NARBA’s board of directors is called the Executive Council. It includes 8 regional representatives, two at-large members, and the officers, most of whom are also regional representatives.
Fred Koenigshof has been a NARBA member since 2003. He’s served on the board since 2011 and as NARBA president in 2014 and 2015. Fred and his wife, Linda, operate K & K Farms in Coloma, Michigan. The farm raises raspberries, apples, and peaches, cherries and sells PYO, direct to the public, and at farmers markets locally and in the Chicago area.
Fred Finney, NARBA’s Vice President in 2015, operates Moreland Fruit Farm in Wooster, Ohio, with his wfe, Marilyn. They raise apples, peaches, cherries, red and black raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, other berries and vegetable crops and fall mums, selling PYO and at their on-farm market. Fred was a leader in Ohio Farm Bureau for many years and also served on the board of Nationwide Insurance for more than 20 years. Fred is a strong believer in working with research and extension and has been especially involved in the food safety issue. “I’m trying to get produce growers on board with that,” he says.
Rudy Heeman serves as NARBA’s treasurer and as regional representative for Canada. Strawberries are the big crop at Heeman’s Farm in Thorndale, Ontario, but the farm has been growing raspberries since 1991, and currently has four acres of red raspberries. They also operate a large on-farm garden center and offer school tours. Rudy is also active in the North American Strawberry Growers Association.
Chris Eckert is the seventh generation of his family to farm in southern Illinois, where he is President/CEO of Eckert Companies. The family-owned and managed business operates three pick-your-own fruit farms, a 25,000 square foot specialty food store and garden center, a seasonal produce store in St Louis, and a restaurant. On the farming side, they raise 500 acres of fruits and vegetables, 12 of those acres in blackberries, with a primary focus on pick-your-own.
Says Chris, “The greatest issues facing our industry today are immigration reform and crop insurance reform… In addition, I would rank the new invasive insect species as major challenges that need research attention.” He has been involved in the produce industry in many ways including as President of the National Peach Council and President of the Illinois State Hort Society, and has spent quite a bit of time in Washington lobbying on immigration reform.
Julie Schedeen of Schedeen’s Farm in Boring, OR, is the representative for the western states on the NARBA board and Julie was a grower spotlight speaker at our 2012 conference in Oregon. The Schedeens have been raising berries since 1977. In a state where most caneberry growers raise for processing, their farm concentrates on selling direct to the public, with two roadside stands and lots of processed products. Julie also serves on the board of the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission.
Marvin Williams represents the Deep South states on the NARBA board. At Williams Farm in Enigma, Georgia, and WW Farms in Willacoochee, Georgia, he and his father-in-law raise 25 acres of blackberries, with most of them sold for wholesale fresh market through a national marketer; those that are too ripe for shipping are sold by the gallon to local buyers. Marvin has been active in creating NARBA’s new website and is helping lead the steering committee working on the development of a federal Research & Promotion program for blackberries as a way to raise research and promotion funds for blackberries, and increase communication within the blackberry industry.
Pierson Geyer and his family operate Agriberry Farm in Hanover, Virginia, where they raise raspberries and blackberries and sell through multiple farmers markets and CSAs. They also sell wholesale and have an on-farm kitchen to process their own berries. His parents, Anne and Chuck Geyer, are long-time berry growers and NARBA members. Right now, he’s the only member of the Millenial generation on NARBA’s board, and he brings a lot of good ideas and energy — including increasing networking among young growers. He also serves as NARBA’s representative to the National Berry Crops Initiative, a consortium of berry organizations.
Scott Norman of Naturipe Farms is an At-Large member on the Executive Council. Scott has worked more than 25 years in the fruit and vegetable industry. For the past five years, he has been Director of Product Management for Blackberries and Raspberries for Naturipe Farms, a grower-owned company. Says Scott, “I work to coordinate with each of our growing regions (the Southeast, California, and imports from Mexico and Guatemala). I am the liaison between our grower partners and our sales and marketing team – my job is to maximize grower return and at the same time make sure we have the right amount of berries for the company in each growing window.
“I am glad to be a member of NARBA, and I’ve attended most of the NARBA conferences since I joined Naturipe. Ultimately I would like to be part of the team that helps to get the word out to the public about our berries. Raspberries and blackberries are not promoted anywhere near as much as strawberries and blueberries, and the public is just not well informed about their benefits.”
Richard Barnes, an at-large member of the Executive Council, is both a blackberry grower in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a supplier to the berry industry, operating Trellis Growing System, which offers modular trellis systems for caneberries. The company has worked closely with USDA researchers to develop the system and also helped many new growers get started. Richard’s business acumen is a good addition to the Executive Council, and he’s especially interested in helping NARBA grow and attract new members and in increasing funding for the Research Foundation’s work.