Donn Zea – Executive Director, California Prune Board and Prune Marketing Committee
Donn Zea is the Executive Director of the California Prune Board and Prune Marketing Committee, the state and federal marketing orders for California Prunes. On behalf of California’s premium prune growers and processors, Donn and his team develop and execute strategies that support the growth of California Prune consumption and value through domestic and international marketing strategies, science-based nutrition discovery, crop and sustainability research, and trade and agricultural policy communications. Prior to joining the prune industry in April 2011, Donn led programs in agricultural marketing, research, communications and government relations as President of the California Forest Products Commission and Northern California Water Association and Vice-President of the California Forestry Association. An enthusiastic advocate for California agriculture for more than 31 years, Donn has served in a variety of industry, non-profit and university leadership positions where he has helped to guide efforts and engage consumers, trade and key opinion leaders on food and agriculture’s economic and social benefits. Donn holds a B.A. in Political Science from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Donn’s current board and organizational involvement include: Dean’s Council, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, Cal Poly, SLO; Chair, Board of Governors, CSU Agricultural Research Institute; Chair, Buy California Marketing Agreement; Executive Director, California Dried Fruit Coalition; and a member of Secretary Vilsack’s Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee.
Prune Consumption & Bone Clinical Research Trial
Mary Jane De Souza, Ph.D., FACSM – Professor in Kinesiology and Physiology, and Director of the Women’s Health and Exercise Laboratory at Penn State University
Dr. De Souza is a Professor in Kinesiology and Physiology, and Director of the Women’s Health and Exercise Laboratory at Penn State University. Dr. De Souza received her Bachelor and Master of Science from Springfield College, a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut, and completed postdoctoral work in reproductive physiology at the University of Connecticut Medical School, where she later became the Associate Director of the Menopause Treatment and Research Program. Dr. De Souza spent almost a decade at the University of Toronto in Canada, where she was the Director of the Centre for Girls and Women’s Health and Physical Activity. In 2007, Dr. De Souza moved to Penn State University where she continued a fertile research career. Dr. De Souza’s research for 30+ years has focused on the complex interplay between metabolic, reproductive, and skeletal physiology in both pre and post-menopausal women to include sex steroid drug intervention trials of postmenopausal hormone therapy and oral and non-oral hormone therapies in premenopausal women, exercise and diet interventions and trials of whole food (dried plum) interventions for postmenopausal women with low bone mass. Dr. De Souza has published over 150 research papers, mentored 8 postdoctoral fellows, and has served on 70 MS/Ph.D. committees as either the primary or secondary mentor, and on a long list of undergraduate Honor’s students’ committees. Dr. De Souza has won teaching awards from Penn State University, a Citation Award for Career Research from the American College of Sports Medicine in 2018, an Honor Award from the New England Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine in2018, and the Pennsylvania State University Pauline Schmitt Russell Distinguished Research Career Award in 2019. Dr. De Souza is a Past President of the Female and Male Athlete Triad Coalition: An International Consortium dedicated to the study of the Female and Male Athlete Triad and is a Fellow of the National Academy of Kinesiology.
World of Weather
Eric Snodgrass – Nutrien Ag Solutions Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist
Eric Snodgrass is a Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist for Nutrien Ag Solutions, where he develops predictive, analytical software solutions to manage weather risk for global production agriculture. He provides frequent weather updates that focus on how high-impact weather events influence global agriculture productivity. His current research uses machine learning to better understand field-level weather impacts on yields in the U.S. and to increase confidence in long-range weather prediction. He presents his research as a featured speaker at over 120 conferences annually where he provides logistical guidance and solutions to weather-sensitive financial institutions, farmers, commodity traders, and other stakeholders. Snodgrass is a co-founder of Global Weather and Climate Logistic, LLC and Agrible, Inc. which were both acquired by Nutrien Ag Solutions in 2018.
Cooking Up Global Goodness with Prunes
Chef Peter Sidwell
Peter Sidwell is a professional chef, food writer and new product development specialist. With over 25 years’ experience of cooking and a wealth of knowledge about ingredients he uses his skills to share his passion for all things food. Peter also owns a successful food media and innovation center where his team works with global customers to create engaging and relevant media for his partners to use as part of their marketing campaigns.
Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN
Leslie Bonci is a registered dietitian in private practice with expertise in sports nutrition, digestive disorders, and communication and has been a consultant to the California Prune Board since 2003. She is also the sports nutrition consultant for the 2020 Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. As an author and writer, Leslie regularly contributes to the U.S. News and World Report Eat + Run blog, appears regularly on local TV and radio segments as a guest, and is renowned in her field for her expertise and engaging approach.
Orchard Management Panel
Luke Milliron – University of California
Luke Milliron is the Orchard Systems Farm Advisor for Butte, Glenn, and Tehama Counties. He grew up in Chico, California, and completed his B.S. in Agricultural Science at CSU, Chico, and M.S. in Horticulture and Agronomy at UC Davis. His primary crop responsibilities include prunes, walnuts, and almonds. Current prune trial research includes the evaluation of alternative rootstocks, mechanical hedging, and managing heat at bloom. One of his main extension focuses is increasing the adoption of plant-based, pressure chamber irrigation management across all tree crops. Milliron co-hosts the UC orchard podcast “Growing the Valley” with fellow UCCE farm advisor Phoebe Gordon.
Joe Turkovich – Sole Proprietor Fruit & Nut Farmer and Executive Committee Member, California Prune Board
Joe Turkovich was raised on a prune farm in the Sacramento Valley town of Winters. He has held various industry positions including past chairman of the California Prune Board and currently serves on its executive committee and the Board of Sunsweet Growers. He has always had a special interest in field research.
Andres Olivos del Rio – Irrigation Technologist, Chile
Andres Olivos is the CIO (Chief Innovation Officer) of a family-owned irrigation company with 40 years of experience. He received a master’s degree and holds a Ph.D. (c), at UC Davis with a focus on plant nutrition and water relations. Currently, he is working on how technology and irrigation strategies can improve water productivity in main fruit crops in Chile, such as Cherries, Walnuts, Prunes, Citrus, and Avocados.
Maud Delavaud – Technical Manager, Orchard Division, France
Maud Delavaud has been the lead agronomist for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Pruneau (BIP) – French Pruneau d’Agen interbranch organization – since 2015. The BIP orchard department leads R&D projects to improve plum and prune production methods. This work requires technical and regulatory monitoring to improve d’Ente plum production.
Global Exporter Panel
Brendon Flynn – IPA President and California Prune Grower
Brendon Flynn is a third-generation farmer who was born and raised in Tehama County in Northern California. Brendon holds a B.S. in Agricultural Business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After working in many different areas and disciplines related to agri-business, Brendon decided to return to his family’s farming operation to pursue a career in production agriculture. Pacific Farms & Orchards was started in 1952 and is now operated by Brendon. The farm’s prunes are marketed globally by the Sunsweet cooperative, and their walnuts are processed and marketed by California Walnut Company, where Brendon is a partner in that business. Brendon also serves as a member of the California Prune Board Executive Committee, is currently the Chairman of the Sunsweet Board of Directors, and President of the International Prune Association.
Brad Schuler – Vice President Global Marketing & Sales, Sunsweet Growers
As a Vice President of Global Marketing & Sales, Brad Schuler oversees Sunsweet marketing and sales efforts in all channels globally, including branded retail, private label, bulk, food service and industrial ingredients. Brad has been responsible for driving distribution and sales to unprecedented levels for several Sunsweet game-changing products in North America. Key product introductions include, Sunsweet Ones individually wrapped prunes, PlumSmart juice, Philippine Mango, and D’Noir premium prunes. In addition, Brad has played a critical role in our global consumer advertising strategy to help drive consumer awareness and sales for the brand.
Pedro Pablo Diaz – Chairman of the Board CHILEPRUNES A.G, General Manager at SOFRUCO ALIMENTOS, CHILE
Pedro Pablo has been involved in the prune industry for 20 years. He has worked almost all his career at SOFRUCO, a Chilean prune company that has been growing, processing, and exporting for almost a century. He was one of the founders of Chile prunes (formerly APECS) in 2005 and has Chaired the Association for over a decade. He has actively participated in IPA since Chile prunes creation.
Francisco Araujo – Coordinator, Prunes Cluster of Argentina
Francisco Araujo is CEO of Explotacion Agropecuaria LA RESERLA SA, a family company that has 300 hectares of prunes, grape vineyards, and a winery with a purpose of producing organic food for the world. Francisco also coordinates the Cluster of Industrial Prunes in Mendoza. This institution gathers all the rings of the prune production chain. He is an active member of other institutions working to improve better possibilities for production, enterprising and personal development. Francisco lives in San Rafael, Mendoza with his expectant wife, and son. He operates their family farm where they grow prunes, grapes and raise cattle and in his free time, enjoys running, reading, and spending time with his family and friends over a good bottle of wine.