HARRISONBURG, VA. — Farmer Focus announced significant changes in its executive team, as Stephen Shepard takes over as chief executive officer.

Shepard most recently served as president and chief operating officer of Farmer Focus. He brings nearly two decades of experience into his new position. Before joining Farmer Focus in 2022, Shepard served as complex general manager at Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and in various roles at Miller Poultry.

Shepard earned his bachelor’s degree in livestock and poultry management from North Carolina State University.

“I am humbled to serve as CEO, and I commit to serve — to the best of my ability — our team members, farm partners, customers and consumers,” Shepard said. “Our mission remains: Promote and protect generational family farms. I look forward to working with the executive team to grow our business in new channels and categories to allow us to welcome more farmers into our community.”

Lead investor of the company and member of the Farmer Focus Board of Managers, Matt Walker of S2G, expressed support for the company’s change in stewardship.

“The board has been impressed by the leadership exhibited by Farmer Focus’ President & COO, Stephen J. Shepard,” he said. “We are confident that in his tenure as CEO, Stephen will lead the business as he leads his life — with conviction, humility and unparalleled drive.”

The transition comes as Founder Corwin Heatwole steps down from his current position as CEO and into a new role as chairman of the board of managers. Corwin will lead a committee of the board focused on regenerative agriculture and farming innovation.

Farmer Focus noted that his transition is part of the company’s strategic plan to direct its attention on the future of farming and commitment to sustainable practices.

“Our business is strong, and the executive team is well-positioned to sustain the growth trajectory we are on,” Heatwole said. “My goal has always been to step away from the day-to-day operations and create time and space for casting vision for what comes next — specifically regenerative agriculture and innovation in farming. I believe Farmer Focus is an important voice in this space.”