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People - Feb 28-March 14, 2011

The Oppenheimer Group, headquartered in Vancouver, BC, has added a new person to its sales team. DAVID FIGLIOLA, whose first day was Jan. 4, brings a decade-and-a-half of industry experience to his role in the full-service marketer's Houston location. He will sell the full line of Oppenheimer items to customers in Texas and the surrounding states.

David Figliola
David Figliola
Mr. Figliola comes to Oppenheimer from C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. in Eden Prairie, MN, where he had worked in various capacities since 1995. He began as a category and commodity manager based in St. Louis. He was responsible for day-to-day produce sales, eventually relocating to Houston and moving into a produce manager position five years later. In 2004, he returned to St. Louis as an account executive with C.H. Robinson, where he stayed until taking the opportunity with Oppenheimer.

"I wanted to see a different side of the business, and it's been exciting to get better acquainted with Oppenheimer's extensive line of global products during my brief time here," Mr. Figliola said in a company statement.

Mr. Figliola holds a degree in agribusiness from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, which he earned after a four-year stint as a U.S. Army flight operations specialist. While in the army, Mr. Figliola served in the Gulf War and earned a bronze star.

"David has terrific product knowledge as well as proven success at strategically building key account business," Jeff Walker, sales manager for Oppenheimer's Houston location, said in the statement. "A produce professional of his caliber will help our team do an even better job of taking care of the needs of customers in this region."

Double D Farms in Coalinga, CA, has hired GURDEEP S. BILLAN as director of sales. Mr. Billan started his new position with the company Jan. 31.

"I am responsible for all of our sales and marketing efforts," Mr. Billan told The Produce News Feb. 14. "We handle a full line of fresh organic produce, primarily row crops: asparagus, broccoli, celery, cabbage, onions, melons, green beans, blueberries and cherries."

Before joining Double D, Mr. Billan worked for SaveMart Supermarkets as a category manager of fruit for three-and-a-half years. Before that, he was self-employed for several years in sales and marketing, and prior to that he worked for Safeway as a national commodity supervisor in Phoenix for four years. He has been in the produce industry for 13 years.

Mr. Billan earned a bachelor of science degree in agriculture business from California State University-Fresno and a master of business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.

"During my time in undergraduate school at Fresno State, I interned for Kroger Wesco Foods," he noted.

In addition to his duties at Double D, Mr. Billan teaches part time at the University of Phoenix in the college of business.

Red Blossom Sales in Salinas, CA, announced the addition of GREG PHELAN to its grower and farm management team as Santa Maria, CA, district manager.

Mr. Phelan is a sixth-generation resident of California's Central Coast with an extensive agriculture background.

"Greg's expertise and longtime familiarity with the region will be a great asset to Red Blossom's team," David Lawrence, president of Red Blossom Sales, said in a Feb. 17 press release.

Mr. Phelan has a bachelor of science degree in crop science and viticulture as well as a master of science degree in agribusiness, both from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. He is also a California-licensed pest control adviser.

He has worked for Bien Nacido Vineyards, Solomon Hills Vineyards, Solomon Hills Berry Farms and Rancho Tepusquet Orchard.

"Red Blossom has provided me with a great opportunity to lead [its] Santa Maria district. I look forward to joining the Red Blossom team and continuing to provide quality strawberries from Santa Maria," Mr. Phelan said in the release.

Red Blossom cultivates over 1,200 acres of strawberries in the Santa Maria region

Western Growers Association has hired MIKEL PAK as communications manager. She brings more than five years of experience as a journalist and communications professional.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Pak was a business newspaper reporter in North Carolina and also worked in the communications and media relations department

Mikel Pak
at the Council of State Governments, a trade association reaching more than 20,000 state government leaders in all three branches of government.

"Mikel brings solid credentials, experience and skills to the Western Growers communications department," Wendy Fink-Weber, director of communications for the association, said in a Feb. 10 press release. "She knows state government and politics and the news business. We are thrilled to have her on the staff."

KIRK CRANE started a position Jan. 31 in sales with Awe Sum Organics Inc. in Santa Cruz, CA.

"I am primarily responsible for increasing sales to retail accounts," Mr. Crane told The Produce News Feb. 14. "I handle the full line of Awe Sum Organics product offerings, which includes New Zealand apples and kiwifruit as well as South American pears, apples, blueberries, mangos, nectarines and kiwifruit. I will also be responsible for sales of our organic California kiwifruit."

Immediately prior to joining Awe Sum, he was with Cecelia Packing Corp. in Orange Cove, CA. He has worked in the trade for 28 years.

Mr. Crane lives in Santa Cruz and has two children, Kevin, 23, and Andrea, 21, who is a senior at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Los Angeles-based Harvest Sensations LLC has made some additions to the sales staff at its Miami branch.

JAMI DINKLER joined the company in November as a sales representative handling the specialty shipper-packer's full line. Before coming aboard at Harvest Sensations, the 23-year veteran of the produce business was with Crystal Valley Foods, also in Miami, for three years and prior to that worked for Southern Specialties in Pompano Beach, FL, for 10 years.

Also tackling new duties at Harvest Sensations is DAVE ARIAS, who handles the full line as well. Mr. Arias joined Harvest Sensations in July, having previously worked at the Florida Panthers Hockey Club in Sunrise, FL, for eight years. It is his first job in the produce industry.

Mr. Arias graduated in 2003 from Florida International University with a degree in sports management and business administration. He lives in Plantation, FL, where his leisure activities include cooking and playing ice hockey.

To announce personnel changes at your company, please contact Assistant Editor Terry Sokol at 201/986-7990, ext. 107, or Photos are encouraged.