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Kasey Cronquist named as president of national blueberry groups

After an exhaustive search process, the North American Blueberry Council and U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council have named Kasey Cronquist as its new president, effective July 29. The Council’s current executive director, Mark Villata, will retire at the end of the year.CRONQUIST

“After 25 exciting and rewarding years working for the NABC and USHBC, I’m pleased to be welcoming the next phase of leadership in Kasey,” said Mark Villata. “We’ve seen the blueberry industry grow tremendously over the years and I’m optimistic the organization will continue to remain an industry leader for many years to come.”

“Mark started when the NABC had a budget of $500,000 and has led the growth of the organization to a $10 million federal research and promotion program,” said Chris Barnhill, chairman at USHBC. “He was fundamental in creating USHBC as we know it, spreading consumer awareness of blueberry taste and health benefits, and steering us to the 770 million-pound North American blue wave we are today.”

As the new president, Cronquist will serve all blueberry industry members by providing oversight and insight on the USHBC’s national promotion, health research and education programs, in addition to leading the NABC in its role as a voice and advocate of the highbush blueberry industry.

“I really enjoyed getting to know the leadership within the Blueberry Council,” Cronquist told The Produce News. “Blueberries are not only a great crop but the people I’m going to be working with, representing, and serving are really a great group of people. They are very family-oriented folks and I’m looking forward to digging in and helping them address some of the challenges that exist and taking advantage of some of the opportunities that are out there.”

Cronquist joins the NABC and USHBC after 12 years as chief executive officer and ambassador for the California Cut Flower Commission where he was responsible for revenue generation, grant management, advocacy efforts and public awareness campaigns for California cut flowers programs and products. He also helped established the bipartisan Congressional Cut Flower Caucus; launched the Certified American Grown program; organized and led international trade delegations for overseas market development; and established the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour.

“What I love about this transition is that there is some sort of sweet intersection between flowers and blueberries that will serve me and my next group of growers really well,” said Cronquist. “Everybody loves flowers and everybody loves blueberries. I am looking forward to meeting new farmers and learning a lot about blueberries. The success of the council today will continue as we work together on new opportunities and addressing challenges together.”

“We couldn’t be more excited for Kasey to bring his passion and expertise to the blueberry industry,” said Tom Bodtke, chairman at NABC. “He is a high-energy leader and strategic thinker whose skills in creative problem-solving, team building and communications will bring great value.”

Cronquist said, “My leadership style is focused on problem solving and seizing opportunities, so that resource that the USHBC and the NABC have been to the industry will continue. I’m looking forward to discovering where the uncharted territory is, where we are charting well, and what I can bring to the table.”