Chancellor's Agricultural Advisory Council

Members, 2014-15

Dennis J. Atkinson

Vice President, Agriculture
Tejon Ranch

Dennis J. Atkinson, a Kern County native, is the Vice President of Agri-Business at Tejon Ranch Company. Dennis was born and raised in the farming community of Shafter, California where his still resides with his wife Marlene and two children, Ryan and Melanie. Dennis attended local schools including Bakersfield College and received his B.A. in 1974 from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Upon completion of his studies, Dennis began work as a Foreman/Supervisor at Tejon Farming Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tejon Ranch, which managed a Limited Partnership. His steady progression of responsibility ranged from Orchard Manager, Assistant Manager, Operations Manager and finally Vice President until the partnership was dissolved in 1994. In 1994 he began employment as a Special Projects Manager at Wilson Ag Company, a diversified custom agricultural service with row crops, vineyard and almond operations in Shafter, California. After completion of those projects and some retirements at Tejon Ranch Company, Dennis was asked to return to manage the Agricultural Division at Tejon Ranch Company.

Founded in 1843, Tejon Ranch is a diversified real estate development and agribusiness company, the principal asset of which is 270,000 acres of land located approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Bakersfield, California. Company operating revenues are generated by four divisions.

Currently, nearly 4,600 acres of Ranch land in the southern San Joaquin Valley are planted in pistachios; almonds, walnuts and wine grapes, while more than 1,900 acres of Kern County are available for lease for annual row crops. In addition to revenue from harvested crops, the Farming Division generates income from agricultural land leases, farm management and consulting services and for hulling/shelling and processing of almonds. Dennis is responsible for the day-to-day operation and overall management of the agricultural division, budgeting commodity sales, strategies, water management, environmental concerns and regulations and direction for the company..

Karen Caplan

President and CEO
Frieda's, Inc.

Products like Cherimoyas, Fingerling Potatoes, and Jicama may be unfamiliar to the average person, but Karen Caplan grew up eating and selling them. As the first-born daughter of entrepreneur Dr. Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s Inc., Karen began working with produce at the age of 10.

After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Business Management from the University of California-Davis in 1978, Karen joined Frieda’s Inc. full time. Learning the business from the ground up, Karen has worked in just about every department at the company, from packing boxes to sales and marketing. In 1986, at age 30, Karen was promoted to President and CEO of the company. In 1990, Karen and her sister, Jackie Caplan Wiggins, purchased the company from their mother. Karen’s vision and leadership propelled Frieda’s Inc. to the forefront of the produce industry as the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce.

Karen plays an influential role in the produce industry, and is a well-respected leader. She was the first female chairperson of the United Fresh Produce Association, a national trade organization representing the industry of fruits and vegetables. Karen also served as the first female president of the Los Angeles-based Fresh Produce and Floral Council and was Director of the Federal Reserve Bank Board of San Francisco, Los Angeles branch. Karen was recently appointed as a member of the United Fresh Start Foundation Board of Trustees.

Beyond the industry, Karen acts as a role model for women entrepreneurs, as well as small and family-owned businesses.

Karen shares her produce expertise as the author of “The Purple Kiwi Cookbook,” a collection of unique and original recipes featuring some of the world’s most exotic produce. She also writes a blog, “What’s on Karen’s Plate,” (http://www.friedas.com/karensblog), where she writes about business, the produce industry, food and much more.

Thomas Delfino 

Executive Director
California Citrus Nursery Society 

Tom Delfino is the Executive Director of California Citrus Nursery Society, the industry association for citrus nurseries in California. Prior to appointment to his current position, he worked for Geomatrix Consultants (now AMEC Geomatrix), a geosciences and environmental engineering and consulting firm, where he specialized in matters related to process and environmental chemistry, statistics, and decision analysis.

Tom has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, Tom is donor to and supporter of, the Citrus Variety Collection and other citrus-related activities at the University of California, Riverside. He is also a citrus hobbyist with more than 30 varieties of citrus planted in his garden in Moraga, California.

Ben Drake

Drake Enterprises, Inc

Ben Drake has been in the vineyard management business for 22 years. He is the President of Drake Enterprises, Inc. and is currently managing 300 acres of wine grapes and 450 acres of avocados in the City of Temecula, located in Southern California.

Ben is a fifth-generation farmer in Riverside County. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Fresno State, and was a member of Class XII of the California Agricultural Leadership Program. Ben is currently serving his first term as a Member of the Board of Directors for the Rancho California Water District. He is the President for the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, Vice Chairman for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, past president of the Riverside County Farm Bureau, a director of the American Viticulture Foundation, member of the Murrieta/Temecula Group, board member for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, member of the California Wine Grape Grower Foundation Board, a founding school board member of Hillcrest Carden School, and 4H All-Star in Riverside County.

Ben Drake is on the State Task Force for Pierce's Disease as well as the California State GWSS-PD Board. Over the past four years he has been combating Pierce's Disease by lobbying the State and Federal Government to secure funding for this disease, through numerous meetings with government officials, university chancellors, research assistants, and members of the media, including television, magazines and newspapers.

Hank Giclas

Vice President of Strategic Planning, Science & Technology
Western Growers

Henry L. (Hank) Giclas has worked for Western Growers Association for over 15 years. He began his career in the Phoenix office as the Director of Public Affairs where he was responsible for implementing WGA's government affairs and public relations agendas in Arizona. While in that office Hank developed an expertise in ag chemical and environmental issues and led the association in becoming more actively engaged in the science and technical aspects of agriculture and agricultural policy in California and Arizona. The Science and Technology focus allowed WG to take on managerial responsibilities for the Certified Crop Advisor programs in both California and Arizona, the Arizona Crop Protection Association and has led to WG being a lead trade association in many of the issues related to the production of specialty crops in Arizona and California.

Hank served a brief stint as Vice-President of Science and Government Affairs for WGA in their Sacramento office. There he oversaw the activities of the division in both Arizona and California including the legislative and regulatory advocacy programs, political action efforts, technical and registration projects as well as the management of a various local trade associations and other programs.

In July of 2002 he was asked by the WGA Board of Directors to return to the Phoenix office and help the association start a new division that would focus on the science and technological issues facing our industry. That division now has oversight on food safety programs, pesticide and chemical registration and policy issues, environmental programs including water and air quality issues and a host of other issue areas where sound science must drive agricultures involvement and government policy. In August of 2003 Hank took on strategic planning for WG in addition to the science and technology duties. Today Hank serves as Vice President Strategic Planning, Science and Technology for Western Growers and is actively developing association leadership in the areas of food safety, food security, crop production and protection as well as assisting in the implementation of the strategic plan.

Before coming to WGA Hank was a vocational agriculture instructor in Phoenix Arizona. He received his B.S. in Agricultural Education from the University of Arizona and is pursuing a M.S. in Agribusiness from Arizona State University.

John J. Gless

Gless Ranch, Inc.

John Gless married his wife, Janet, in 1958. As natives of Southern California, the Glesses saw a future in the citrus industry, purchased 20 acres of bare ground in Woodcrest, and planted the first grove in the area. In the years that followed, John expanded his operation to include orchard care for other landowners as well as a Christmas tree farm, pumpkin patch, roadside market, and shipping business. As the citrus industry has shifted with the availability of affordable water, Gless Ranch now has operations in the Coachella Valley and Kern County. John is the Director of the El Sobrante Mutual Water Company, and is very active in both professional societies and community groups, including the Lincoln Club, the Woodcrest Chamber of Commerce, the Raincross Club, and the Summer Ruby Red Grapefruit Growers Association. He is a member of the Valley Group, a select group of influential business and community leaders from Western Riverside County and San Bernardino County concerned with the economic and social advancement of the Inland Empire. He is also the Alternate Director for the Sunkist Growers, Inc. Board and is a board member and past president of the Riverside County Farm Bureau, and serves on the boards for the Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District, the Blue Banner Fruit Exchange, the Gage Canal Company, Corona College Heights Lemon & Orange Association, the California Citrus Research Board, and the Yorba Orange Growers Association.

John is actively involved in many agriculture-related organizations and pertinent political issues. Gless Ranch continues to be owned and operated by John, his wife, and their four children. In 1997, he was the recipient of the Riverside County Farm Bureau's Robert M. Howie award for outstanding service to Riverside County Agriculture and the Family Service Association of Western Riverside County's Family of the Year Award.

Kevin Heaney

Executive Director
Southern California Golf Association

Kevin Heaney has worked for the Southern California Golf Association since 1984. During his tenure, he has served as the Director of Rules and Competitions and the Director of Course Rating. His current position is Executive Director. In his present role, he is responsible for the overall management of the organization, serves as staff member overseeing both the SCGA Foundation and the SCGA Golf Course, and directs all turf and agronomic activity for the association.

Heaney is a charter member of the University of California, Riverside Turf Research Advisory Committee. He recently was invited to participate on the UCR Chancellor's Agricultural Advisory Committee. In addition, Heaney is a member of both the United States Golf Association Green and Course Rating Committees and serves on the Board of Directors of the California Golf Course Owners Association. Heaney is a member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of Southern California and serves on the Green Committee for the International Association of Golf Course Administrators. He is also an active participant on the California Golf Alliance for Water.

Heaney received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis in Agricultural Economics and Managerial Science as well as a Master of Business Administration degree from the same institution.

Edward C. "Ted" Horton, CGCS

Consulting Superintendent
ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance
Executive Director
California Golf Course Owners Association

After more than 40 years of highly successful work experiences in private golf and country club, resort and public daily fee golf course maintenance operations, "Ted" Horton is currently a consultant to the golf course industry. His services offer proactive advice on environmental stewardship; golf course safety, security and risk management; tournament preparations; mentoring of new superintendents; long range planning, agronomic programs and administrative functions of large property maintenance. He is currently Consulting Superintendent for ValleyCrest Golf Course Maintenance, assisting the company to oversee maintenance of over 45 golf course properties, while also serving as Executive Director of the California Golf Course Owners Association and Vice President of the California Golf Alliance (CAG). Recipient of numerous professional awards, Ted was recently listed in Golf Digest Magazine as one of the top 100 most powerful people in golf and in the top four golf course superintendents. In 2006, he completed two cycles as a member of the UC President's Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Albert P. Keck

Hadley Date Gardens, Inc.
California Date Commission

Albert is a third generation Californian and farmer. A lifelong native of the Coachella Valley, Albert grew up following his father John in the date orchards and cotton fields of the Coachella and Imperial Valleys. After completing his undergraduate and graduate education at Stanford, Albert returned to the Coachella Valley and the family farming business. He currently is President of Hadley Date Gardens and Chairman of the California Date Administrative Committee and the California Date Commission.

Joseph MacIlvaine

Paramount Farming Company, Bakersfield California

Joe MacIlvaine has held the position of President of Paramount Farming Company since May 1987. He is responsible for general management of the company's operations, including the management of 100,000 acres of agricultural properties. The company's primary crops are almonds, pistachios and pomegranates. In each of these products, Paramount is the largest grower in the country.

Prior to his employment at Paramount, Joe was General Manager of Tejon Farming Company, part of Tejon Ranch. He is President of two water districts, Director of Western Grower's Association, Chairman of the International Committee of the Almond Board of California, Past Chairman of the Almond Board of California, and active in a number of community organizations.

His education includes a Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master's of Business Administration from UCLA.

Agenor Mafra-Neto, Ph.D.

ISCA Technologies, Inc., Riverside

Dr. Agenor Mara-Neto, the founder of ISCA Technologies, Inc., has a doctorate in entomology with considerable experience in insect behavior, chemical ecology, agricultural ecology, monitoring programs and the development of tools to monitor and suppress insect pests. He has ample experience with insect monitoring technology, behavior assays, and data analysis. Dr. Mafra-Neto has been directly involved with the conceptualization and development of large area-wide integrated pest management projects in Brazil, one of them involves multi-state monitoring and eradication effort of major quarantine pests present in urban areas

Edward I. McGrew

Imperial Valley

Ed McGrew, a lifelong resident of the Imperial Valley, began his farming career after receiving his farm management degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After serving his active duty military obligation, he has been involved in general farming and cattle feeding for 42 years. Major crops include asparagus, bermuda, wheat and alfalfa.

During the past four years he has been downsizing his farming operation to devote more time and energy to various water issues, which are affecting Southern California. During the midsummer of 1997 he became a consultant to Western Farms and subsequently became Director of Ag Resources for U.S. Filter/Ag Group.

His civic responsibilities include serving as a board member of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Valley Independent Bank, Imperial Stores, Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association and the Sweet Onion Commission. On the latter two boards he is a charter member. He is an active member of the Imperial County Farm Bureau and Past President of El Centro Chamber of Commerce and Past President of the El Centro Rotary Club and past board member of the Imperial Valley Stockmen's Club. He currently serves as a member of the University of California Riverside Agricultural Advisory Board.

He is firmly committed to economic betterment of the Imperial Valley and the benefits which might be derived by the pending water transfer. Since leaving U.S. Filter he is actively pursuing the establishment of the dairy industry in the Imperial Valley as well as sugar cane production as a source of ethanol. In order to best serve the relocation of dairies to the Imperial Valley, he has formed NuDairy One LLC, which provides dairy relocation services. His recently divested family-owned and operated RV park and golf course complex; Rio Bend RV Resort is the prime winter attraction of the snowbirds to the Imperial Valley.

Pauline Mazzetti McGuigan

Blue Banner Citrus Packing Company

Pauline is a Riverside native, and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California at Riverside. She was an elementary school teacher for several years. The Blue Banner Packing Company of Riverside, has been owned by Pauline's family since 1948. Currently, she is a member of the California State Citrus Historic Park Board, the UCR Agricultural Advisory Council, the Junior League the Raincross Club, and the Orange Blossom Festival Board of Directors. Pauline is the past president of the National Charity League (1981-82), a member of the Riverside Community Hospital Board (1988-94), a Board Member for Riverside County Arts Foundation (1987, Chair in 1989-90), a member of the task force of City of Riverside's Year 2,000 study committee, a Riverside Municipal Museum docent for five years, and a member of the Mayor's Commission for Performing Arts (in 1987). She also participates in the Greater Chamber of Commerce "Leadership Riverside" program, and has acted as Chair of the "History and Culture Day" from 1985 to the present and was Chair of the Steering Committee from 1987-93. She is the recipient of several awards, including the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award and the UCR Alumni Community Service Award.

Mike Mellano, Sr.

Mellano & Co.

Mike Mellano was the Senior Vice President of Mellano & Company, a third generation family owned floral business, which has growing operations in San Luis Rey and Carlsbad, CA.  Initially established in Los Angeles in 1925, Mellano & Company has not only expanded its wholesale division in the Los Angeles Flower Market, but also has locations in Carlsbad, CA and Las Vegas, NV.  Mellano & Co. is a company of firsts. It was one of the first operations to implement integrated pest management and scouting, also to utilize irrigation systems to minimize runoff and water flow. Mellano & Co. was one of the first to utilize a pre-cooling system ¬which allows flowers to be shipped at their optimal level, and to recognize and develop the usage of smaller boxes for packaging flowers, allowing for improved quality control and handling.

Mike Sr. graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1960 with a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture, and from UC Riverside in 1969 with a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology. He is a member of many organizations and boards including Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honor Society and the American Phytopathological Society, and was past President of the California Floral Council.

Mark Nickerson

Managing Partner
Prime Time International

Mark Nickerson was born in San Francisco, California and attended California State University at Fresno, graduating with a degree in agribusiness/agronomy in 1969. He has worked in agriculture in the Coachella Valley since 1972 and is a managing partner at Prime Time International, a Coachella-based grower/shipper of fresh produce.

Mr. Nickerson is currently serving on the board of directors of Western Growers Association. He is a member of Alpha Zeta honorary agriculture society and an alumnus of the California Agricultural Leadership program.

Mr. Nickerson has been a board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley since 1982, serving on the Founders Board and various committees within the club. He is a board member of the College of the Desert Foundation. He also serves on the board of directors of Hidden Harvest, a local distributor of fresh produce to the less fortunate in the valley.

John Snyder

Agricultural Commissioner
County of Riverside

John Snyder was appointed by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors as Agricultural Commissioner in 2003, succeeding the retiring James Wallace. Mr. Snyder was born in Cuba, N.Y., and moved with his family to Orange County when he was 2 years old. He is a graduate of Cal Poly, Pomona, and lives in Riverside.

One of his greatest concerns is making sure agriculture remains competitive and viable within Riverside County's vision for the future. In a world where exotic diseases threaten wine grapes, citrus crops and poultry, government must regulate industries and sometimes restrict the movement of certain high-risk commodities, he has said.

Through community outreach, he promotes locally grown produce and develops more certified farmers' markets. The Riverside County Integrated Project - a three-pronged plan that covers transportation, habitat conservation and land-use planning - provides for continuing agricultural uses as the county develops. In his role as an advocate, Snyder identifies issues and maintains contact with legislators to keep the agricultural agenda fresh in their minds. The issues include pesticide use, the availability of labor and farmers' access to affordable utilities.

Donald Suarez
Director, USDA-ARS Salinity Lab

 Donald Suarez received a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from Penn State University. He is Director of the U.S. Salinity Laboratory part of the USDA Agricultural Research Service. His research interests include the chemistry and management of saline and sodic soils, plant response to ion composition of irrigation water, effects of chemistry on soil physical properties and modeling water and ion transport in soil including trace elements. He has served on the editorial board of various journals, awarded Fellow of Soil Science Society of America, and Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, Board of Directors of the Soil Science Society of America and  honored as the  ARS Distinguished Senior Scientist of the Year in 2009,  He has written over 250 research publications and co-organized 3 International Salinity Forums where all aspects of salinity are discussed (plants, water soil, management, economics, social aspects).

Vladimer G. Tudor

Vice President, Operations
Tudor Ranch, Inc.

Vladimer (Vlady) Tudor graduated from the University of Southern California with a major in Business Finance in 1986. He immediately returned to Tudor Ranch, Inc., the family farm upon which he had been working on all weekends, vacations, and holidays since he was 9 years old.

Vlady worked under his father and uncle until his father's death in 1996, after which he became the head of labor operations. Currently, Vlady and his uncle are responsible for the labor and farming operations for over 1,300 acres of table grapes and citrus and a 45,000 square foot cold storage facility located in Mecca in the Coachella Valley. Under Vlady's supervision, Tudor Ranch, Inc., is a cooperator involved in the UC Riverside vine mealy bug project headed by Dan Gonzalez and the lemon/Dormex research headed by Carol Lovatt.

Vlady is the President of the Desert Grape Co-op, the Secretary for the Desert Grape Growers League of California, and an alternate for the Desert Grape Administrative Committee.

John C. Veysey

John C. Veysey Farms, Inc.

John Veysey has farmed in the Imperial Valley for more than twenty years. His general farming and produce commitments are varied, and include management/ownership of a produce cooling and shipping plant. He has served as commissioner of the California Wheat Commission and the California Iceberg Lettuce Commission. He has chaired various agricultural research committees in the USDA and in the University of California system, including acting as Chair of the Imperial/Palo Verde valleys Grower Advisory Committee for the UCR Institute of Desert Agriculture. John has extensive working knowledge of water policy problems, and pest and pesticide issues plaguing agricultural and metropolitan communities.

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