Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Organic Farmer Good Land Organics, Goleta, CA
Ruskey began his farming career in high school, studying geology and working long hours on flower farms during the summer. While obtaining his degree in agricultural business at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, he began managing his family farm, Good Land Organics, and selling avocados and cherimoyas at 4 or 5 farmers markets each week.
After graduation, he took on a leading role in California’s fledgling 1990s sustainable farming movement while contributing to scientific plant research and expanding the range of rare fruits on his farm. Since planting his first 40 coffee seedlings in 2002, Ruskey has developed coffee cultivars that thrive in the region, produce unique coffees that rival the world’s best, and enable California farmers to create a new coffee industry in the state.
Ruskey’s farm has set the example of a layered agricultural system that offers new opportunities for many California farmers but is not being utilized yet at scale. This layered system improves climate resilience by including other species of plants to protect the coffee from turbulent weather conditions. At the same time, it builds healthier soils and uses valuable water and nutrients in a more sustainable way.
Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder
Business Leader, Organic Farmer
The Mullins Family Farm, Temecula, CA
A business leader with extensive experience delivering world-class financial results at the executive level, Mullins is adept in creating products and services that attract and retain customers, excite and motivate employees, and satisfy and enrich investors. After graduating in math and computer science from Concord University in Athens, West Virginia, he spent years in top-level executive positions in the telecommunications and tech industries.
In 2012, with his wife Linda, Mullins also became an organic farmer at The Mullins Family Farm. After meeting Ruskey in 2017, he was intrigued by the potential to grow coffee and help create a new, science-forward coffee industry in the region. He became a co-founder of FRINJ and planted coffee on his farm, in the shade of avocado trees, with squash growing beneath.
JUAN MEDRANO, PhD
Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder
Coffee Scientist, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis
Dr. Medrano’s research at UC Davis has focused on animal and plant genomics. More specifically, he has worked on the application of next-generation sequencing technologies to study the genetic variation of complex traits, such as the nutritional and health components of milk, and the quality and production properties of coffee. He is the lead investigator in a project to sequence the genome of Coffea arabica and to study genetic variations of coffee cultivars grown in California.
Dr. Medrano received a degree in agriculture from Zamorano University in Honduras, and an MS in Animal Science and a Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of California, Davis. Following his graduate work, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP) in Guatemala.
Dr. Medrano was a faculty member at the University of California, Davis from 1985 to 2018. Currently, he serves as a member of the USDA Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee and is a member of the UC Davis Coffee Center.
Chief Operating Officer
As Chief Operating Officer, Mark Szczerba oversees FRINJ’s day-to-day operations. Mark is very excited about expanding the coffee growing region in California, while producing coffee at the highest level of quality. Since graduating from the University of Toronto with a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology and Cell Biology, Mark has been focused on food production and agronomic crops. As a coffee enthusiast, Mark can be seen starting and ending his day with a great cup of coffee. The FRINJ team brings an unmatched level of enthusiasm and passion to coffee and Mark is thrilled to be a part of this amazing group pushing the boundaries of coffee production.
Co-Founder, Quality Control
Lindsey Mesta has spent ten years working directly in the development of California’s coffee industry. Her role has encompassed nearly every phase of the coffee lifecycle from post harvest, roasting, QC, sales, branding, marketing, strategy, and now as one of the founders of FRINJ Coffee. Today, her primary role is QC and consulting. She loves experiencing the nuances in each cup and reflecting on the passion it required to get to her. Each cup has its own story to unfold. As the years progress, FRINJ farms and our post harvest team are producing more beautiful, layered, and vibrant cups. For her, it is as exciting as it is rewarding to be part of this team. Ultimately, she dreams of California coffee being established as one of the world’s highest scoring coffee producing regions. And she hopes that when her two young boys are grown , she can share a cup of California grown coffee with them and reflect on the journey the FRINJ family undertook to make this happen.
FRINJ TEAM MEMBERS
Click on images for bios.
Paige had a lifelong goal to work in corporate sales, but after she got her dream job she found that she was most happy nerding out about coffee, roasting beans on her popcorn roaster, and trying different coffees from around the world. So Paige left her career behind and made it her full-time job to take classes at Boot Coffee, where she met Marcus Young. Paige has learned from some of the best in specialty coffee over the last couple years and met Jay last spring while checking out FRINJ Coffee on a whim. She was ready to start her own company at the time, but after one afternoon touring FRINJ, Paige was so excited by the work she saw that she put aside her own plans and asked Jay how she could help.
Paige loves the many facets of coffee production, from farming to milling, roasting, brewing and connecting with customers. She also loves being a part of the evolution of specialty coffee happening at FRINJ.
Director of Post-Harvest
All coffee produced by FRINJ passes through Todd’s hands. Todd is a true craftsman who deeply understands the FRINJ process for our coffee. He knows how to consistently execute FRINJ’s post-harvest procedure and is skilled at creating the best result for each grower’s fresh coffee berries. Todd ensures that FRINJ produces coffee to the same high standards that a great winemaker dedicates when creating a bottle of wine. After all, Todd was a professional wine grower and winemaker prior to joining the FRINJ team.
Marta Matvienko, Ph.D
R&D Site Lead
Marta brings her golden touch to all plants, and has a wide range of knowledge about the world of fruits and deep scientific knowledge specific to those fruits.
Growers’ Program Manager
Ben brings 16 years of experience in coffee to FRINJ. His duties include establishing new FRINJ coffee growers and selecting and designing new sites. With a deep understanding of the complex and interdependent coffee systems, Ben mobilizes resources to support the cultivation of resiliency. What he enjoys most about the coffee experience is how it has so many dimensions from culinary to cultural, artistic, agronomic, technologic, and economic.
Special Projects Consultant
Jeff Stoike is a native of southern California and grew up in San Diego. He has worked in sustainable agriculture for 20 years from various vantages, including small-business start-ups, academic research, and federal policymaking. Jeff co-founded a ‘farm-and-table’ restaurant and a coffee importing and roasting company while living in Athens, GA. He then embarked on graduate research in agroforestry and the ‘restoration economy’ in Panama and Brazil. Jeff developed a climate philanthropy initiative at the Urban Institute, and was working on foreign assistance at the U.S. State Department as a Science and Technology Policy Fellow through the American Association for the Advancement of Science. More recently, Jeff has been consulting on various projects that are close to his heart in the realm of sustainability, strategy and climate change.
Jeff has a BA from UC Berkeley, an MSc in Ecology from the University of Georgia, and a PhD in International Sustainable Development from the Yale School of the Environment.
Director of Operations for Good Land Organics
Griffin’s mission is to steward FRINJ’s land, trees, and ranch team. He is enthusiastic about all aspects of coffee, from its aromas and flavors to its deep connections to human history and culture. Griffin is proud to be a part of FRINJ’s efforts to transform the coffee experience and redefine what is possible for agriculture in California.
Plant Materials Manager
Remi Ho was born and raised in Santa Barbara, CA. After learning about FRINJ Coffee through her studies at UC Davis, Remi knew she had to become a part of it. Her hope is that California-grown coffee will continue to raise the bar on quality as FRINJ continues to produce some of the world’s most exclusive varieties and lead with a science-forward approach to coffee production. For Remi it has been such a pleasure to work alongside some of the best in the industry and she is excited to keep learning and paving the way for California coffee!
Controller/VP of Finance
As the controller of FRINJ Coffee, Kari is dedicated to ensuring everyone stays within budget and “under control”. Working with Jay as a CPA for over 20 years, Kari is thrilled to see FRINJ come to fruition. An avid coffee consumer, Kari truly enjoys being part of the coffee innovations going on at FRINJ.
Fruit Sales & Event Manager
Kristen Ruskey grew up in the small town of Tehachapi, CA and was privileged to be able to ride and compete on show horses growing up. Most visitors to FRINJ ask Kristen if she always planned on getting into agriculture and coffee and her answer is NO! But a background of having open spaces and animals helped her to love the agricultural lifestyle. Kristen’s role at FRINJ is in fruit sales for the Good Land Organics brand, as well as coordinating tours for FRINJ. Kristen is responsible for giving people the experience of our farm whether it is through in person visits or direct mail! Kristen is also responsible (with Jay) for raising the next generation of dancers, farmers, and bankers (or at least that’s what the kids are into for now). Kristen’s favorite part of the coffee experience is seeing the transformation of the palette from drinking coffee purely as morning fuel and elevating it to a fine food and beverage experience. Her secondary love of coffee is the caffeine of course! Kristen is a mother of 3, during a pandemic, while working on a startup company and operating a farm!