This year, ARA recognized William (Billy) F. Willard and Bob Willard with ARA Distinguished Service Awards. The ARA Distinguished Service Award honors an individual member of the association who has gone beyond the traditional member and volunteer responsibilities to support the ag retail industry and the association—making the industry better for all.
Willard Agri-Service is the gold standard for agricultural retailers. The main business is serving farmers with products and information that help the farmer make more profit per acre, reduce risks and solve production problems. Willard Agri-Service is a family-owned and -operated company. The Willard family also is a partner in a turf and ornamental company in Pennsylvania that sells products throughout the Northeast. The company operates in a politically challenging environment, which has necessitated extensive community involvement by Billy, Bob and the entire company. This community engagement has engendered trust and respect from neighbors. Billy and Bob have both participated in countless tours and demo days to benefit the ag retail industry.
Billy serves as CEO for Willard Agri-Service. Billy is a son of company founder, De Willard, and he has extensive experience in farming and agricultural business. He graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in ag economics. He did additional postgraduate work at Purdue. Billy then joined the family business at Willard and also began operating the family farm located in Poolesville, Md.
At Willard Agri-Service, Billy oversees operations for the five plants servicing seven states. He continues to operate the family farm with his son, Billy Jr. This gives the unique perspective of being a customer and a supplier.
Billy is active in the community as he serves on the Montgomery County Agricultural Center board, the University of Delaware ag advisory board, the St. John’s College High School board and the board of the Damascus Community Bank. Billy has also served on the small business advisory committee for the Richmond Federal Reserve Board.
Bob serves as chairman of the Willard Agri-Service board of directors. Bob has worked in business and agriculture for the past 38 years after growing up in a family that farmed and had ag businesses. He spends most of his time in the crop supply business and has five facilities that serve six states. Currently, he is chairman of the board.
Bob graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in ag business, and he did graduate work at Purdue University. Bob is a past board member of the Agricultural Retailers Association (past chairman) and Independent Agricultural Professionals. He is the past president of the Delaware-Maryland Agribusiness Association and currently serves as treasurer. Bob is also a board member of Chesapeake Bank and Trust and Centennial Ag Supply. Bob is a past member of the Chestertown Lions Club.
Selected by the ARA executive committee, recipients of Distinguished Service Awards may come from any of the membership categories in ARA: retail; distributor or manufacturer of equipment, chemicals and fertilizer; or affiliate. Other recent recipients of the award include Jamie Southard of The Equity, Billy Pirkle of Crop Production Services, Paul Derig of Simplot, Rod Schroeder of WinField, Kim Bohlander of Dow AgroSciences, Dan Weber of Ceres Solutions and Ken Manning of Wilbur-Ellis.