“2010 was a good year for Sunkist growers,” Sunkist’s President and CEO Russell Hanlin told the more than 800 growers who met Feb. 23 at the Ventura County Fairgrounds for the citrus marketing cooperative’s 117th annual meeting.

“In 2010 we were faced with, and successfully overcame, many difficulties imposed by the weak global economy,” said Hanlin. “We ended the year strong and financially stable, increasingly more efficient and well-positioned for continued success.”

Sunkist’s overall revenues were impressive, topping $1 billion for the tenth time in the past two decades. Hanlin credited much of the past year’s success to the well coordinated efforts of the sales and production segments of Sunkist’s operations. “The coordination between our sales and marketing team and our packinghouses,” said Hanlin, “was the best I’ve seen.”

Growers at Sunkist’s annual meeting heard reports of the year just ended and updates on current crop conditions. They also had an opportunity to visit a large exhibition area where they could see first-hand some of the things Sunkist was doing to market their fruit as well as some of the many licensed products that carry the Sunkist brand name around the world. Sunkist is the world’s oldest and largest citrus marketing cooperative, owned by and operated for, thousands of citrus growers in California and Arizona who make up its membership.   

Following the annual meeting, the newly elected board of directors met to elect their officers for the current year. Mark D. Gillette of Dinuba, Calif., was elected to his first term as Chairman of the Board, replacing Nicholas F. Bozick of Mecca, Calif., who served as chairman for five consecutive terms, the maximum allowed under Sunkist by-laws.

Gillette is a fourth generation citrus grower who started the Gillette Citrus Company in 1983 with his father and brother. He is the managing partner of Gillette Citrus Company, a Sunkist-affiliated grower, packer and shipper of fresh citrus and grows Navel, Valencia and Moro oranges in Fresno and Tulare counties. Gillette has served on the Sunkist Board of Directors since 1999.

Re-elected vice chairmen for 2011 are William E. Chaney of Sun City, Ariz.; Gerald Denni of Strathmore, Calif., and James Finch of Ojai, Calif.

Chaney represents the Allied Citrus Growers Exchange in Arizona where he serves as Vice President. A lemon and specialty citrus grower in the Yuma, Ariz., area, he is President of Marlin Packing Company, Marlin Ranching Company, The Marlin Group, Inc. and Marlin Growers. An 18-year member of the Sunkist board, Chaney previously served as vice chair from 2001-05.  

Denni, a Sunkist member since 1986, was elected to the Sunkist board in 2007 from the California Citrus Growers Exchange where he serves as administrator. Denni grows several varieties of oranges including Navels, Valencias, Cara Caras and Bloods in the Lindsay and Strathmore areas. He is General Manager of Golden Valley Citrus in Strathmore and co-owner of Mittman-Denni Citrus Management, which manages over 1,800 acres of California-grown citrus.

Finch was elected to the Sunkist board in 2004 from the Saticoy Fruit Exchange. A third generation citrus producer, he and his family grow lemons, oranges and avocados in Ventura County, Calif. In addition to his agricultural interests, Finch serves as a Trustee of the Monica Ross School.  

Bringing the board total to 27 are:  Caroline Alfheim of Clovis, Calif.; Craig Armstrong of Palm Desert, Calif.; Nicholas Bozick of Mecca, Calif.; George Bravante of Visalia, Calif.; Allen Camp of Ventura, Calif.; William Chaney of Sun City, Arizona; Leslie Leavens-Crowe of Santa Paula, Calif.; Steve Cutting of Manhattan Beach, Calif.;  Burt Fugate of Santa Maria, Calif.; Russell Katayama of Orosi, Calif.; Gary Laux of Porterville, Calif.; Brad Leichtfuss of Fillmore, Calif.; Manuel Martinez of Loma Linda, Calif.;  Samuel Mayhew of Oxnard, Calif.; Tom Mazzetti of Riverside, Calif.; Eric Meling of Ivanhoe, Calif.; Martin Mittman of Porterville, Calif.; Dick Neece of Porterville, Calif.; Cecilia Perry of Yuma, Ariz.; Richard Pidduck of Santa Paula, Calif.; Kevin Riddle of Orosi, Calif.; Chuck Sheldon of Lindsay, Calif., and Randy Veeh of Visalia, Calif.