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.
Ramkrishnan BalasubramanianChief 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 RakitaChief Operations 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 RotaSenior Policy and Quality Assurance Manager
Beth earned her Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana where she served as a research fellow with the Grow Montana project. Her thesis explored the potential of producer owned cooperatives to grow local food systems beyond direct farm-to-consumer markets. Prior to working in organic certification, Beth directed the education program at the Program in Ecological Agriculture and Society (PEAS) Farm in Missoula, Montana where she helped area youth explore connections between agricultural and their everyday lives.
Over the years, Beth has engaged her passion for sustainable agriculture outside the office as a volunteer with local food and agricultural organizations and as a board member for the Community Garden Coalition in Columbia, Missouri. Working at QCS provides an extraordinary first-hand look into diverse organic production systems around the country and internationally; and affords the opportunity to meet and work with some remarkable farmers, producers, and team-members. Beth enjoys spending free time with her husband and two children in the garden, the kitchen, and exploring the outdoors.
Anna CesarottiCrop Certification Manager
Anna earned a B.A. in Sustainability Studies with minors in Agriculture & Natural Resource Ethics & Policy as well as Sociology from the University of Florida. She worked at Trader Joe’s throughout college, where she got to talk to community members about their food choices and sustainable, accessible options. She volunteered as a Farm & Seed Intern at Forage Farm, doing regular farm labor and contributing to the Southern Heritage Seed Collective. She loves the opportunity to promote sustainability through certifying organic systems here at QCS. She is an advanced scuba diver and enjoys any chance to get outdoors.
Robert ChapaCertification 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 youth, Robert has always enjoyed surfing at the beach.
After studying accounting in college, Sherry started as a bookkeeper for an automotive dealership. Over the past 40 years, Sherry has held accounting positions of increasing responsibility in small businesses, accounting firms and non-profit organizations. Sherry loves the non-profit field and QCS because there is a mission behind the business. Sherry and her husband live on a four acre mini-farm and over the past 20 years have raised pot-bellied pigs and had goats and a pony as pets.
Chris LaneInspection Coordinator/Staff Inspector
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.
Adam MaxwellInvestigations Specialist
Adam earned a B.S. in Tourism, Event and Recreation Management from the University of Florida. 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.
Aroa OramasInspection Coordinator
Aroa earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, in Canary Islands (Spain). Her previous job at the Port of Tenerife and her shipping experience have given her the knowledge necessary to assist QCS clients with Transaction Certificates, Certificates of Inspections, and other international shipping needs. She enjoys working at QCS because of the great team environment and work ethic. Her interest in organic is growing day by day because she realizes that it is really important to know what we eat as well as how to keep farming sustainable.
Cesar RodriguezFood 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.
Casey SchmidtAdministrative Compliance Specialist
Casey earned an A.S. degree in Criminal Investigations and has 15 years of administrative experience. She enjoys working for QCS as it has allowed her to encounter relationships with many different people. She has enjoyed working with the Amish community and learning about their culture. Casey is a sports fanatic and roots for the Florida Gators.
Derek SindlerInternational Organic Certification Specialist
Derek recently joined QCS in May 2018 after completing a Master’s in Sustainable Development at the University of Florida with a specialization in sustainable food systems; in which he worked in the Dominican Republic with rice farmers and became familiar with the Dominican organic banana industry for his practicum project. Before joining QCS Derek worked as a Bottling Supervisor at a winery and as a Ground Supply Officer in the United States Marine Corps after graduating from Florida State University with a bachelor’s in Finance and Multinational Business Operations. On his off time, Derek enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and barbequing.
Skeet SurrencyOrganic 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 I get to meet, and all of the beautiful and productive farms I get to travel to. One of Skeet’s hobbies is Sacred Harp Singing.
Lindsay UnderhillLivestock 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 love and passion for the agriculture industry started at a very young age. Lindsay enjoys working at QCS because of the opportunities to communicate with many interesting farmers and to learn something new. In her spare time, Lindsay likes to do anything outdoors and root for the Florida Gators.
Cristina Olaizola LopezCrop Certification Reviewer
Cristina is devoted to the principle of healthy food habits and the preservation of the biodiversity and resources of the earth, she appreciates the opportunity to belong to the excellent team of QCS, from where she acquires the commitment to continue advocating for a better world through the production and consumption of organic food. She earned a Biology, mention Food Technology, a MSc. Food Science, and a MSc. Management in Venezuela. Cristina has experience working on private, academic, government and NGOs organizations. She worked as Auditor in Laboratory Accreditation according to International Standard ISO/IEC 17025; as a Coordinator/ Researcher in programs that promote healthy consumption habits; founded and participated in the board of some NGOs from where she carried out the development and implementation of various projects to improved good eating habits in scholars kids (Nestlé-Nutrir Program) and different groups in organizations (Accor Services, Bimbo Venezuela). She joined to movement (Green membership of Slow Food International Association) (Convivium Miranda-Venezuela) for promote a good, clean and fair food, making own the philosophy of the movement: “I aspire to a world in which we can all access and enjoy a good meal for us, for those who produce it and for the planet”. She was active in the development, planning and execution of projects as a member of Slow Food and as Consultant in the area of Healthy Food, Food Microbiology and Development of Products. She was delegated in different international congress related to the promotion of healthy food and the consumption of fruits / vegetables. Cristina strongly believes in the organic movement for a better world. Between her free times she practice a special art (Mahikari) and enjoys different recreational activities, like gardening (orchids), reading, photography, travel, walking, biking, visit new places, meet people and enjoy dawn at the beach. Life is now!
Odalys AlvarezFood 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.
Leslie TouzeauMaterial 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.
Dawn CusterSpecial Programs Coordinator/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.
Belen Haro BenítezCertification 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 BenítezGerente 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.
Melina MarcelinoGerente General Rep. Dom.
Born and raised in Dominican Republic, Melina attended a bilingual school and then studied Marketing at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM). Melina worked at an organic banana farm for several years as a bilingual 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 GonzalezAdministrative 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 DislaCertification 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.