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40 Under 40 Class of 2020

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12 | VegetableGrowersNews.com Drew Afton Specialist/Agri Supplier Development, Nestle/Gerber Kevin Bittner Pomology Specialist, Bittner Singer Orchards Hannah Burrack Professor/Extension Specialist, North Carolina State University Susan Colucci Technical Sales Representative II, HM.CLAUSE/Harris Moran Seed Co. Nathan Bender Chief Operating Officer, Tasteful Selections LLC Brett Blaauw Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist, University of Georgia Cory Blumerick Senior Crop Insurance Specialist, GreenStone Farm Credit Service Dario Chavez Assistant Professor, University of Georgia Drew grew up and lives in west Michigan with his wife and three children. He's worked in a variety of capacities in the produce industry in Michigan and has an master of science in plant biology from Michigan State University. Kevin has worked with his father and brother at Bittner Singer Orchards since graduating from Cornell in 2004 with a degree in horticulture. He is involved in the Barker Lions Club, Niagara County Farm Bureau and ARDP. Kevin is also a graduate of the Lead New York program. Hannah Burrack is a professor and Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology & Plant Pathology at North Carolina State University where she has worked since 2007. She leads the Specialty Crop IPM laboratory where she develops biology based strategies to improve pest and pollinator management in berries, grapes, tobacco, industrial hemp and other crops. She is particularly interested in the biology of invasive species and enjoys solving insect problems with Extension agents and growers. Colucci graduated from North Carolina State University with a master's in plant pathology. After graduating, she worked in the mountains of North Carolina with commercial vegetable growers as an area agent for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Since 2013, Colucci has been a technical sales representative for HM.CLAUSE (Harris Moran) throughout the Southeast. When she is not educating everyone she knows about vegetables, Colucci enjoys being a dog mom to Hank and Willie. Nathan Bender grew up in Columbus, Nebraska and attended the University of Nebraska Lincoln, graduating with an agriculture business degree. After graduating, he moved to Bakersfield, California, where he and his father started growing baby potatoes in 2007. Tasteful Selections has grown from 250 to over 15,000 acres. Nathan started in the farming operation, then managed the packing plant and is currently the chief operating officer. Nathan and his wife Malisa have two amazing daughters: Madelyn, 6; and Morgan, 2. Originally from southwest Michigan, Brett is currently an assistant professor and Extension specialist of peach entomology at the University of Georgia and Clemson University. He is the regional peach entomologist for Georgia and South Carolina with additional responsibilities for a variety of other fruits, including apples and grapes. Through addressing producer needs, his work highlights the importance of IPM and the support of beneficial insects for the sustainability of Southeastern fruit production. Cory is from Traverse City, Michigan. He attended Michigan State University and the University of Hawaii where he studied plant and soil science, and worked in nematology. He then transitioned to an irrigation design and installation specialist in Hawaii until relocating back to Michigan with his wife Roxanne and daughter Lily Rose. He started with GreenStone as a crop insurance specialist in 2014 and now leads its Fruit and Specialty Crop Insurance Team. Dario J. Chavez is from Riobamba, Ecuador and his family has farmed for four generations. Chavez became the Peach Research and Extension Specialist at the University of Georgia in 2014. His work focuses on plant production based on the plant's genetic potential, orchard management practices, growing environment and their interactions. He has created a new program focusing on peach orchard management, tree longevity, irrigation practices, root interaction with tree health, production and plant breeding and genetics. 2A

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