QCS employs a number of passionate, committed, and experienced folks ready to assist you on your path to certification. This page will help you get to know a few of them and why they are perfectly suited to this job.

 

Leadership

  • Ramkrishnan Balasubramanian

    Chief Executive Officer

    Ramkrishnan (Ram) Balasubramanian earned his Ph.D. in Crop Sciences, Masters in Agricultural Engineering, and Masters in Ecological Agriculture. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration.

    Ram is a ISO 9001 Lead Auditor with extensive food safety/GAP and organic auditing experience. Additionally, Ram specializes in organic aquaculture standard and curriculum development. He has collaborated with the Produce GAP Harmonization Initiative, Global Food Safety Initiative, and GLOBALG.A.P. scheme training material and small holder guides.

    Ram is a FSPCA Lead Instructor for the Foreign Supplier Verification Program and Lead Certified Trainer for the Produce Safety Rule. Ram has served in on numerous boards of directors including serving as the Organic Material Review Institute Board Chair. He has has farming roots with experience in producing both crops and livestock. Ram is a firm believer in family values and family first and, in his free time, he loves swimming, spicy food, and organic gardening and growing rare exotic and medicinal plants.

  • Brian Rakita

    Chief Operating Officer

    Brian has been working with organic farming for the past 32 years in all capacities – from working for an organic nut butter producer in the Ozark Mountains in the early 1990s to running a Community Supported Agriculture program which supplied fresh organic veggies from his farm to local families. In 1998, Brian took over management of an organic seed catalog and then proceeded to spend years working for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association where he trained farmers to raise organic seed.

    Brian has been with QCS since 2009 and has enjoyed working with organic farmers to ensure organic integrity is maintained in the marketplace.

  • Beth Rota

    Organic Program Director

    Beth works behind the scenes to ensure the QCS organic program meets accreditation requirements and keeps pace with regulatory and policy updates while providing a valuable service to our clients. She also engages in the organic policy process through certifier collaboration and by representing QCS certified operation through public comments to the USDA and National Organic Standard Board.

    Before working for QCS, Beth earned a master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana where she served as a research fellow with the Grow Montana project. Her research explored producer-owned cooperatives as a mechanism for strengthening local food systems.  While a graduate student, she directed the education program at the Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society (PEAS) Farm in Missoula, Montana. Beth is based in wild and wonderful Morgantown, West Virginia. She enjoys spending free time in her garden and kitchen and exploring the outdoors with family and friends.

USA Technical Staff

  • Anna Cesarotti

    Associate Director of Organic Certification

    Anna graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in Sustainability Studies and minors in Sociology, as well as Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy and Ethics. As a student, she worked at Trader Joes and volunteered at a local farm, getting to see two different sides of the food industry.

    Anna joined QCS in early 2018, and worked first as a Certification Reviewer, then as the Crop Certification Manager, leading the team that carries out the organic certifications of all our Grower-scope clients. She now oversees all scope certification teams of the US office in her role as Associate Director of Organic Certification. Anna loves the opportunity to promote sustainability through certifying organic systems of all shapes & sizes and is privileged to be surrounded by passionate & knowledgeable people. In her free time, you can find Anna tending her house plants, enjoying live music, canoeing & exploring in north-central FL.

  • Carley Jordana

    Crop Certification Manager

    Carley is from St. Augustine, Florida where she grew up the youngest of 7 kids. She first became interested in agriculture in high school while studying abroad in Quevedo, Ecuador where she lived in an agricultural region of the country and met many local farmers. Carley attended the University of Florida for undergraduate where she majored in Sustainability Studies and pursued minors in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production and Spanish Language. She later went on to pursue her masters at UF in Horticultural Sciences where she researched the effects of grafting on mini watermelon fruit quality and yield in an organic system. In her personal life, Carley loves to read, travel, cook, and tending to her plants.

  • Robert Chapa

    Crop Certification Reviewer

    Robert first gained an interest in agriculture when he was a member of the 4H club in high school. From there, he attended the University of Florida and achieved his bachelor’s degree in Horticultural Sciences. While at UF, he was involved with several research projects involving organic land management, blueberry production, and bean production. After graduation, Robert helped conduct research on efficiency of protected agriculture structures in relation to pepper, squash, and strawberry production at the UF/IFAS extension office in Hastings, Florida. Prior to working at QCS, he also had the opportunity to work at an alfalfa research facility as well as manage several organic gardens. Robert feels it is rewarding to work for QCS as they join with farmers in sharing a passion for sustainable farming. Since his youth, Robert has also enjoyed surfing at the beach as well as making music.

  • Emily Deruelle

    Crop Certification Reviewer

    Emily received her B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation with a minor in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production from the University of Florida. She has always had a love of plants, and grew up gardening with her mom and volunteering at her local nursery. While at UF, she assisted in several research projects involving soil and water conservation, forage management, and horticultural crop production. Working at QCS gives her the opportunity to share her passion for sustainable agriculture and learn from farmers with a wide range of cropping systems. When she is not working in her garden, Emily loves the beach, hiking with her dog Grace, and cooking.

  • Chloe Brezsny

    Crop Certification Reviewer

    Chloe was born and raised on the coast of Northern California and received her B.A. in Linguistics from the University of California, Davis. After a move to the Puget Sound region of Washington State, she earned two certificates in Organic Agriculture and Horticulture from Washington State University. Chloe spent three years working on a diversified vegetable, flower, poultry, and pig farm before joining QCS. In her free time, she manages her own farm property and attends a small Farmer’s Market on the weekends. She is also a fiber arts enthusiast and keeps a herd of angora rabbits for wool, which she uses to spin yarn, knit, and crochet.

  • Jenna May

    Crop Certification Reviewer

    Jenna May earned a B.S. in Biology, with a concentration in Spanish, from The University of Alabama. She earned a M.S. in Crop, Soils and Environmental Sciences at Auburn University, with her thesis focused on a fungus prevalent in Upland Cotton in the Southeastern United States. Her love for the outdoors and agriculture began while being raised on her grandparent’s nursery in northern Alabama. In her free time, she enjoys the water, paddleboarding, yoga, and cleaning up the beaches of Alabama.

  • Lindsay Underhill

    Livestock Certification Manager

    Lindsay received her B.S. in Agricultural Operations Management with a focus in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production from the University of Florida. Growing up on a cattle ranch, her passion for agriculture started at a very young age and continues to grow. In her free time, Lindsay enjoys doing anything outdoors, watching movies, and rooting for the Florida Gators. Lindsay has been with QCS since 2017 and has thoroughly enjoyed working with all types of farmers and protecting organic integrity.

  • Sophia Robinson

    Livestock Certification Reviewer

    Sophia received her B.S in Animal Science with a concentration in Food Animals from the University of Florida as well as her A.S in Veterinary Science from the College of Central Florida. Prior to coming to QCS Sophia volunteered at a local Exotic Animal Sanctuary where she gained experiencing working with Lions, Tigers, Primates, Bears and a host of other exotic animals. Growing up Sophia always expressed a passion for animals, but it was not until she joined her Future Farmers of America Chapter in high school that she developed a passion for swine. A passion she still carries today. Sophia has been with QCS since 2019, but when not working closely with organic farmers, Sophia enjoys tending to her garden, fishing, and spending time with her family and many animals.

  • Georgia Ringle

    Livestock Certification Reviewer

    Georgia earned her B.S in Sustainable Food System’s from Goshen College. Her passion for agriculture began throughout her childhood growing up in a small agricultural town in Michigan. Georgia’s parents introduced her to gardening and raising chickens at a young age, and she still cherishes these hobbies. In her free time, Georgia enjoys spending time with friends and family partaking in outdoor activities, such as kayaking and camping, as well as staying in and baking or watching movies with her two fur babies.

  • Ana Maria Suarez Nava

    Processing & Handling Certification Reviewer

    Ana María is from Colombia. She studied Advertising and Marketing. She has been in the Food Industry, in Food Safety, for 5 years. She is certified as PCQI, FSSC22000, HACCP, PGFS and NOP processing. Her hobbies are cooking and exercising. She also likes to read books which give her tools to improve her day-to-day life. She recently read The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson, which is a very interesting book that changes the way you think and process information, allowing you to make the daily decisions that will make you happier and more productive. Another of her hobbies is traveling. She loves discovering new cities and places. She likes learning new skills, creative arts, including music, painting, and crafts.

  • Anjali Basliyal

    Processing & Handling Certification Reviewer

    Anjali holds a Master's in Botany and a Post-Master's diploma in non-wood forest products. Prior to QCS, she worked as certification inspector for USOCA (Uttarakhand State Organic Certification Agency) in India where she inspected grower groups and bio pesticide operators. She also has experience auditing documents submitted by operators. Apart from her work she loves painting, crafting, and playing cricket. She played cricket at the university level in her college days. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family. Her husband is a Senior Technical Program Manager in Amazon. She has 2 kids, Devangi (4th grade) and Akshaj (2nd grade) who keep her busy when she's not working. She is happy to be a part of QCS and excited to learn new things.

  • Shemuel Patton

    International Certification Specialist

    Hello, my name is Shemuel Patton, I was born in California and lived the last 19 years in Las Vegas, Nevada; I earned my Bachelor’s in Biology with minor focuses in chemistry and mathematics at Nevada State College. My interests range from playing music, learning languages (French and Spanish), and gardening. My newest hobby since moving here is spending almost every weekend at the beach and running from the ever-so abundant bugs that call Florida home.

  • Adam Maxwell

    Compliance Manager

    Adam has been with QCS since Fall of 2017, starting as a crop certification reviewer. He has a wide variety of experience including environmental education and consulting, park management and habitat restoration. Adam also spent 8 years cultivating and maintaining a 62-acre botanical garden before joining QCS. In his free time, he enjoys being out in nature with his two daughters: hiking, running, swimming and surfing. Adam lives in Gainesville, Florida, home base for QCS and his Alma Mater, the University of Florida

  • Chris Lane

    Investigation Specialist

    Chris earned his B.S. degree in Agricultural Operations Management from the University of Florida. He has more than 7 years’ experience in environmental engineering as an air quality specialist and has worked on DoD facilities around the world. Chris is an avid Gator fan, loves going to thrift stores, and is obsessed with music. He enjoys working at QCS because of the genuine work environment and the opportunity to visit organic farms around the country.

  • Leslie Touzeau

    Material Review Manager

    Leslie grew up in Columbia, Missouri, and her parents instilled in her a passion for gardening and cooking from a young age. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a bachelor’s in art history and psychology, she changed paths and worked for eight years as a vegetable farmer (as one does with art history and psychology degrees!). While in Missouri, she worked on urban farms, university research farms, and on her own organic market farm, certified by QCS. Leslie earned her masters from the University of Missouri in rural sociology, where her research focused on the experiences of young, African American farmers like herself. Having experienced organic agriculture as a farmer, researcher, and social scientist, Leslie appreciates the additional perspectives on organic agriculture she is exposed to as a QCS employee. In her free time Leslie can be found cooking, woodworking, and trying to adapt her Missouri gardening methods to the Florida conditions.

  • Chloe Smith

    Material Review Specialist

    Chloe grew up in a small farming community along the Rio Grande, outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry from Warren Wilson College. She has worked for the last decade as a farmer producing mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and occasionally raising chicken and pigs. In her free time, Chloe loves to spend time in the garden, and generally spending time outside hiking, and camping or swimming.

USA Inspection Staff

  • Skeet Surrency

    Organic Inspection Manager

    Skeet earned a B.S. in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida specializing in Organic and Sustainable Crop Production. He has several seasons of experience on diverse vegetable Community Supported Agriculture programs in Florida and Massachusetts including working at an urban agriculture organization in Holyoke, MA. Skeet is an avid home gardener and backyard chicken producer.

    Skeet enjoys working for QCS because of all the wonderful, interesting, talented, and inspiring people he gets to meet, and all of the beautiful and productive farms he gets to travel to. One of Skeet’s hobbies is Sacred Harp Singing.

  • Patrick Dost

    Staff Organic Inspector

    Patrick began his career in sustainable Ag in 2013 at the certified Naturally Grown crop and livestock operation Heritage Farm in rural West-Georgia. He moved to a management role at a second Naturally Grown farm, Crager-Hager Farm, in 2015, and helped them attain their organic certification in 2017. He attended the University of West Georgia in 2020, earning a B.S. in Biology while working on farm full time. Patrick is also a member of the Carroll County Master Gardeners, where he served as Vice President in 2019, President in 2020, and a member of the Board of Directors in 2021.

  • Eric Malone

    Organic Staff Inspector

    Originally from SW Ohio, Eric joined the United States Navy after completing high school in 2001. Upon completion of his enlistment, Eric worked as a Commercial Diver for many State and Federal projects from Charleston, South Carolina to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In 2011 decided to attend college initially as a History major but a course in Food and Agriculture changed the direction of his studies and he ultimately graduated with a Bachelors in Botany minoring in Horticulture from Miami University. Soon after, Eric obtained a position with the USDA as a commodity grader with AMS working in Moscow, Idaho followed by another assignment in Tracy, California as an Olive inspector. Now working with the Organic Agricultural community, Eric is happy to represent the producers as they deserve to be, as an Inspector with QCS. While not working Eric enjoys camping, hiking with his dog Olive, fly fishing, as well as finding and identifying native wildflowers and tree species for propagation and dispersal purposes

  • Dawn Custer

    GAP Connections Manager/Staff Inspector

    Dawn's journey in agriculture began a long time ago as a child with her involvement in 4-H as well as her participation in activities on her grandparents’ small farm in Bedford County, PA.  An interest was always there in regards to the interdependence of plants, animals and fungi. Dawn and her husband began farming together in 1999 using organic practices and community involvement such as installing riparian buffers along 7,000 acres of Chesapeake Bay tributary streams.  With a BS in Agricultural Business Management and a Minor in Economics from Penn State University, Dawn hopes to contribute even more to the mission of organic agriculture. Outside of her great interest in organic agriculture, Dawn enjoys riding her bike, traveling, cooking and playing music.

  • Cesar Rodriguez

    Food Safety/GAPs and Organic Inspector

    Cesar earned a M.S. in Environmental Engineering Science-Water Quality Management from State University of New York at Buffalo, New York. He also has a B.S. in Chemistry from Inter-American University of Puerto Rico in Puerto Rico and a degree in Agriculture Engineering from the National University of Honduras in Honduras.

    Cesar has more than 12 years of experience facilitating, implementing and sustaining International Food Safety Standards for leafy crops and sustaining Organic Grower-Handling Programs of leafy greens. He also has experience facilitating, implementing and sustaining the ISO 14001 on fruit crops at an international agriculture organization in Honduras, Central America. Cesar has more than 20 years of teaching experience instructing college students in the field of chemistry at the National University of Honduras. Cesar enjoys working for QCS because provides the opportunity to meet and engage with professional people of different backgrounds.

USA Administrative Staff

  • Chintamani Andujar

    Administrative Manager

    Chin earned her A.S. in Medical Office Administration from City College in Gainesville, where she went on to work in the medical field for 6 years. She has a passion for horses and grew up with plenty of them. She grew up planting fruit trees and growing her own vegetables for consumption. Chin started working for QCS in November of 2021. In her free time, she likes riding, bogging, and going swimming.

  • Melynda Kaufman

    Certification Project Coordinator

    Since joining QCS in September of 2019, Melynda has been the applications coordinator, the receptionist, and is now one of your Certification Project Coordinators, filling positions that both suited her skills and helped progress the company as times have changed and the world and our industry have evolved during these challenging times.

    Melynda attended both Santa Fe College in Gainesville, FL and Southwestern Community College in Sylva, NC. Melynda has felt the pull between her hometown in Florida and her adopted home in the mountains of western North Carolina where 2 of her adult children still live. While Melynda has had many professions and duties over the years, she finds her greatest achievements have come on the home front raising 2 children to adulthood, embracing another daughter through marriage, and continuing to raise the youngest, who is still a teenager. Melynda is a grandmother, mother and devoted wife and when she isn’t working to show them all how much they mean to her, she has many hobbies and interests.

    A few of those interests, at the moment, include: soap and candle making, Cricut, gaming, binge watching television shows she missed while raising her family, family history/genealogy, cataloging and maintaining both parents’ and grandparents’ photo collections. Melynda’s family photo collection spans over 70 years and contains several thousand photos. Currently, her main objective has been to organize them, research them, mark them appropriately for posterity, and make them available for family and friends digitally online.

  • Poppy Jaeger

    Certification Project Coordinator

    Poppy received her AA in Anthropology at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida. She began working in the service industry after college and spent ten years working in and managing restaurants. In 2017, she relocated to Durham, North Carolina, where she continued her path as a restaurant manager. Poppy began working for QCS in November of 2021 as a Certification Project Coordinator. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her pets, camp, and travel.

  • Ricardo Areingdale

    Quality Coordinator

    Ricardo was born in Venezuela, and grew up in Tampa, Florida. He received his B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of South Florida. After graduating, Ricardo worked as a nursery plant inspector for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for four years before joining QCS. He has always enjoyed spending time outdoors, and in his free time, he likes to hike trails, swim, and cook.

  • Odalys Alvarez

    Food Safety/ GAPs Administrative Assistant

    Odalys moved to Gainesville from Miami with her boyfriend (now fiancé) to support him in his career. She comes from a loving Cuban family and has 3 fur babies. Odalys majored in Hospitality Management at FIU, but after some years in the field she realized it was not her calling. Now being a member at QCS in the Food Safety Dept., she feels like she is doing something much more meaningful in her work life. It is important to her to spread awareness towards living a healthy life, preserving Mother Nature and the use of Cruelty Free cosmetics & fashion. Away from work, she enjoys outdoor activities, the arts (especially Ballet) and traveling with family.

USA Service & Support Staff

  • Marielle Mackin

    Service and Support Manager

    Marielle’s passion for gardening began as a child with sneaking snap peas in her grandfathers’ garden and to this day is still trying to answer the question: Why are there never enough snap peas?

    Marielle has a particular love of seed saving, learned from her work at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, interning with High Mowing Organic Seeds, and managing Garden Medicinals and Culinaries. Before joining forces with QCS she spent the last 8 years as a manager with the USAs only certified organic grocery store (as of 2022) and shared her enthusiasm for education and sustainability with her team while offering the best services possible to every customer.

  • Matthew Swafford

    Database Specialist

    Matt Swafford received his B.S. in Information Technology from Arizona State University. With an electrical engineer and a science teacher for parents, he’s always had an interest in computers and technology with a desire to help spread that interest to others. A father and a husband, he strives for balance in everything. This balance is reflected in support of sustainable means for food and energy production. In his free time, he enjoys playing outside with his son and unplugging for long weekends in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • Meredith Morgan

    Client Care Specialist

    Meredith is a graduate of California College of the Arts with a BFA in Illustration – perhaps not the traditional educational background for someone working in organics. Their personal interests have always turned towards the natural world: gardening, plant biology, tree identification, fun facts about insects. They bring a lifetime of customer care experience to their role at QCS, delighting in learning all the facets of their client’s operations.

  • Elizabeth Swofford

    Marketing Specialist

    Originally from Texas, Elizabeth became fascinated with sustainable agriculture while traveling in the Amazonas region of Brazil. She returned home and earned a Master’s in Agriculture and Environmental Sciences from Tarleton State University. She then spent a year at the ECHO Global Farm and Seedbank in Florida where she learned tropical agriculture and community development practices. From there she worked in ECHO’s Thailand office to coordinate and promote their 2019 regional conference, interacting with farmers across SE Asia. She enjoys supporting organic operations as they impact ecosystems and businesses for the better. Outside of work, she loves to cook and go on adventures with her husband.

Ecuador

  • Derek Sindler

    Operations Manager

    Derek joined QCS in 2018 and has enjoyed working with the Ecuador and Dominican Republic offices of QCS. Before arriving to QCS, Derek completed a Master’s of Sustainable Development Practice with a focus on sustainable food systems at the University of Florida. Derek also has worked as a Production Supervisor in the wine bottling industry, and as a Ground Supply Officer in the United States Marine Corps. The role of international organic and sustainable agricultural certifications has been very fulfilling to support environmental protection while working within the global food system. Derek enjoys working with various actors in the supply chain, from the farmers to the importers and the retailers, all with the same goal in mind of making a better and more sustainable future.

    Publications: “Moving Towards Sustainable Rice Production in the Northwest Dominican Republic”. Natural Resources Vol. 9 No. 12. December 29, 2018.

  • Belen Haro Benítez

    Certification Reviewer/Inspector

    Belen studied Agroindustry. Her experience includes being part of an exchange program in the United States where she learned about sustainable agriculture and volunteering in a high school working in organic gardens with students. Belen worked in a NGO for rural development in the communities around the volcano Chimborazo. She then studied Agroecology in Spain.

    Belen likes working for QCS because there is an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. She also meets different people and works on projects that are really interesting. She believes that small acts and decisions can make a big difference especially when it comes to caring for the environment. She believes agroecology is a response to the challenges faced today with the increasingly limited resources.

  • María Pía Haro Benítez

    Gerente General

    María received a degree in Engineering in Foreign Trade from Polytechnic School of Chimborazo (ESPOCH) in Ecuador. Her experience includes working at the BCS ÖKO Garantie regional office and responsibilities including the Certificate of Inspection for Import of Products from Organic Production and Flows of Export Volumes for the projects of: Ecuador, Perú, Colombia, Uruguay and Paraguay. She also worked at BCS ÖKO Garantie Ecuador and was responsible for external training and events. 

    María likes working for QCS because it is a fair alternative for organic producers and QCS prides itself in high standards and customer service. She loves her family with all her heart and that includes her dogs. She enjoys traveling, especially time spent outdoors.

Caribe

  • Melina Marcelino

    Gerente General Rep. Dom.

    Born and raised in Santiago, Dominican Republic, Melina learned English in her early years in Santiago Christian School, one of the most recognized bilingual schools in her hometown. Then studied Marketing at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), one of the biggest private universities of the country. Melina worked at BANANOSA, one of the largest banana farms in the North-West Region of Dominican Republic, for 7 years as an Administrative Manager and then worked as an Executive Director of a grower group of banana producers. Melina enjoys working at QCS because it has been a new challenge as a professional and she has been able to apply her skills and learn new ones working in a friendly work environment where everyone is part of a great team. Her mantra is “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

  • Ruth Gonzalez

    Administrative Assistant

    Ruth got her degree as an industrial engineer from Universidad Tecnologica de Santiago (UTESA). Later, she did a master degree in business administration. After that, she worked for two years at the certification department of Plantaciones del Norte, one of the biggest banana exporters in the Dominican Republic. Later, Ruth worked at Madera´s Farm, where she was in charge of their Certification Department and additionally she assisted on the production and logistic department.

    Working at QCS is a wonderful experience for her because it allows her to increase her knowledge about certification standards and regulations, and she is able to interact with different people of the agricultural field.

    Ruth enjoys working at QCS because of the way that QCS Caribe work as family and as team with an excellent work environment.

  • Elba Yanira Disla

    Certification Reviewer

    Elba completed her undergraduate studies as an agronomist engineer at Universidad ISA. She has worked in the Certification Department of the banana exporter Ekoban, and pursued her masters degree in Rural Sociology and Community Development at Ohio State University. Elba’s experience includes working as an assistant professor at Univesidad ISA where she taught research methodology and rural sociology.

    Elba has worked at Banelino, an association of small farmers as well as Plantaciones del Norte, one of the largest exporters of the Dominican Republic.

    In 2009 Elba successfully managed a banana and rice family farm for 4 years.

Contact Us

QCS Main Office

5700 SW 34th St, Suite 349
Gainesville FL 32608 USA

Phone 352-377-0133
Fax 352-377-8363
qcs@qcsinfo.org

The QCS main office can be reached from 9am-5pm EST Monday through Friday.