Leadership change announced at Fall Creek
Fall Creek Farm & Nursery has announced that Oscar Verges has been promoted to co-CEO and Amelie Brazelton Aust has been named executive vice-chair of the family-owned company’s board of directors, effective Sept. 24.
Verges joins Cort Brazelton in this CEO role for the blueberry breeding and nursery company. Verges joined Fall Creek as chief operating officer (COO) in 2016 and became president and COO in 2018.
Aust, Brazelton and Verges recently approached Fall Creek’s Board of Directors with the recommendation, two years into operating under a shared leadership structure following co-founder Dave Brazelton’s retirement as CEO in 2018.
With Fall Creek’s overarching goals to serve, grow, and enrich the blueberry industry at home and abroad, as well as the strong hiring and development of the company’s team of executives, the three leaders believe this change will leverage the benefits of shared leadership, streamline structure for greater agility, and provide development opportunities for the company’s growing management teams.
“This is a natural evolution,” says Dave Brazelton, now executive chair of the Fall Creek board. “I see our leadership team continuously improving how we do things, and this is a shift for highest impact. In their years working together, I’ve seen Cort and Oscar have an extremely varied and complementary skill set.
"That unique synergy is well-suited to this shared role and essential in serving our customers. Together, they can lead and grow the company as we continue our mission of Building a World with Better Blueberries.”
He added that her two years as co-CEO together with Cort, Amelie has made invaluable contributions.
“She will continue to work very closely with Cort and Oscar on company strategy, as well as optimize communication between the family shareholders, external board members and Fall Creek employees," he said.
"In addition, she will support our commitment to the growth and development of the blueberry industry through strategic outreach and engagement with industry groups, including in her new board position with the Produce Marketing Association.”
Before he became co-CEO in 2018, Cort Brazelton was director of business development, and filled the role of interim commercial director. Before joining Fall Creek in 2008, he was a blueberry business manager for Driscoll’s, and principal of Brazelton Ag Consulting.
He is an active member of the USHBC USDA Commission and one of the founders of the International Blueberry Organization (IBO) where he currently serves as an advisor to the board. He also produces and authors the IBO’s biennial World Blueberry Production Report, the industry’s primary reference for blueberry production statistics and trends.
He studied economics and policy at Monterrey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, Calif., and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, German and music from Oregon State University.
“Fall Creek continues to ‘professionalize’ as a family-owned company with the help of Oscar and our exceptional team of horticulture and produce industry experts on our leadership and management teams," says Cort Brazelton.
"We are better positioned than ever to deliver even more value to our customers wherever they are located. The blueberry industry has seen incredible growth, even in the face of many challenges, and has an exciting future ahead.
“I’m excited for Amelie in her new role with the board, especially since she will continue to work closely with Oscar and me on strategy and culture, which are some of my sister’s incredible strengths.”
Oscar Verges brings extensive executive international business and produce industry experience to Fall Creek. Successful in both entrepreneurial and corporate environments, he was founder and managing director of two separate cell phone service providers in Spain just before joining Fall Creek.
Previously, Verges worked with fresh produce icon Chiquita Brands International, Inc., for 12 years in several countries and continents. In 2007, he helped develop some of the earliest blueberry plantations in Morocco with European fruit producer and marketer Royal.
Native of Barcelona, Spain, Verges holds a Master’s degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and earned a dual Bachelor’s degree in international relations and management from the University of Tampa in Florida.
“I’m really looking forward to this new phase with Fall Creek supporting the blueberry industry’s growth,” says Verges. “Over the past several years, Cort and I have forged a strong working relationship in which we play to our strengths.
"We make each other better, and together we can face the challenges and drive the tremendous opportunities ahead. I have great admiration for Cort’s business development expertise. I will continue to focus on continuous improvement of our operations so we can deliver the best value to our customers.”
Amelie Brazelton Aust joined Fall Creek in 2008 to manage the company’s intellectual property and licensing after receiving a Master of Laws (LL.M.) degree from the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, where she was a Fulbright scholar.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature with a minor in biology from the University of Oregon. Over the past decade at Fall Creek, her focus broadened to include product development and commercialization as Fall Creek’s own breeding program began to release varieties, including the branded home gardener program BrazelBerries which was eventually sold to Ball Horticulture.
Before she became co-CEO, Amelie was the interim director of product development and commercialization, responsible for re-shaping the company’s licensing strategies.
“With the industry growing and changing so fast, we have to constantly streamline how decisions are made and how information is shared. This change removes a structural layer in the organization and brings the co-CEOs closer to the executive team” says Amelie Brazelton Aust.
“Cort, Oscar and I have always tried to model and keep a continuous improvement mindset. Given the opportunities at Fall Creek, we asked ourselves: what is the best way to lead the company and how do we as individuals leverage our unique skills to have the highest impact?
"I am excited for Oscar to take this next step, and for both he and Cort to lead the company together. My new platform as executive vice chair will allow me to continue developing, increase industry involvement, and stay close to strategy and culture at Fall Creek.”
Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Inc., is an international blueberry breeding and nursery company with nursery operations and research and development centers in the U.S., Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Spain and The Netherlands, founded 40 years ago by Dave and Barbara Brazelton in Lowell, OR. Fall Creek breeds and delivers blueberry varieties, nursery stock and grower support to commercial fruit growers throughout the world. For more information about Fall Creek, visit www.fallcreeknursery.com.
Headline photo: Cort Brazelton (L) and Oscar Verges