Speaker biographies for the conference convening
on Wednesday, January 31 and Thursday, February 1
Dr. Keri L. Jacobs is associate professor of agricultural and applied economics at the University of Missouri and holds the Partridge Chair in Cooperative Leadership. In 2021, she was named Executive Director of the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership (GICL). In her outreach role, Jacobs partners with cooperatives and their associations to create and deliver director and talent development programs in cooperative governance and finance, and to engage with cooperative boards and leadership in strategic planning. Through collaboration with industry and key stakeholders, she pursues research that seeks to inform and elevate producers’ opportunities through collective action within their supply chains. Jacobs was raised on her family’s hog and row crop farm in eastern Iowa and earned her B.A. in economics from Coe College and PhD in agricultural economics from North Carolina State University.
Dr. Michael Boland (Mike) holds the Koller endowed Professorship in agribusiness management at the University of Minnesota. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in agricultural supply chains and cooperatives and organizational forms. He is an adjunct professor in the Carlson School of Management and Mondale School of Law. Mike’s research looks at the governance of food and agricultural supply chains including a knowledge of institutions, value creation, and transactions within supply chains and his work has taken him to more than 100 countries. His graduate agribusiness course and its novel teaching style which includes guest speakers, student discussants, and more than 80 different topics on the food economy has led it to be one of the largest courses with regard to number of graduate students at the University of Minnesota. Mike has taught in more than 10 different executive MBA and master’s programs in agribusiness globally over the past 25 years. Mike is an independent director on Select Sires, a global bovine genetics and reproduction firm with sales in more than 90 countries where he is a member of the audit and member committees. He is an independent board advisor for UniGroup, a firm in the household relocation and logistics business with the United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit brands and is a member of the governance committee. In 2022, Mike passed the Certified Corporate Director exam offered by the National Association of Corporate Directors.
Mike Droke started his career as a client, not a lawyer. He represented the same company where he worked in management, thus “walking both sides of the street.” As a lawyer, Mike had devoted his practice to practical, results-oriented advice and litigation representation in situations where the law, facts or business risks are ambiguous. Mike’s practice is devoted to advising, cooperatives, food, and agriculture businesses. He is firm-wide co-chair of the 200-lawyer Food, Beverages & Agriculture industry group. He acts as outside general counsel in that industry, handles corporate governance, and manages complicated domestic and international transactions. On the business side, Mike developed Dorsey’s LegalMine Document Review Solution from concept to operation. He has also held leadership roles as Office Head for Seattle (where he negotiated a large office move, and the office was named one of Washington’s Best Workplaces) and as co-head of the Labor & Employment and other practice groups.
Jeff Bitter is a life-long resident of California. Born into a family vineyard operation, Jeff has always had a passion for agriculture and specifically grape growing. Jeff is the President of Allied Grape Growers (AGG), a 500-member statewide grape growers cooperative marketing association. AGG markets approximately $100,000,000 worth of grapes annually to wineries, shippers, packers and dehydrators. In addition to managing AGG, Jeff is a fourth-generation California grape grower, actively farming winegrapes in Madera County, and participates on numerous industry boards, committees and task forces. Jeff earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Business and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from California State University. Jeff is also a graduate of Class XXXII of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, a prestigious two-year fellowship program emphasizing leadership training and development for those involved in California agriculture.
Arnaud Delcourt has been working in the international business for French companies for 12 years. He began in the shipping industry for CMA CGM, then he managed the French-Panamanian Chamber of Commerce in Panama. Since 2018 he is an Export Advisor in the Agro-business industry for Business France, a French agency to promote exports. He works with companies with more than 100 winemakers in co-ops in export wine marketing. He has a Master’s degree in International Business from Kedge Business School in Marseilles, France and he has the WSET 3.
Matt Strong is President and CEO of Pacific Coast Producers, an agricultural fruit and tomato canning cooperative. Previous to his current role which began in 2022, he served as the Vice President, Finance & Chief Financial Officer since 2011. Matt was promoted to Vice President, Foodservice Sales & Marketing in 1999 and was responsible for managing the growth of the foodservice business until his promotion to CFO. In 1996, he became their Director of Marketing to lead their foodservice sales and marketing efforts. Prior to joining Pacific Coast Producers, Matt worked in various finance and marketing positions at Del Monte Foods from 1990 to 1996. Matt received his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from California State University, Sacramento.
Thérèse Tuttle is the Co-founder and Principal at Tuttle Law Group, a law firm serving cooperative enterprises; specializing in formation, financing, governance, and conversion for all types of cooperatives, including worker, consumer, and agriculture. She also advises clients on business formation and estate planning matters. In 2000, she founded Tuttle & Van Knonynenburg, LLP, a firm focused on cooperative and agricultural law, with her law partner Frank Van Konynenburg; in 2001 the firm successfully defended the 400 members of Tri Valley Growers, a processing cooperative, from claims of creditors in the cooperative’s bankruptcy. Prior to founding the firm, she worked for California Farmers Union and served as Director of Cooperative and Economic Development for National Farmer’s Union, managing cooperative project requests from 23 state-based member organizations. In 2013, she drafted amendments to California’s cooperative law that enabled preferred-share financing and capitalization of cooperatives. She serves on the board of the California Center for Cooperative Development (CCCD) and has been awarded USDA’s “Great Cooperator” Award. She serves on the non-profits committee of the California State Bar Association.