Few people in the agribusiness industry have influenced as many sales as Dave Downey. In his career spanning more than 50 years and reaching more than 10,000 students, he has been recognized as a dynamic instructor who has vast academic and practical experience to share.

The ARA recognized Downey’s career and accomplishments with the Jack Eberspacher Lifetime Achievement Award on Nov. 29.

“When the executive committee was considering Dr. Downey for this award, we were surprised that he had not already received it,” says ARA president and CEO Daren Coppock. “Given his broad impact on this industry, I cannot think of another individual more deserving.”

With a focus on marketing and selling to farmers, Downey has been deeply involved in many studies of farmer buying behavior, including the Purdue University Large Commercial Producer Survey, which regularly studies the attitudes and buying patterns of large growers across North America.

“I’ve spent my entire career working in ag retail,” Downey says. “These are my people, and it means a great deal to be recognized by them.”

Downey expressed his appreciation upon accepting the award.

“Dee Willard and others brought me into this industry,” he says. “He and others connected me into the ag retail sector and helped me build my network. I can’t even quantify how much I’ve learned through this association and its members.”

Helping Advance the Industry

Much has changed in ag retail since Downey’s career began. He said advancements in the industry–yield gains, use of data, reliance on advanced sales and marketing tools–have been exciting to witness.

“The sophistication of agribusiness has increased dramatically,” he notes. “Yet, some things haven’t changed: retailers maintain a deep and sincere concern to help farmer-customers be more profitable.”

Established in 2001, the award was renamed in 2010 after the late Jack Eberspacher, who served as ARA president and CEO from 2001 until his death in 2009.

Past recipients of the Eberspacher Award include Richard Gearheard, retired president and CEO of Agrium Retail; Ford B. West, former president of The Fertilizer Institute; Jim Thrift, former vice president of regulatory affairs and corporate relations for ARA; Bill Griffith, founder of AgriCenter; and Al McQuinn, founder, former chairman and CEO of Ag-Chem Equipment Co.

The award is ARA’s highest individual honor. The award is designed to recognize career-spanning achievements in and contributions to the agricultural retail industry.