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Five Warner University Agricultural Studies students, along with Warner Ag Instructor Justin Sharpless, attended the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) 73rd Annual Convention from September 27-30 at the Ritz Carlton in Naples.

The purpose of their attendance at the convention was to participate in the “Career Pathways Program” created by the Produce Marketing Association’s Center for Growing Talent.

According to the Center for Growing Talent by PMA’s website, “These programs are designed to attract the best and brightest students to begin a career in the fresh produce and floral industry. Students are paired with industry mentors, participate in customized education sessions and are fully integrated into international, national and regional events.”

As part of the Career Pathways Program, the Warner Ag Studies students were joined by students from the University of Florida. The participants were assigned an industry mentor, participated in workshops, listened to panelists from the industry, and toured a local agricultural operation.


The student-mentor pairings were:

Timothy Cuellar and Kyle Purvis were paired with Rob Atchley of A. Duda and Sons, Inc.

Douglas Batson and Mandy Foster were paired with Keith Wedgworth of Wedgworth Farms.

Cameron Salter was paired with Ian Bessell of Covance Laboratories.


Cameron Salter, Kyle Purvis, Timothy Cuellar, Mandy Foster,

Doug Batson and Justin Sharpless

One of the most important parts of the program is the networking opportunities presented to our students. One of the students, Timothy Cuellar, has already been offered a job by his career mentor upon graduation.

The participants also toured Lipman Produce at their farm in Immokalee. Lipman produces various types of fruits and vegetables, including watermelon, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash, and potatoes. The product the company wants to be known best for is tomatoes, as they are North America’s largest field tomato grower. Along with a tour of the growing fields, the students also received a tour of their research facility where Lipman produces new varieties of fruits and vegetables.

A big thank you to the Produce Marketing Association and the Career Pathways Program for helping these students better their knowledge of the fruit and vegetable industry, as well as a big thanks to the mentors for helping the students network at the convention.