Meet the Staff

 Mike Stuart, President

Mike Stuart has worked in the produce industry throughout his career. Beginning as a produce merchandiser for a large Southern California supermarket chain, Stuart has served for more than two decades as an association executive representing growers and shippers in California, Arizona and Florida.

Stuart holds leadership positions with numerous industry groups at the national and international level. In 2006, he was named to the USDA Fruit and Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee and is vice chairman. Since 1995, he has served on the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee for Trade, a private-sector group that advises the Secretary of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative. He was appointed in 2008 to the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. In addition, he was a member of the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Fruits and Vegetables, and was chairman of the committee during the negotiation of both the Uruguay Round and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Stuart also has served on the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association's board of directors and as chairman of the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

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 Dan Botts, Vice President, Industry Resources

Dan Botts is vice president of industry resources, overseeing FFVA’s pest management, water and natural resources, and food safety and sustainability activities. He represents grower interests on issues as diverse as pest management and crop production practices and their impact on the environment to food safety and international marketing access related to crop production needs. Botts also serves as president of Third Party Registrations Inc., an FFVA subsidiary that manages the registration process under liability limitation for specific pest management tools that would not otherwise be available to FFVA producer members.

He holds leadership roles in several industry coalitions, including the Crop Protection Coalition and the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance. He also serves as a representative to EPA's Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and USDA's Specialty Crop Advisory Committee.

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 Mike Carlton, Director of Labor Relations 

As director of FFVA's Labor Relations Division, Mike Carlton's primary responsibility is representing the association in labor related legislative efforts on the federal level.  Carlton also is responsible for coordinating members’ use of the H-2A guest worker program and assisting with compliance efforts with labor laws affecting agriculture.

An industry veteran, Carlton held numerous management positions at Florida Citrus Mutual in Lakeland for 26 years before joining FFVA in 2007, including serving as director of production and labor affairs and director of grower relations. Among his numerous accomplishments was designing a $400 million hurricane relief program for the state's citrus growers in 2004 and successfully pushing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to adopt the program.

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 Butch Calhoun, Director of Government Relations

Butch Calhoun, director of the Government Relations Division, promotes the interests of Florida agriculture in Tallahassee, providing grower members with direct regulatory assistance, legislative representation and information. Calhoun and his staff also work at the policy level with and monitor the activities of the Florida Legislature, state and local regulatory agencies, and the five regional water management districts to safeguard, strengthen and improve the interests of agriculture.

Calhoun leads the Private Property Rights Coalition as chairman. He also serves as a member of the Agriculture Coalition, the Coalition to Protect Florida's Economy, and Floridians for Smarter Growth.

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 Mike Aerts, Director of Production and Supply Chain Management

Mike Aerts focuses on two critical areas of importance to FFVA members: pest management and food safety. Aerts also leads FFVA's Agricultural Exchange Management Group (consisting of the Florida Sweet Corn Exchange, the Sweet Corn Growers Exchange, the Florida Vegetable Exchange, the Florida Green Bean Exchange and the Quincy Tomato Growers Exchange). This group provides growers/shippers with critical market and harvest reports to help them maximize returns for their crops.

Mike served as membership director for three years and as assistant director of FFVA's Environmental and Pest Management Division for nine years. He's also served as an extension faculty member at the University of Florida's Food Science and Human Nutrition Department. Aerts also worked for Shell International Chemical Co., headquartered in London, in regulatory, technical service and product development capacities.

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 Lisa Lochridge, APR, Director of Public Affairs

Lisa Lochridge serves as director of the Public Affairs Division, managing FFVA's communication with its members and the media on topics ranging from food safety to immigration reform. The division also is responsible for a variety of communication channels, including the association's Web site, monthly e-magazine, weekly newsletters and member bulletins.

Lisa also coordinates the FFVA annual convention.

Specializing in media relations and crisis communication, Lochridge came to FFVA in 2006 after serving as vice president of CBR Public Relations in Orlando. Prior to that, she was a veteran journalist, holding numerous local news editor positions at the Orlando Sentinel for 21 years. A Florida native, Lochridge holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in communication from the University of Central Florida. She is nationally accredited in public relations.

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 Kerry Kates, Director of Water and Natural Resources

Kerry B. Kates serves as director of water and natural resources within FFVA’s Industry Resources group.  He is responsible for monitoring and working with regional water management districts, state agencies, local municipalities and the Florida Legislature, and advising FFVA members of regulatory and legislative actions related to water resources, land use and property rights.

Kates spent five years as a civil analyst and project manager in the Orlando office of Kimley-Horn and Associates, a nationwide engineering and land-planning firm. He is a licensed professional engineer and LEED-accredited professional, and he holds bachelor’s degrees in geology and civil engineering from the University of Florida.

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 J. Peter Chaires, Director of Association Services

Peter has enjoyed 24 years of challenges in Florida’s citrus industry. After earning his undergraduate degree from University of Florida, he spent 15 years with the Florida Gift Fruit Shippers Association, serving as COO, Associate Vice President and completing his tenure as Executive Vice President. While at FGFSA, he earned his MBA from Rollins College in Winter Park. He spent two years consulting (including Florida Citrus Packers, Citrus Grower Associates and the FL Dept of Citrus) and serving as an owner/manager of a local franchise in Longwood Florida, before returning to the citrus industry. While managing business development, market access and food safety projects for Florida Citrus Packers, he helped establish New Varieties Development & Management Corp. Currently, as director of Association Services, Peter serves as Executive Vice President of Florida Citrus Packers and Executive Director of New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC).

NVDMC seeks to acquire, evaluate, license, sub-license, protect and manage proprietary citrus varieties on behalf of the Florida grower. NVDMC is funded through contract with the Florida Dept of Citrus and presently has four varieties under commercial contract (IFAS Sugar Belle, UCR Tango, IFAS Valquarius, U.S. Early Pride) and 16 varieties under evaluation contract (from California, South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Italy). NVDMC supports targeted research – with approx 75% of its budget going to variety development research at UF and USDA.

Peter lives in Lake Mary, Florida with his wife Kimberly. They have three sons in college at UF, Flagler and UCF.

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 Sonia Tighe, Director of Membership; Executive Director, Florida Specialty Crop Foundation

Sonia Tighe is director of membership for FFVA. She also manages the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, the 501(c)3 organization for FFVA. The Foundation focuses on research, education and philanthropy in the Florida specialty crop industry. Tighe partners with UF/IFAS and USDA on research grants which benefit Florida growers, and administers a scholarship program for children of migrant workers.

Additionally, Tighe directs the Emerging Leader Development Program, targeted to members of FFVA ages 25 to 40. Before joining FFVA, Tighe worked for Vance Publishing for 25 years for industry publications The Packer, Citrus & Vegetable Magazine, and The Grower.  She is chair of the Florida Ag Expo Committee; and is a member of the Florida chapter of National Agri-Marketing Association, the RCMA Christmas Card Steering Committee and the Wedgworth Leadership Institute Advisory Council.

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Jill Dunlop, Food Safety & Sustainability Manager

Jill Dunlop is responsible for providing support to FFVA members in developing and implementing food safety and sustainability programs. She also provides training for and assistance with third-party audits as well as coordinating and conducting food safety and sustainability education and outreach.

In addition, Dunlop provides support for other regulatory activities within FFVA’s Industry Resources group headed by Dan Botts, vice president of industry resources. Those include development, implementation and measurement of members’ Best Management Practices, Third Party Registrations Inc., Worker Protection Standard outreach and training, as well as crisis management related to food safety. And she is designing, developing and implementing GlobalGAP and GFSI food safety certification programs on behalf of membership.

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 If you are interested in joining FFVA as a producer member or as an industry trade associate member, please contact FFVA via email or at (321) 214-5200.