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People, week of February 27, 2012

Kate Siskel

KATE SISKEL recently joined BrightFarms, a New York City-based company that designs, finances, builds and operates hydroponic greenhouse farms at supermarkets. In her current role as communications and community relations associate, Ms. Siskel “spreads the good word about our delicious lettuces, tomatoes and herbs, starting with each community where we have a greenhouse.” She also helps to promote the company’s business model.

Before joining BrightFarms, Ms. Siskel worked as a production assistant at CBS news for two years. Prior to that, she worked in communications at Chicago-based Carnivale restaurant, which is where “I began to learn more about the relationship between food production and our environment. I am thrilled to now be part of the produce industry,” she said.

Ms. Siskel is currently completing her master’s degree in food systems at New York University.

In her free time, Ms. Siskel enjoys shopping at farmers markets or natural food stores and “cooking indulgent, vegetarian dinners for friends and family.”


Brian Murai

BRIAN MURAI, joined Santa Fe Springs, CA-based Gardikas, Dimetri, Produce Co. Feb. 1 as a sales representative.

Mr. Murai said he is excited to make the change to Gardikas Produce because of its great work environment. His position at the company entails handling a full line of exotic fruits, including Navel oranges and the company’s latest citrus item, the Sumo Mandarin.

Prior to working at Gardikas Produce, Mr. Murai worked as a salesman for Pura Vida Farms in Brea, CA.

Born and raised on a farm, Mr. Murai said he has been involved in the produce industry (much like the rest of his family) for close to 30 years, adding it’s simply “in our blood.”

As a husband and father of two boys, ages 11 and 15, Mr. Murai spends his free-time coaching soccer and baseball, and squeezing in a round or two of golf when he can.


Eddie Lerma

Giumarra Nogales announced Feb. 21 the addition of EDDIE LERMA, a new hire to its sales team.

Mr. Lerma is a 15-year veteran of the produce industry who most recently worked for Star Produce as head of Quality Control. His new responsibilities with Giumarra include handling customer accounts for the vegetable and melon categories.

“Eddie is bright, energetic, articulate and has a great work ethic. We are very enthusiastic about what he brings to the table with his extensive knowledge of our core commodities. He is adapting well to our systems and we look forward to seeing him grow with our division,” said Gil Munguia, division manager of Giumarra Nogales, which imports winter and spring fruits and vegetables that are grown and packed by some of Mexico’s leading farming operations.


TOMAS GONZALEZ joined Rio Rico, AZ-based Chucho Produce LLC Feb. 6 as a sales representative handling cucumbers, English cucumbers, tomatoes-on-the-vine and Roma tomatoes, with different commodities coming his way in the near future.

Mr. Gonzalez has been in the produce industry for 22 years, previously working at Del Monte Fresh, San Rafael Distributors, L&M Cos. and Al Harrison Co.

"Sales is in my blood," he said. "I worked in sales pretty much all my life."

Mr. Gonzalez resides in Nogales, AZ, with his wife and two daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys golfing and bowling.


CLAUDIA DIVITO, sales executive at Muranaka Farm Inc., joined the company Jan. 18.

New to the produce industry, Ms. DiVito said that Muranaka Farm’s philosophy is what attracted her to the position.

“I was looking for something different, not a big corporation,” she said. “[The company] has a very good dynamic. They are very good team players.”

Ms. DiVito will be handling sales and marketing for the Moorpark, CA-based company, which specializes in green onions, Mexican Cambrays, radishes, cilantro, kale, leeks, parsley, flowering kale and beets.

Before joining Muranaka Farm, Ms. DiVito worked for Klibsch, Digital U.S. and Bristol-Myers Squibb.


Gary Tozzo

GARY TOZZO joined Green Brook, NJ-based Mor USA Inc. Feb. 6 as sales manager. In his current position, he handles persimmons and Bell peppers.

Mr. Tozzo spent the last six years with Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC, in Vero Beach, FL. The previous 14 years were spent at Willcox, AZ-based Eurofresh Farms.

In his free time, Mr. Tozzo is involved with his local church, and he coaches youth rifle and youth soccer. He and his wife, Tracie are the proud parents of six children.


Mike Richards

MIKE RICHARDS joined the team at San Francisco-based Twin Peaks Distributing Inc. Feb. 1, handling sales, procurement and logistics.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” Mr. Richards said of his new position at the company.

Twin Peaks handles a variety of produce, specializing in grapes, melons, Chilean fruit, soft fruit, fresh dates, avocados, citrus, watermelon and colored Bell peppers.

Mr. Richards has been in the produce industry for 39 years, getting his start during college, while searching for a part-time job. He has previously worked at Mendelson-Zeller Co. and Hurwitz Distributing as a sales representative, as the managing partner and vice president of sales and marketing at Carter Thomas LLC and as the owner of MJR Produce.

Mr. Richards resides in Novato, CA, with his wife of 29 years and their three children.


Ippolito International added two produce industry veterans to its Salinas, CA, sales team. JOHN COREA and JEFF POST joined the sales staff as part of the company's growth in product mix and volume.

John Corea

Mr. Corea has worked in the produce industry for over 15 years, handling commodity management and sales for several companies. At Ippolito International, he will be celery commodity manager and focus on developing Canadian retail and foodservice accounts.

“I’m looking forward to helping Ippolito International achieve its sales goals and continue establishing the ‘Queen Victoria’ label as a premium-quality option for all customers,” Mr. Corea said in a Feb. 14 press release.

Jeff Post

Jeff Post has 15 years of experience in produce sales in addition to working in grower accounting, marketing, quality assurance and harvesting. A graduate of the California Agriculture Leadership Program, Mr. Post will focus on developing national retail and foodservice accounts.

“I am learning this operation from the ground up and look forward to helping to grow the company and its profits,” he said.

“A unique opportunity presented itself for us to bring in two 15-year experienced produce veterans,” Butch Corda, general manager of Ippolito International, said in the press release. “Their experience matched up perfectly with the needs of our company in marketing premium label commodity items.”


To announce personnel changes at your company, please contact Assistant Editor Maggie Giuffrida at 201/986-7990 or Photos are encouraged.