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Fallbrook's BOLD graduates cultivate avocado growth

Judith Bell

Staff Writer

The $7 billion avocado market is growing. The Hass Avocado Board (HAB) is cultivating professionals with its Board Leadership Development (BOLD) program. It is a year of immersion into everything avocado.

Caitlin Cunha and Hillary DeCarl, two professionals at Del Rey Avocado, are recent BOLD graduates.

Cunha, a graduate of Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, majored in agribusiness with a minor in Spanish. She'll soon celebrate five years as a part of the Sales Team with Del Rey Avocado. The "30 something" woman is a "global girl." Her nomination for the BOLD program came from the Peruvian avocado producers.

"Avocados are a worldwide crop, and the Hass Avocado Board represents all who grow Hass. That's right here in Fallbrook... and around the world.

"Naturally we are partial to our own," Cunha said, noting that Del Rey avocados can be identified by their "sticker." Cunha said the BOLD program has made her even more passionate about her work at Del Rey.

"Over the year's program we were given an in-depth education of what is fully available to everyone in the avocado industry. The in-depth presentations by the USDA in Washington D.C. were one of the highlights of BOLD," she said.

As for using her BOLD experience day-to-day, Cunha sees herself as being a resource to her company, to the avocado industry locally and wherever she might be able to contribute.

Cunha would like to touch the lives of young people, even juniors and seniors in high school so that they might see all the opportunities within the avocado industry and be able to start right here and right now.

"A 'techie' would be fascinated about the technology that is associated with the avocado industry; from growing, harvesting, packing and even to the supermarket shelves, technology is critical. People are needed everywhere to make our industry grow. It is much more complicated than it looks. This makes the industry continually challenging and interesting," Cunha concluded.

Cunha grew up in Encinitas. She is married to Pedro and has two sons, Tiago, 5, and Francisco, 4. Her husband's family has a Portuguese heritage. On a personal note, she said her family "loves avocados."

"The avocado industry found me," said Hillary DeCarl. As a recent graduate of the Hass Avocado Board's BOLD program, DeCarl is very excited at how she can be a resource for Del Rey Avocado and the local industry now and the larger industry in the future. Her current focus is on sourcing avocados for Del Rey.

"With the amazing in-depth education we received through BOLD, I know we can make a difference for our growers," DeCarl said.

Locally you may remember DeCarl. She grew up in Temecula and was a star on the Chaparral High School volleyball court. Her skill set provided a scholarship to George Washington University in Washington D.C.

Through a series of networking, both personal and professional, she came to the attention of Del Rey and was hired. She started her career by helping growers with food safety requirements. She progressed into working with safety as well as with the growing organic avocado market.

"Del Rey can boast of being the largest California packer of organic avocados. A full 30% of California organic avocados are packed by Del Rey," DeCarl said. Having the organic avocado experience and expertise enables her to be of value to area growers.

"The organic market is growing, and it can be lucrative if it is done right," she said.

One of the aspects of the BOLD program that DeCarl believes to be of value is the people who were a part of the cohort. "The diversity, perspectives and opinions helped us all to see how we could connect and improve within our companies right now. At the same time there was a sense of how this experience can be of value for years to come."

DeCarl is married to Lew Piper. She uses avocados...Hass naturally. "From appetizers and through dessert, avocados are there, especially Haas avocados," she said.

"Before I started with Del Rey, I knew I liked to eat avocados. I knew they were a really good source for good nutrition. I knew very little about the industry. Now, as I celebrate five years with Del Rey, I can see that this industry has every challenge anyone would want for a career."

DeCarl noted that avocados fit into every aspect of almost any menu. The dessert she suggested is the California Avocado and Fruit Board with Chocolate California Avocado Dip. It is on page C-10. It is provided as a courtesy from the California Avocado Commission. Their web site has many, many appetizing avocado recipes,


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