California Strawberry Commission Elects First Latina Chair of Board of Directors
In what is believed to be a first for an agricultural commodity group in California, the California Strawberry Commission announced it has elected a Latina farmer to serve as chair of the commission’s board. A second-generation Mexican-American strawberry farmer from Santa Maria, Lorena Chavez, 50, was unanimously elected to lead the commission for the next year along with Vice Chairman Tom AmRhein from Watsonville and Secretary/Treasurer Hector Gutierrez from Ventura County.
“Lorena Chavez embodies everything positive that strawberries represent to California,” said Rick Tomlinson, president of the commission. “Her family’s personal story is a prime example of how immigrants have found opportunity and a path to achieving the American Dream through hard work in California’s strawberry fields.”
Ms. Chavez is controller of L&G Farming, Inc., a family-operated business, working alongside her father and brothers. She and her brother Daniel also own and operate DL Farm Management, Inc. in Santa Maria, where they farm 500 acres of strawberries. A graduate of Santa Barbara Business College, Ms. Chavez has previously served as the commission’s vice chairman and secretary/treasurer, and as chair of the advisory committee for the California strawberry scholarship program, which has awarded more than $2 million to the children of strawberry field workers. She is active in the Santa Maria community, sitting on the boards of the local YMCA and other youth organizations. Previously she spent 12 years on the 37th District Fair Park Board, where she served as president for four years. Ms. Chavez has also volunteered her time to serve the St. Mary’s Finance Council and Santa Maria Girls Softball.
“I am profoundly honored and humbled to be chosen to help lead the commission in serving the needs of California’s 400 diverse family farmers and their workers,” Ms. Chavez said. “Given my family history, I am passionate about preserving the viability of strawberry farming in our state and am committed to ensuring the health, welfare and future of our workers and their families.”
Tom AmRhein, Vice Chairman, is Vice President of Naturipe Berry Growers, Inc., and a Watsonville native with more than 30 years of experience growing strawberries. Tom joined Naturipe Berry Growers Co-op as a grower in 1981 and served on the board of directors before becoming Research Director in 2004. His farming company expanded and became part of Naturipe. In addition to serving as a California
Strawberry Commission board member, Tom is active with the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau, serving as founding President of Agri-Culture, an organization that educates the community about agriculture.
He has also served on several boards and committees directed at preserving the water resources of the central coast. Tom holds a BS in Agricultural Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Hector Gutierrez, Secretary/Treasurer, is member of Otilio Farms, LLC in Ventura County and has been farming strawberries for 25 years. A first generation farmer, Gutierrez is also a pest management consultant who grew up around farming and managed other farming operations before starting his own. As a California Strawberry Commission board member, he has served on the Research and Food Safety committees. Hector is active in his local community as a volunteer for Ninos de Baja Orphanage, and on Driscoll’s Philanthropy Committee. He holds a BS in Agricultural Management from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
About the California Strawberry Commission
The California Strawberry Commission (www.californiastrawberries.com) is a state government agency located in Northern California charged with conducting research to support California’s strawberry industry. With an emphasis on sustainable farming practices, the commission works with strategic partners focusing on production and nutrition research, food safety training and education, marketing and communications, trade relations and public policy.