The California Agribusiness Executive Seminar (CAES) was co-founded in 1989 by Chester “Chet” McCorkle, Professor of Agricultural Economics at UC Davis, and Bill Henderson, Executive Vice President, of Wells Fargo Bank. Chet and Bill had a vision to develop a strategic management program for senior California agribusiness executives to analyze case studies of West Coast agribusiness firms and the strategic challenges they face. The CAES was designed as a West Coast alternative to Harvard’s Agribusiness program, pioneered by Ray Goldberg.

The Seminar has been held biennially since 1989, with Chet serving as faculty director from inception through the 2002 program. In 2004 Roberta Cook, Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) at UC Davis, assumed the reins as faculty director of the Seminar and remained at the helm through the 2010 Seminar offering. Daniel A. Sumner, Frank H. Buck, Jr. Distinguished Professor in the ARE department at UC Davis, coordinated the 2012 and 2014 programs as faculty director. Tina Saitone, Cooperative Extension Specialist in ARE at UC Davis, coordinated the 2017 and 2019 programs as faculty director. Rachael Goodhue, Professor in ARE and Department Chair, took over as faculty director for the 2022 program.

Wells Fargo Bank has partnered with UC Davis to offer the CAES since its inception. Following Bill Henderson, JoAnn Bertges, Executive Vice President of Wells Fargo Bank, became adviser to the Seminar in 2002, continuing through 2006. From 2008–2014, Rob Yraceburu, Executive Vice President at Wells Fargo, served as the seminar adviser. Gene Peterson, Executive Vice President and National Food and Agribusiness Division Manager, and Denise Cahill, Senior Vice President and Director of Industry Sectors, served as the Wells Fargo Bank seminar advisers for the 2017 and 2019 programs. Jacquie Fredricks, Division Executive, West Region Agribusiness Group and Fidela Irigoyen, Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking Leader took the reins as Wells Fargo Bank seminar advisers in 2022.

Amid the changes in faculty directors and Wells Fargo seminar advisers, one constant was the leading role played by Ken McCorkle. Ken remained with the Seminar as a respected case writer and presenter from its inception through the 2019 Seminar offering. Now retired from his position as Executive Vice President of Wells Fargo and from his role as a CAES writer and presenter, Ken has continued to provide guidance to new seminar writers and presenters. One of the key factors in launching the CAES was Ken’s experiences attending the Harvard MBA program and working under Ray Goldberg on the Harvard Agribusiness Executive Seminar.

The CAES remains a three-way partnership between UC Davis, Wells Fargo Bank, and the California agribusiness community. Several of the CAES steering committee members, including John Harris, David Gill, and Chris Rufer, were also instrumental in starting the CAES and remain active in its planning and operations today.

Through its 17 offerings, the CAES has presented 129 case studies and issue papers on key challenges confronting agribusiness. Each Seminar enrolls 80–90 of California’s leading agribusiness executives on an invitation-only basis.