Dec 16, 2020
Ben Sklarczyk, Yi Wang honored in 40 Under 40 awards program

Fruit Growers News and Vegetable Growers News honored the Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Class of 2020 with a live virtual ceremony during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO on Dec. 8.

Ben and Alison Sklarczyk in the greenhouse at Sklarczyk Seed Farm in Michigan.

The exemplary agriculture professionals were nominated by their peers for the impressive accomplishments of their young careers. The Class of 2020 also was featured in the October 2020 issues of both publications.

Launched in 2018, the 40 Under 40 Awards represent a broad spectrum of agriculture industry professionals, from growers and farm market operators, to Extension agents and industry suppliers. The young professionals selected are making substantial strides for their individual businesses and the industry as a whole.

Yi Wang, University of Wisconsin-Madison assistant professor.

“Things were a little different this year. It was exciting to host a LIVE virtual event honoring the future of our industry,” said CEO and Publisher Matt McCallum. “The industry is clearly in good hands with these young professionals, who are already making a positive impact through their exceptional leadership, motivation and innovation.”

The honorees included former Spudman Emerging Leader Award winners Ben Sklarczyk, owner of Sklarczyk Seed Farm in Michigan, and Yi Wang, an assistant professor of horticultural sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Vegetable Growers News and Fruit Growers News are sister publications of Spudman.

The 2020 honorees were:

  1. Aaron Libby, Owner, Libby & Son U-Picks
  2. Amy Metrick, Farm Partner/4-H Extension educator, Metrick’s Harvest View Farm & Market/Penn State Extension
  3. Andrea Kirchoff, operations supervisor/food safety specialist, Tim Campbell Farm LLC
  4. Ariana Torres, assistant professor, Purdue University
  5. Ben Sklarczyk, CEO/COO, Sklarczyk Seed Farms
  6. Ben Smith, executive secretary and farmer, Michigan State Horticulture Society
  7. Benjamin Keim, field operations manager, Keim Orchards
  8. Brett Blaauw, assistant professor and Extension specialist, University of Georgia and Clemson University
  9. Charlie Hamilton, PCA, CCA, QAL/grape gower, Grow West Inc. & Pressley Ranches LLC
  10. Cory Blumerick, senior crop insurance specialist, GreenStone Farm Credit Service
  11. Creela Hamlin, co-owner, Lake Michigan Berry, LLC
  12. Dario Chavez, assistant professor, University of Georgia
  13. Darren Sinn, NW business management, Berry Fresh
  14. Don Seifrit, Extension educator, tree fruit, Penn State Extension
  15. Drew Afton, Specialist, agri supplier development, Nestle Gerber
  16. Emily Pochubay, tree fruit IPM educator, Michigan State University
  17. Felipe Pacheco, agricultural specialist, Georgia Department of Labor
  18. Hannah Burrack, professor and Extension specialist, North Carolina State University
  19. John Price, manager, Archlynn Farm
  20. Jordan Rasch, orchard management, Green Tree Orchards
  21. Josh Pagura, farmer/operations manager, Pagura Farms LLC/Slocum Farms LLC
  22. Justin Morgan, vice president, Dairy Doo
  23. Kari Molter, co-owner, Molter Produce
  24. Kevin Bittner, pomology specialist, Bittner Singer Orchards
  25. Kyle Wafler, operations, Wafler Nursery
  26. Laurie Swanson, assistant operations manager/labor coordinator, Great Lakes Ag Labor Services LLC
  27. Margaret Worthington, assistant professor/fruit breeding and genetics, University of Arkansas, Department of Horticulture
  28. Melissa Morlock, co-owner, J.W. Morlock and Girls LLC
  29. Nathan Bender, chief operating officer, Tasteful Selections
  30. Nick Oomen, owner. Oomen Brothers Inc
  31. Nicolas Tipper, director of research and development, Application Insight LLC
  32. Rob Glover, farm owner, Rob Glover Farms LLC
  33. Sarah Reel, grower/crop consultant, Double R Farm / Reynolds Farm Equipment
  34. Shannon Higginbotham, farmer, Cheyenne’s Road Market
  35. Steve Rachut, grower, Steve’s Sweet Corn and Produce/Kittleson Brothers
  36. Susan Colucci, technical sales representative II, HM Clause Inc.
  37. Trevor Hardy, farm supplies manager/systems engineer/assistant crop production manager, Brookdale Fruit Farm Inc.
  38. Wenjing Guan, clinical/engagement assistant professor, Purdue University
  39. Yi Wang, assistant professor horticultural sciences, University of Wisconsin Madison
  40. Zachary Hayden, assistant professor of horticulture, Michigan State University

The 2020 Fruit + Vegetable 40 Under 40 Awards were sponsored by AgBiome Innovations, BioWorks, Corteva Agriscience, FMC and Stokes Seeds. For more information about each member of the Class of 2020, visit or

Nominations for the Class of 2021 are available online, at and, with a nomination deadline of March 18, 2021.

To view a video of the virtual event, visit here

A virtual event to honor the FGN/VGN 40 Under 40 Class of 20202 was held Dec. 8 during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO. Photo: Gary Pullano

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