At De Ruiter, we approach our products with a mix of art and science. Our greatest source of inspiration is our growers. It is our mission to bring the same level of passion to our work as they do to theirs. We match our customers’ enthusiasm for their crops by delivering one-on-one service. Our dedication comes from the knowledge that while distinctive seeds grow great fruit, only partnerships grow success.
RAFAEL LACAZ RUIZ | Tomato Technology Development Representative
Rafael Lacaz Ruiz is the Tomato Technology Development Representative for Protected Culture in North America.
He enjoys supporting De Ruiter growers every day and always wants them to feel comfortable reaching out to him for assistance. "I feel passionate about working for De Ruiter because we’re doing something very important; we’re growing vegetables to feed people all over the world – and that’s something truly special,” shared Rafael.
He believes it is his responsibility to collaborate with others in the industry to make sure De Ruiter is delivering the best results for growers and make them successful.
ED AYALA | Commercial Lead for North America
Ed Ayala is known to the world as De Ruiter's Commercial Lead for North America. Inside De Ruiter, he's known as the sales guy. With over 20 years at Monsanto under his belt, Ed's non-traditional path into agriculture might be the key to his success. Hailing from the Philippines, then picking up a BA in economics, followed by his MBA, Ed knew he wanted career where he could change the world for the better. All of the technologies that Monsanto brings to an industry that by its nature produces healthy options and lifestyles for people. That truly is what attracted me to Monsanto, he said.
One De Ruiter characteristic Ed is most proud of is its downstream focus-working directly with growers to identify what end-users are going to be purchasing at retail and dining on at restaurants. Hearing their concerns and opportunities firsthand can help us decide where to aim our R&D toward where we need to be in the future. According to Ed, Art Meets Science plays out in a variety when we have the perfect combination of yield performance and consumer satisfaction. Marketplace trends he sees include millennials loving locally-grown produce and taste being king. Snackable veggies are also on the rise as people strive for healthier lifestyles.
On the horizon, Ed is most excited about flavor improvements being made to the small and large tomatoes, continually breeding to make them even better. Two new red bell peppers are on their way to being rolled out. And De Ruiter will continue to improve and offer more unique small tomatoes as a way for Growers to differentiate themselves and cater to their consumer audience.
In case you were wondering, Ed's personal favorite is Orange Grape Tomato DR4299TC.
LINDSAY WALSH | Distribution Manager
Lindsay Walsh manages the distribution center in Canada. She is the dedicated person who has the honor of making sure your shipment is perfect when it comes to the order, packaging and quantity. With her co-worker, Kathy, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that orders are above and beyond expectations, 100% of the time. Our distribution centers focus every step and checkpoint toward acting as a reliable partner that provides cutting-edge seed genetics for generations to come.
While she’s always been an impassioned vegetable eater, Lindsay wasn’t always in agriculture. She grew up on a tobacco farm but ended up going into law. It was a strange coincidence that she ended up working at Monsanto: first in rural crops and soybeans.
Lindsay has a hard time picking her favorite De Ruiter vegetable, but especially loves the Camaro cucumber.
CARLOS BUZIO | Regional Product Manager
Meet Carlos Buzio. This year, he joined our North America team as the Regional Product Manager for De Ruiter seeds. He approaches his role as a connection between all parts of De Ruiter Seeds: taking learnings from breeding, production and the commercial organization, and leveraging those insights to enable the team to bring new products to the market to fit your needs. At the end of the day, your success as a grower is his main focus. He works hard to understand current consumer and market demands/trends to make decisions about future products that will make your operation more successful.
“Customers are always a part of the conversations we have,” he says. “For example, there are a handful of products that we may not have advanced in years prior, but with customer feedback and input, we are now taking a second look at them and re-evaluating their space in the market.”
Carlos’ gift to you is letting you know that there’s a De Ruiter red blocky pepper that we have been trialing for 3 years, launching this summer. It has great yield potential and fruit shape, and is just the right size.
DEREK WILLIAMS | Customer Interface Specialist
Meet Derek Williams, our Customer Interface Specialist. Based in Oxnard, California, Derek rises early to be available when you need him. He works hard to provide valuable information to your business, like order statuses and product availability, and to ensure you get the answers you need.
Derek’s passion has always been around the individual relationships a customer-focused company can grow. After business school, he worked for a smaller wood manufacturing company and fell in love with the passion of a brand that cares about their end-consumer. Here, he learned to enjoy the feeling of forming a deeper connection with a customer over good conversations and earned trust.
This year, Derek says he’s looking forward to the launch of the Davida cucumber.
EMILY HACKSTADT | Marketing Manager
Some of you may have already had the pleasure of meeting De Ruiter North America Marketing Manager, Emily Hackstadt. While her office is located at Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, she travels considerably to support her team and visit customers all over North America and the Netherlands.
Emily’s vast farm knowledge has roots in her childhood, where she stacked straw bales and drove the grain cart on her family farm. Her father was the inspiration for her goal to pursue agriculture with Monsanto. “The passion and dedication that he puts into his job every day as a farmer encouraged me to apply those same qualities of hard work and passion into everything I do in life.”
With a Bachelor’s in both Marketing and Management, topped off by a Masters in Business, Emily began work where she’d always wanted as a Customer Operations Specialist in the Row Crops division. Monsanto then promoted her to Seed Service Advisor, and finally to her position as the De Ruiter North American Marketing Manager today. As a marketing manager, Emily is grateful to not only be a part of offering the best products for protected agriculture through De Ruiter seed in general, but to partner with customers to understand their needs and help provide solutions.
Without hesitation, Emily will tell you that her favorite De Ruiter variety is DR0603TC. The flavor is her favorite trait, hands down. But the satisfying crunch that comes from the first bite is a close second. She says, “Knowing that I play a part in the role of feeding the world’s rapidly increasing population is extremely rewarding and my roots planted deep in my family’s farm make this role even more fulfilling.”
MARK FAHY | Commercial Business Analyst and Financial Lead
De Ruiter is lucky to have Commercial Business Analyst and Financial Lead Mark Fahy on board. While he likes to consider his job the “algebra behind the scenes,” interacting with customers has always been his ultimate goal. After eight years of traditional accounting roles, he now has opportunities to meet customers during visits and at events, discussing finance topics such as increasing wages and how De Ruiter can assist in growing your business.
During his time at Webster University in St. Louis, Mark achieved a Master’s Degree in Forensic Accounting. Today, he assists in developing market funding programs tailored to each customer’s business. He also works with De Ruiter Product Management and Technical Development Representatives to help determine what new varieties would be ideal to release in the market, as well as supporting the De Ruiter Sales Representatives.
Growing up in St. Louis where he now works, Mark’s family had a small backyard vegetable garden. He has childhood memories of enjoying that feeling of picking a tomato off the vine and eating it on the spot. So, it’s no surprise that his favorite De Ruiter varieties are snacking tomatoes, preferring the orange and yellow ones. To his palate, they are a bit sweeter.
YOLANDA PRYZTOCKI | Sales Representative Canada East
From her base in Ontario, Yolanda Pryztocki handles technical sales and trial placement for customers in Canada East, including cucumber, tomato, pepper, and eggplant growers. After five years with De Ruiter, Yolanda says her mantra is: what you plant now, you will harvest later.
"My background is in agriculture. I had experience before as an owner and as a grower heading up my own business, so that helps me understand my customers' needs," Yolanda says. "If there's a problem, I don't look at it as a stop sign. Once a solution is reached, I make sure to give my customers even more than they expected."
MARCIN WIDECKI | Technical Sales Representative
As a child, Marcin wished that candy grew on trees. And as one of our Technical Sales Reps, he’s found that his youthful wish has almost come true. Marcin is quick to tell clients about the incredible, sweet-tasting, snackable qualities of his favorite De Ruiter ® variety, grape tomato DR0603TC.
A Technical Sales Rep differs from other Sales Reps in that they have extensive backgrounds in agriculture. Marcin grew up working on his family’s small greenhouse in Poland, growing tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers during the warm seasons. He obtained his college degree as a teacher. Today, these two skills help Marcin inform and troubleshoot on the spot when he visits his De Ruiter customers.
Based in Leamington, ON, Marcin gets the first glimpse of products coming down the pipeline. With his accessibility to new product introductions, Marcin is able to take this knowledge to growers in Quebec and Ontario, New York, Michigan and Europe. During his travels, if a question arises that could be better answered by a specific expert, Marcin hops on the phone with De Ruiter advisors in Holland and Poland to find an answer quickly. Previously a Head Grower, he enjoys traveling and the pride that comes from seeing De Ruiter products thrive at operations around the world and ultimately, in market.
JOSEPH HOGSETT | Customer Operations Specialist
A year and a half into his role as a Customer Operations Specialist at De Ruiter, and you might say Joseph Hogsett is equal parts dedicated and supportive when it comes to the purchase and seed delivery experience.
Hogsett describes his role as one that requires close attention to detail. “You’re constantly collaborating and working side-by-side with Inventory Specialists, the Quality Assurance team, our Regional Project Manager, the Sales Manager, Marketing, the Customer Interface Specialist and two different plants located in California and Canada. This lets us fulfill our customers’ orders with the highest quality seeds as soon as possible.”
When Hogsett isn’t working in close contact with his De Ruiter teams, you can find him staying active at home with his family. There, they spend much of their time outdoors riding bikes and playing football.
Joseph credits his family of four for keeping him very patient and understanding––critical traits that make it easy for people to connect with and talk to him.
While many members of the De Ruiter team favor tomatoes as their vegetable of choice, Joseph enjoys the Camaro cucumber. He credits this appreciation to his role in planting, growing and taste-testing the Camaro cucumber in the courtyard of the Oxnard, California De Ruiter office where he works.
EMILY STANDLEY | Brand Communications Manager
Having worked previously at different St. Louis marketing agencies, Emily Standley is no stranger to the intricacies and challenges of brand management. But it was at De Ruiter that she found an opportunity to be part of a team that focuses on true customer service.
To Emily, focusing on customer needs is at the core of her role. The most rewarding part of working at De Ruiter is when she can develop professional insights based on direct contact with customers. “It’s hard to pick my favorite part of this job,” Emily says, “But anytime I can solve a grower’s challenge by communicating information they need is the best part of my day.”
Though she doesn’t have a background in agriculture, she’s taken advantage of every opportunity to educate herself. “Starting out, I spent as much time talking to growers as I could,” she remembers. “Talking to the experts is the best way to learn.”
It wasn’t long before Emily discovered agriculture was a uniquely fascinating industry to employ her talents. “There’s so much innovation and science behind the way we grow our food. I think that’s what a lot of consumers don’t often see—all the effort it takes to bring them food every day.”
When she’s not brand managing, Emily heads outdoors. Though her paddle boar ing and hiking options are limited at the De Ruiter office in St. Louis, she looks forward to trips where she can take some time and explore a new place.
MEGAN GROENNERT | Propagator and Sales Operations Representative
It might surprise you to learn that despite growing up on a farm, Megan Groennert did not grow up enjoying vegetables. "I have never been a big vegetable eater. I guess my parents never really made me eat them growing up. I’m a meat and potatoes kind of gal, I blame the Midwest farm background for that."
But through her role at De Ruiter Seeds, as the company's Propagator and Sales Operations Representative, Megan has come to embrace and enjoy trying new vegetable products. "I am starting to appreciate the taste of vegetables and started tasting tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers this year. In the past, I would pick tomatoes and cucumbers off a salad, for example, but now my curiosity gets the best of me because I have to compare them all."
Prior to her current position at De Ruiter, Megan previously served as a Customer Interface Account Specialist for De Ruiter (US/CAN) where she had the privilege to work with De Ruiter customers every day. "The knowledge of the customer base and the internal processes I have been able to bring with me into my current role have been invaluable."
Today, Megan spends much of her time managing the day to day operation of the Trusted Propagator Program (which includes the relationship management of De Ruiter propagator customers in Canada), partnering with De Ruiter's US Dealers and providing operational support to the De Ruiter sales team.
"My role impacts the grower experience before the seeds are even sold to the grower. I coordinate pre-season seed tests with propagators so they know what to expect from batches of the same seed during the busy season. These test results help me work with the propagators to ensure they are able to deliver the right number of plants, at the right quality and the right time to our mutual customer, the grower," says Megan.
So which De Ruiter product does a previously self-proclaimed vegetable naysayer enjoy eating most? "I like the sweet taste of the DR0603TC." And when she isn't sampling new De Ruiter varieties, you are most likely to run into Megan outdoors, where she enjoys walking and bicycling.
MARJAN WILLETT | Market Development Representative
Marjan Willett joined De Ruiter in 2017 as a Market Development Representative. Hailing from the Netherlands with a background in both social science and agriculture, Marjan helps our team develop the leading pepper and cucumber varieties of tomorrow.
“It’s a lot of tinkering around until you find the right combination, the next golden-egg hybrid,” she said.
Based in Leamington, ON, Marjan works with internal and external stakeholders across North America to decide which hybrids will help the greatest number of customers. To her, it comes down to finding the right hybrids for the right markets at the right time, which ensures there’s never a dull moment on the job. Marjan enjoys the excitement and fast pace of working with breeders and customers to discover unique breeding opportunities that will benefit all involved.
Of the De Ruiter portfolio of products, her favorite variety to snack on is Davida cucumbers, which she sprinkles with a bit of Mexican seasoning. When she isn’t experimenting with new hybrids at work, she can often be found spending time with her husband and two children, baking artisan breads or making her own soaps and shampoo bars.
FREDDY SALAZAR | Protected Culture Strategic Accounts Lead for North America
For many members of the De Ruiter team, agriculture is much more than a career; it’s a lifestyle. Federico “Freddy” Salazar is no exception.
With a lifelong passion for agriculture, Freddy serves our growers as the Protected Culture Strategic Accounts Lead for North America. Joining the team from Sinaloa, Mexico—not far from where his family grew corn, beans and roma tomatoes during his childhood—Freddy brings a wealth of experience and an innovative spirit to De Ruiter.
Freddy believes the most important part of his job is building relationships with growers and marketers by providing them with resources and insights to better their businesses. Every day, he strives to anticipate customer needs and help them achieve their goals in creative ways—all in the spirit of nutritiously (and deliciously) feeding our growing world.
“Everyone needs food, so I couldn’t be in another business that’s more beneficial for everyone,” he said.
Having spent his entire career in agriculture, Freddy remains optimistic about where the industry is headed and how De Ruiter can use developing technologies to improve the lives of growers and consumers alike. When he isn’t supporting our growers or snacking on his favorite De Ruiter cherry tomatoes, he can often be found spending time with friends or playing sports outdoors with his two sons.