Virginia Barnes | Executive Director
Virginia Barnes is a farmer and food safety expert from Hastings, Florida. Her family business, Barnes Farms, LLLP is a family owned and operated fifth-generation farm that grows fruits and vegetables in both St. Johns and Putnam Counties. Virginia served as the Food Safety Manager and Public Relations specialist for more than 20 years, training all farm employees and maintaining records for crop protection, sanitation, incoming and outgoing products, materials purchased, GAP, GMP, HACCP and a myriad of other endless tasks. Her family’s farm has a GFSI Food Safety Certificate, which means the family operation has some of the safest food in the world with the ability to ship worldwide. Virginia has recently transitioned from IRFC committee member to Executive Director. “I am passionate about bridging the gap between consumers and farmers, and educating the public on the realities of farming,” says Virginia. “I know that IMPAC will become THE GOLD standard in agriculture.” She currently lives in Elkton, FL with her daughter.
Ryan Atwood is a first-generation farmer and owner of Atwood Family Farms and H&A Farms, located near Umatilla and Mount Dora, FL. He grows and packs blueberries. He earned a B.A. and M.S. from the University of Florida, where he later became a fruit crops extension agent for the University of Florida Extension Service. Ryan is a Certified Crop Advisor through the American Society of Agronomy. He owns a consulting and a farm management company which work with blueberry farms located in Florida. He also serves on the board of directors for the Lake County Farm Bureau and the Florida Blueberry Growers Association. Ryan lives in Umatilla, Florida, with his wife and two children.
Kevin Folta, PhD
Kevin M. Folta is a Professor and the Chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. His strawberry research uses novel genomics approaches to identify genes related to flavor and disease resistance. His research also examines how parts of the light spectrum affect strawberry shelf life and flavor. He has been recognized as an expert in guiding the communications efforts in agricultural technologies, and recently has been recognized with the prestigious CAST Borlaug Award in Agricultural Communications. BS/MS Northern Illinois University 1989/1992, Ph.D. University of Illinois at Chicago, 1998.
Jessica received her undergraduate degrees from the University of Florida in Environmental Science and Public Relations. She went on to complete her MPA at Columbia University and her Masters of Law from Vermont Law School. She has held elected Student Government positions in both Undergraduate as well as Graduate school, including the Student Bar Association. Jessica has always been active in various non-profit organizations, such as Women of the Western Communities and the Environmental Law Society. She was an Associate for the National Resources Defense Council Campaign for Making New York City Taxis Green. She started her career at International Polo Club Catering as the Public Affairs Director and Senior Sales Manager, where she was responsible for over 100 staff and high volume event sales. She later became the Group Sales Manager which allowed her to focus on larger groups as well as setting up non-profit organizations with various fundraising opportunities. She is currently a Managing Partner in a SEO and website development company along with working with the Wellington Hospitality Group making Farm to Table more accessible by setting up Farmers Market Brunches which combine high-end culinary skills with locally grown and made products. Jessica lives in Loxahatchee Groves with her husband and two children where she enjoys heritage gardening and raising her own chickens.
Brant Schirard has managed Blue Goose Growers Inc. since 2009 and has served as the president of Southern Harvesting LLC since 2005 and Schirard Citrus Inc. since 1989. He is vice president of the Florida Farm Bureau, where he has served as a board member since 2006. Brant is also the past president of the St. Lucie County Farm Bureau, where he was a member since 1985. He received an associate degree from Indian River Community College and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida.
As manager of G&F Farms in Dover, Florida, Michelle Williamson oversees the Food Safety and Regulatory Compliance programs and manages the Human Resources Department. She has served as a board member for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Florida Farm Bureau State Board of Directors, Hillsborough County Farm Bureau Board of Directors, Hillsborough County CEAC Committee, Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council, and on the Governing Board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. In addition, she has also served as the State Chair of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee, and serves as the Chair for District 5 of the Florida Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee.