Jim studied forestry at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He worked for the USDA Forest Service from 1979 until 2009. While working there he served as a forestry technician, a federal law enforcement officer, a helicopter manager, a realty specialist, a supervisory forester, and a lands program manager.
He began appraising in 1981. Upon retiring from the USDA Forest Service in 2009, he went in business for himself and established Jim Barker Appraisal. As a certified general appraiser, he specializes in woodland, recreational land, agricultural land, residential land, and institutional land. Most of his work has been to the Federal standards using the Yellow Book.
Jim has lived in Southwest Virginia his entire life. He has served on the town council in Marion since 2010. He enjoys hiking, traveling, and photography in his spare time.