I will always love farming. It’s a wholesome livelihood and providing the world’s food is a noble endeavor. But it’s not an easy way to make a living. I’ve read that most people who are farming are either born into it or transition into it in order to discover something more meaningful. I fall into the first category. Our 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. I was born and raised a farmer and will die a farmer.

Due to some recent life-altering events, I have decided to pursue my passion to make agriculture important in every household. By stepping up and serving as the IRFC’s new Executive Director, I have a huge opportunity to connect people to their food and showcase the hard work that goes into farming. The public needs to know more about today’s farm life because it’s not overalls and pitchforks. Agriculture is filled with innovation and impressive technology, and a bright, young generation of farmers are bringing all of that to the forefront. Farmers are some of the most inventive and resourceful people on the planet.

My Goals for IMPAC

I want consumers to see IMPAC as a recognizable seal of honor and integrity. I want them to know what it means to be IMPAC certified. Farmers are following regulatory rules, FSMA Food Safety rules and Best Management Practices (BMPs), designed to leave the earth a sustainable and viable place to farm and live for generations to follow.  I am passionate about bridging the gap between consumers and farmers and educating the public on the realities of farming. I know that IMPAC will become THE GOLD standard in agriculture.

I want farmers to understand that there are no extra steps to becoming an IMPAC grower. If they are following the rules, then it is merely a small checklist that IRFC committee will verify and approve. I am fortunate to have a group on the IRFC who play vital roles in agriculture they help make the process seamless.

Farmers Need a Voice

It’s entirely possible that one day people may not have the food we need because farmers are opting out. New generations see the struggle and sometimes wonder if it’s worth it – a lot of headaches and investment for what can be very little return. Stakes are high and the money spent is unfathomable to run an operation. Add to that, the perception many have about farmers and farming and it makes for a dismal outlook. Here’s the good news, more and more people are getting involved in the conversations about farming. They have genuine concerns that are being addressed through social media, websites, public speakers and what we call, agvocates. If more farmers apply their knowledge to these conversations by telling their story and becoming transparent, then consumers can walk away with the right information. That’s powerful for the future of our industry.

I hope that you will have a conversation with me. Whether you’re a farmer or a concerned consumer, email me or call me directly. I would love to talk with you about food, farming and the role that IMPAC is playing in agriculture. I am truly looking forward to it.

Virginia Barnes is a farmer and food safety expert from Hastings, Florida. She has 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 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. She currently lives in Elkton, FL with her daughter.