Optical Society of America (OSA), The International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE), and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

See Dr. Kriehn speak to Utilization of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) as an Imaging and Sensor Platform for Farming Applications at 11:30 am on Tuesday, November 7th



David Slaughter is a professor in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department and director of the SmartFarm Initiative at the University of California, Davis. He received his Ph.D. degree (1987) at the University of Florida, his M.Sc. degree (1984) at North Carolina State University, and his B.Sc. degree (1982) at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Slaughter is a world leader in the development of non-destructive and non-invasive sensing systems for determining the quality, characteristics and identity of agricultural commodities and an expert in mechatronic systems for precision agriculture. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) and has six ASABE paper awards. He holds six US patents related to innovations he developed in these topic areas. He was a pioneer in the development of one of the first robotic fruit harvesting systems and holds the USA patent on the concept of the robotic cultivator. He developed one of the first machine-vision based automatic guidance systems for precision inter-row weed control and for automated spray bandwidth control in row crops. He has developed, not one, but three technologies (based upon: machine vision, x-ray, and RTK-GPS) for automated, pesticide-free, intra-row weed control in specialty crops. He has developed a robust, on-farm system for plant species determination in tomato and lettuce. Moreover, he co-developed 1-cm scale pulsed-jet micro-dosing technology for applying liquid materials onto individual plant leaves and applied this technology to create an automated system for thermal micro-dosing of lethal non-pesticide treatments to control intra-row weeds in organic production systems. Dr. Slaughter’s outstanding work in the area of non-destructive and non-invasive sensing systems for determining important characteristics of agricultural commodities has led to the development of fundamental knowledge, practical methodology and reduction to practice of many nondestructive and noninvasive sensing techniques for the rapid determination of internal quality in agricultural commodities.

See Dr. Slaughter speak to The SmartFarm Initiative at UC Davis - a Vision of the Farm of the Future at 2:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Roger Isom, President, WAPA

Roger is the President/CEO of the Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA) which represents tree nut hullers and processors of almonds, pecans, pistachios and walnuts. WAPA addresses regulatory and legislative issues for the tree nut industry on critical matters including, environmental, safety, food safety, water, water quality, labor, tax and transportation issues. WAPA also provides key consulting services to its members and clients in these same areas. Roger is also the President/CEO of the California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations, which is a voluntary dues based trade Association representing 100% of the cotton growers and cotton gins in the State of California addressing regulatory and legislative issues. Roger is also President of the Ag Energy Consumers Association (AECA) representing the agricultural industry on ag energy issues, including critical general rate cases with the utilities. He is also Chairman of the Agricultural President’s Council, a coalition of over 30 agricultural organizations that have come together to work on political and legislative matters. Lastly, Roger is also the Chairman of the Citizens Advisory Group of Industry (CAGI), an organization made up of the agribusiness, oil, manufacturing and building industries to address air quality issues in the San Joaquin Valley. Roger is a graduate of California State University, Fresno.

See Roger moderate the North State Producer Panel at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Western Agricultural Processors Association

Lau Ackerman, Ag. Manager, Sierra Nevada Brewery

Lau Ackerman grew up on a farm in CO and later received a degree in Agronomy from CSU, Chico. Upon graduation, he went to Paraguay to serve in the Peace Corps with his wife. After returning from South America, Lau worked for the College of Agriculture at CSU, Chico for twelve years before moving over to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. eight years ago as their Agriculture Manager.

See Lau on our on our North State Producer Panel at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Sierra Nevada Brewery


Dan Pronsolino has spent over 20 years managing and developing almond processing facilities in California and Australia. He is currently a partner in Sierra Valley Processing, an almond blanching and roasting facility in Madera, CA, Manager of Dunnigan Hills Hulling and Shelling, one of the newest and largest almond hullers in the state located in Woodland CA, and an owner in Pronsolino Almond Systems and Solutions (PASS Inc). Through PASS Inc, Dan continues to be very active in the advancement of almond processing technology in CA and Australia. His contributions to the industry include automation systems, database software systems, electronic sorting integration, low-dust harvest and stockpiling equipment, and development of powdered almond milk products.

See Dan on our North State Producer Panel at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th


Dennis is the Vice President of Field Operations and Head of Operations at the Orland Facility for Musco Family Olive Company, positions for which he has held for 38 years. Prior to working at Musco Family Olive Company, Dennis worked in various positions with Oscar Meyer and Claussen Pickles. He also started a few businesses including pickle, egg and apiary companies. Dennis is the Vice Chairman and Chair of the research committee for the California Olive Committee and the Chairman for the International Trade Committee with the California Olive Association. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a BA in Finance and Accounting, a degree he earned after completing 4 years serving our country. Dennis also continues to farm olives, walnuts, almonds, prunes and blueberries right here in Glenn County with his sons.

See Dennis on our North State Producer Panel at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Musco Family Olive Co.


Jessica Lundberg is Vice President of People, Planet and Process as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Lundberg Family Farms, the United State’s leading producer of ORGANIC rice and rice products. A member of the Lundberg family’s third generation, she oversees the quality, human resources, safety and environmental initiatives at the company as well as the seed nursery, overseeing the maintenance, purity and development of proprietary rice varieties such as Wehani®, Black Japonica and California Arborio.

Jessica served as the Seed Nursery manager for Lundberg Family Farms from 2003 through 2012 during which time the department looked at organic weed control, organic insect control, organic fertilizers as well as variety purity and selection of rices suitable for growing in California. Citations in research publications during this time were in the areas of organic weed research and organic FERTILIZER research.

Jessica holds a degree in Biological Sciences from California State University at Chico and a Certificate in Plant Breeding from University of California at Davis. She is a graduate of the California Ag Leadership Program (Class 33) and the USA Rice Leadership Program (Class 18). She currently sits as a member of The Organic Center, the California Rice Commission, the California Rice Research Board, the CSU, Chico College of Ag Advisory Council and the Rawlins SUSTAINABILITY Committee.

See Jessica on our North State Producer Panel at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Lundberg Family Farms


Mary is the Executive Director and started with Land-Based Learning in 1998, and has led its growth since that time; in 1998, there was one program and 30 high school students. Today, Land-Based Learning runs five different model programs more than 25 California counties, including the California Farm Academy, the only beginning farmer training, business incubator, and apprenticeship program of its kind in Northern California.

Raised on a small farm in Yolo County, Mary is very active in local, regional and statewide groups, including:

  • Board member of the Yolo County Flood Control and Water Conservation District,
  • Member of the Esparto High School Agriculture Advisory Committee,
  • Member of the California Community Colleges Agriculture & Natural Resources Statewide Advisory Committee, Agriculture, Water, and Environmental Technology,
  • Industry Representative to the California Community Colleges Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy statewide committee,
  • Dame, Les Dames d’Escoffier, Sacramento Chapter statewide committee.

Additionally, Mary served on the Yolo County Planning Commission from 2006-2014 (including two terms as chair), as a member of the Board of the Yolo Land Trust from 2004-2014, including three years as President, and is a founding member of the Yolo Food and Ag Alliance. Mary holds a Master's Degree in Human and Community Development from the Ohio State University (1996), and a B.S. Degree from the University of California at Davis in Agriculture Science and Management, Plant Science Option (1992).

She is an alumnus of the California Agricultural Leadership Program (Class XXXII) and the American Leadership Forum, Mountain Valley Chapter (Class XV). Awards include the C.A.R.E. Award, Wells Fargo (2016), 2014 Profiles in Leadership Award, California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, and the Award of Distinction, UC Davis College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (2003).

See Mary moderate our Next Gen Panel at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Center for Land Based Learning


Michelle LaGrande works in cooperation with her family, operating a large cow/calf ranch in both California and Oregon. Cattle winter and calve near the home place in Williams, CA and spend their summers in the cool grasses of southern Oregon, just outside of Klamath Falls.

Michelle and her family have participated in a variety of verification programs such as Source and Age Verification, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC), USDA’s Never Ever 3 (Natural), Organic, and GAP Animal Welfare which is required for the sale of beef to Whole Foods. They are intimately familiar with what it takes to raise quality cattle for verification programs.

Michelle has also been closely involved in creating businesses in the cattle industry beyond her family’s growing herd of quality Angus Cross cows. She has partnered with other industry professionals to start a grass-fed cattle company and has participated in numerous sustainability efforts.

Her most recent endeavor was to partner with three others to help create Ranchers Connecting Ranchers, LLC. Fondly referred to as “RCR”, the partners worked together to create a new agriculture verification company, designed to move the agriculture industry into the future, with a name that their fellow industry professionals could trust.

RCR is certified to audit cattle ranches and feedyards for several USDA Export Verification Programs such as Source and Age Verified, Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) for export to Europe, Saudi Arabia Export Verification, and China Export Verification. Additionally, they have several private label programs such as RCR Natural, RCR Grassfed, RCR Natural & Gently Raised, and Feed Bunk Ready Vaccination Verified.

Restaurants and retailers across America have identified the value in providing food from local sources. Consumers are demanding that animals are handled in a humane manner and that they are fed a natural diet. And to top that off, they are starting to ask food providers, “How do you know?” They want to see a measure of creditability behind the products that stores and restaurants are selling them. They are more engaged in how food is produced than ever before.

To respond to that shift in consumer awareness, RCR has developed a division of RCR named, Consumer Conscious Ranchers (CCR). This division is dedicated to creating premium-earning opportunities for America’s ranchers by working closely with retail and restaurant outlets to help them provide verified products for consumers across the globe.

Michelle has experience in many fields of the cattle industry and now with RCR, she is in a position to help her fellow ranchers provide products that consumers are asking for. She and her partners share vision, dedication, and a passion for the industry that they and their families have been a part of for generations. LaGrande and RCR are excited to help lead the world of agriculture into the future.

See Michelle on our Next Gen Panel at 3:00 pm Tuesday, November 7th

Ranchers Connecting Ranchers, LLC



Buzz Landon grew up helping his father Skip Landon with his bee business. Skip Landon was a side-line beekeeper running 300-500 hives for pollination and honey production. This is where Buzz got his education into the business. In 1997, in the trade of work, Skip set Buzz up with his first beehives. Upon graduation from high school Buzz attended California State University, Chico majoring in Plant and Soil Science and running his bees. In the fall of 2001 Skip decided to retire from the bee business and Buzz purchased his operation.

After graduating from CSUC Buzz spent the next four years managing a rice farm while trying to maintain his bee operation. Buzz and his wife Nicole spent evenings and weekends maintaining the hives and raising a few queens to add to their operation. In the winter of 2001 Buzz decided he could not continue to manage the rice farm and run his business. So he quit his managing job and started raising queens and packages for sale.

Today Buzz and Nicole run 2000 hives producing honey and queens and supplying pollination services to area farmers, while trying to keep up with their 3 children.

See Buzz on our Next Gen Panel at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7th

Buzz's Bees


Shannon Douglass graduated from CSU Chico with a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. She is active in her community as a member of the Glenn County Fair board, a director of Glenn County Farm Bureau, and past chair of the California Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers committee. She is a graduate of California Ag Leadership, class 46.

Shannon and her husband, Kelly, live in Orland with their young son, Heath. She is a first generation farmer raising beef cattle, sunflowers, pumpkins and forage crops and handles the direct marketing of pumpkins and beef.

See Shannon on our Next Gen Panel at 3:00 pm on Tuesday, November 7th


Jason Schwenkler is Director of the CSU, Chico Geographical Information Center (GIC), a service center providing professional resources to the University’s twelve-county service area: Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, and Yuba. The GIC’s mission is both academic and service oriented, with an emphasis on addressing community needs. The GIC operates programs ranging from natural resources to infrastructure, including management of two regional consortia of local governments, internet service providers and non-governmental organizations focused on improving internet service in rural northern California. These consortia seek to increase deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved rural areas and to bring the benefits of internet-based technologies to the region’s citizens. The GIC is collaborating with Valley Vision, USDA Rural Development and the Internet Society to conduct the first research study of mobile broadband performance in farm fields, to support more robust deployment of precision agriculture.

See Jason on our Innovators Panel at 10:15 am on Tuesday, November 7th

CSU, Chico, Geographical Information Center
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