Applications Now Open for Blueberry Leadership Program, New Council Member Doug LaCroix, New Food Medicine Power Period, Register for Blueberry Summit!


Topics in this issue of Behind the Blue:

Applications Now Open for the Blueberry Leadership Program

The application process for the third class of USHBC’s Blueberry Leadership Program, which elevates up-and-coming leaders in the blueberry industry, is now open! The program will accept up to 10 talented, passionate professionals from across the supply chain to become the third group of fellows in the program.

The training, the first of its kind in the blueberry industry, is designed to help fellows grow their leadership skill set, learn from decades-long industry leaders and develop their network of connections. Professional development within the industry is a priority as members of the blueberry industry work together to make blueberries the No. 1 berry in sales volume and premium value. Fellows in the program will lead the industry into its next period of growth. 

“Our goal for the upcoming year of the Blueberry Industry Leadership Program is to keep involving emerging leaders in the blueberry sector and provide them with the insight, network and resources they need to actively contribute to the industry’s future growth and mission to make blueberries the world’s favorite fruit,” said Amanda Griffin, USHBC vice president of engagement and education, and lead facilitator of the program. “As we begin our third year of the program, it is essential to remember that those currently leading the blueberry business did so via education, teamwork and a desire to continuously improve and create. The program opens avenues and creates relationships, and we are excited to watch how the upcoming class evolves over the year of fellowship.”

Class 3 of the leadership program will kick off in September at The Blueberry Summit in Denver, Colorado, and continue through next year, taking an interactive approach to leadership development through hands-on training, immersive learning experiences, engagement with key industry players and exposure to the many components of the produce supply chain. Fellows will participate both virtually and in person, traveling four times over the course of the curriculum between September 2024 and September 2025, with a graduation ceremony taking place at the 2025 Blueberry Summit. To offset expenses and materials’ costs, fellows will be required to pay a $2,500 fee.

USHBC is seeking applicants who are up-and-coming leaders, hold a mid-level management position and have a minimum of five years experience in agriculture, with preference given to those who have worked in the blueberry industry. Potential fellows can visit to learn more and apply to the program, including application requirements and participation expectations. 

Applicants will be judged on their demonstration of leadership potential, passion and commitment to the success of the blueberry industry; career relevance to the blueberry industry; professional credentials; and overall fit for the program. Applicants are required to submit a letter of recommendation to be considered. 

The deadline to apply is May 31, 2024. Applications will be reviewed and evaluated by the USHBC Industry Leadership Program Selection Committee, composed of USHBC council members and industry representatives. Top candidates will be interviewed throughout June and July.

Meet USHBC’s Council Member Doug LaCroix, Director of Sales and Marketing, Family Tree Farms

1. What was your first job in blueberries?

My first job in the blueberry industry was sales.

2. What makes you passionate about the industry?

As a marketer, it’s particularly satisfying to be able to reward the excellent work and products of our farmers with customers and markets that are aligned with our vision.

3. What do you love about your job?

Since Family Tree Farms inception in 2001, David Jackson and his family have been visionary in their relentless pursuit of flavor. That passion is contagious, and I absolutely love working under such visionary leadership.

4. What’s one of your goals for being on the council?

I have two goals that I would like to achieve through my involvement on the council. First, I would like to become more actively engaged through greater communication and integration into the global blueberry market and industry. Second, I understand and appreciate that our perspective on the industry is valuable to others, specifically our start in California as a grower, packer and marketer, and how that led to our growth into farming in Mexico and Peru as a result of international market demand. I love sharing our story and experiences with others in the industry. 

5. What’s one of your goals for being on the council?

Family Tree Farms enjoys commodity diversification, so if I wasn’t in blueberries, I would for certain be working with another one of our fruits.  Our pursuit of flavorful, proprietary genetics has led us into a robust stone fruit offering, including blackberries, red- and yellow-flesh kiwi, apples and high-flavored ripe mangos. If I were completely out of produce all together, however, I would spend more time serving my church and more time with my kids and grandkids.

New Food as Medicine Power Period

In May, the USHBC will lean into its first ever Food as Medicine power period to raise awareness for how blueberries can benefit an overall healthy lifestyle at a time when half of American adults have one or more preventable chronic diseases1. Food As Medicine is broadly defined as the integration of food and nutrition interventions into the health care system, and it is poised to be a transformative approach to health, wellness and disease prevention. Through USHBC’s newly developed toolkit, which will feature a tip sheet, social graphics, recipe cards and display ads geared toward health professionals and retailers, USHBC will elevate this movement to help health professionals and retailers promote this initiative in-stores and digitally.

The new power period will target these audiences: 

  • Health Professionals: Reinforce the health benefits of blueberries, emphasizing how blueberries can positively impact overall health and contribute to building healthy routines through new resources. 
  • Industry: Activate blueberry marketers and industry stakeholders to amplify Food as Medicine messaging, using the newly developed toolkit to encourage industry participation in this movement.  
  • Retail: Share new marketing resources through this new toolkit to encourage increased promotion of Food as Medicine interventions and support for blueberries in stores.

You can read more about this new power period here

1The Healthy Eating Index: How Is America Doing? | USDA

Register for the Blueberry Summit Now to Save!

The schedule and exciting networking events at The Blueberry Summit, Sept. 25-27 in Denver, are coming into focus! Check out the full event schedule, then start planning your experience.

You’ll save big when you register by Aug. 27 with early-bird pricing. And save even more when you reserve your hotel room within our discounted room block, also by Aug. 27.  

You’ve got to be there to hear from blueberry industry thought leaders, connect with your peers, learn during educational sessions – and have some fun! 

Sign up to attend along with three three colleagues by June 30 to be entered into a raffle for four tickets to a Colorado Rockies game on the evening of Sept. 28! 

Interested in connecting with our passionate blueberry community? Reach out to Mandy Boarman, industry and community engagement manager, at [email protected] to learn about exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities!