Danny Kushmer | Executive Director
Danny Kushmer, a third generation Floridian from South Hillsborough County, grew up farming tropical fish. In 1996 Danny started a farm-raised catfish operation in the Florida panhandle, producing over 50,000 pounds of processed catfish each week. In the late 90’s, he served as the Executive Director for the Ruskin Chamber of Commerce and graduated from the University of Florida’s Wedgworth Leadership Program for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Danny currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame as Building Committee Chair. He has also previously served on the board of directors for the Bartow Chamber of Commerce, the George Harris Runaway and Crisis Shelter, Dick Pope/Polk County Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association, and the Lakes Education Action Drive which supports improved water quality in Central Florida.
Danny lives in Brandon, Florida with his wife Cally. They have four grown children.
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.
Virginia Barnes is the Food Safety Manager and Public Relations specialist at her family’s 5th-generation farm in Hastings, Florida. As Food Safety Manager, Virginia trains all of the workers on the farm and keeps records for all of the crop protection, sanitation, incoming and outgoing product, materials purchased, GAP, GMP, HACCP, etc., as well as a myriad of other endless tasks. Her farm has a GFSI Food Safety Certificate, which means they have some of the safest food in the world with the ability to ship worldwide. She is passionate about bridging the gap between consumers and farmers, as she educates the public on the realities of farming through a variety of events, including the Tour de Farm and regular farm tours. Virginia currently lives in Elkton, FL with her daughter.
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.