Wada Farms brings experienced team to potato and onion sales and marketing

The website of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC in Idaho Falls, ID, under the heading “Meet the Team,” declares that “the experienced and highly capable team at Wada Farms intimately understands the needs of produce buyers and the foodservice industries. Simply put, we’re here to help make your life easier.”

Recently, the company’s president, Kevin Stanger, talked to The Produce News about the depth of experience his team brings to the sales and marketing of potatoes and onions. “We have a great sales and marketing team,” he said. Most team members have been with the company for more than eight years, many for more than 20, and many had prior experience in potatoes or other facets of the produce industry before joining Wada Farms.

01-Wada-teamMembers of the team in the Idaho Falls, ID, office of Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC are (back row) Brock Rogers, Tate Brooks, Kevin Stanger, Terry Hansen, Kirk Yellowhair, Evan Hansen and Joe Esta; (middle row) Cindy Schmoe, Arizona Harrington, Jill Edgley, Brenda Adams, Eden Adams and Annie Jo Lazzarotto; (front row) Manny Carvajal, Kevin King, Ben Josephson, Dominic Carnazzo, Chris Dixon, Eric Johnson, Trey Serr and Eric Beck.One of Idaho’s largest producers of fresh potatoes, Wada Farms was founded in 1943 by Frank Wada and today is headed by his son Albert Wada, chairman, and his grandson Bryan Wada, chief executive officer.

Stanger co-founded the marketing group in 1998 as a partnership with Wada and was named president three years ago when his predecessor, Bob Meek, retired after about 15 years with the company. Meek and his wife are now presiding over an LDS mission in Chile.

Joe Esta, who is vice president of Wada Farms Marketing Group, grew up in Idaho and has been with Wada for 21 years, starting in the packingshed and working his way up through shipping and sales, according to Stanger.

Heading the national sales and marketing team from the main office in Idaho Falls are Eric Beck, director of marketing, who has been six years with the company, and Ben Josephson, sales manager, who was with Wada for 12 years before taking a two-year hiatus from which he has just returned.

Beck has a degree in mathematics and “came to us from UPS,” Stanger said. “We originally hired him to help with some of our logistics planning in the shipping department at Pingree [ID], and then quickly moved him to our main office in Idaho Falls. He has picked up marketing and also handles some major accounts for us.” Josephson grew up “around potatoes” in the Aberdeen area and is “very familiar” with the Idaho potato industry,” Stanger said.

Also in sales in the Idaho Falls office are Tate Brooks, Dominic Carnazzo, Chris Dixon, Brock Rogers and Manny Cavajal.

Brooks was a golf pro before getting into potato sales and had “a little experience with another potato organization before he came with us” eight years ago, Stanger said. Carzanno has been with Wada for nine years and had many years prior experience in the California produce industry. Dixon is “fairly new,” and was a marketing rep for Stevens-Henager College before joining Wada. Rogers was an assistant store manager at a local Walmart. Cavajal speaks fluent Spanish and worked in the parks and recreation field before moving to Idaho. He was hired by Wada nine years ago and focuses on international sales.

Heading Wada’s Texas sales office is Dave Barton, who has been with Wada for 20 years. He has many years of experience previously in the produce industry with companies such as Potandon and Dole.

Michele Peterson, who grew up in Colorado, heads Wada’s Colorado potato sales. She has been with the company for four years.

John Vlahandreas is director of onion sales and is based in Oregon. He previously worked for a couple of other produce companies and joined Wada around eight years ago.

Norman Brown, who has been involved in sweet potatoes his whole career, is Wada’s director of sweet potatoes in North Carolina.

Many other team members, whose roles are essential to the smooth operation of the sales and marketing function, work in such area as quality control, production coordination, transportation and logistics, packaging coordination, account management, sales assistance and accounting.

Stanger said that a primary consideration in making hiring decisions at Wada Farms Marketing Group is to select people who will work as part of the team, doing “what is best for the whole organization.”    

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