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Governor Moore to Induct Willard Family into Agriculture Hall of Fame

Governor Hogan Inducts Farm Families into Agriculture Hall of Fame

Family from Montgomery County to Receive State’s Most Prestigious Agriculture Award

ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 8, 2024)Governor Wes Moore and Maryland Agriculture Secretary Kevin Atticks today announced the Willard Family of Montgomery County as the 2023 inductees into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame.  They will be honored at the 54th anniversary of the Taste of Maryland Agriculture event, which will be held on Thursday, February 1, 2024 at Maryland Live! Casino and Hotel.  

“Agriculture is Maryland’s largest commercial industry, contributing billions to our State’s economy,” said Governor Moore. “The Willard family stands as a pillar of the ag community, demonstrating what it takes to be a successful farm family.”

Created by former Governor William Donald Schaefer in 1991, the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame honors agricultural leaders who exemplify high standards of achievement and commitment to the industry and their communities. Nominations are accepted at local University of Maryland Extension offices. 

“It is an honor to welcome the Willard Family into the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame,” said Secretary Atticks. “The legacy of this farm family is truly admirable, from their conservation practices to their strong business sense. I’m looking forward to welcoming them to the Governor’s Ag Hall of Fame this February!”

The Taste of Maryland Agriculture Celebration, sponsored by the Maryland Agriculture Council, is the state’s premier agricultural event, bringing industry leaders together with state and national legislators. Nearly 900 attendees are expected to gather to celebrate during this year’s event.

The event will feature a bounty of Maryland agricultural products served throughout the evening, with food  and tastings from the state’s beer and cidery supporters. In addition to the induction of the Governor’s Agricultural Hall of Fame family, 11 outstanding programs will receive Maryland Agriculture Council Educational Grants during the program.

Tickets are $100 per person and reservations must be postmarked by January 12 to be included in the program. Late reservation tickets are $130. 

Reservations may be made by credit card with Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2024-taste-of-maryland-agriculture-tickets-733008156127?aff=oddtdtcreator or go to https://mdagcouncil.com for mail-in forms.

For more information, call Maryland Ag Council Executive Director Susan Summers at 240-446-3601.

The Willard family is the 55th inductee in the Governor’s Agriculture Hall of Fame. More information on each hall of fame family is available on the department’s website.

About the Willard Family

Maryland Farmer, Farmer Hall of Fame, Willard Farm, Agriculture, Poolesville

In 1871, Dewalt J. Willard and Charles F. M. Willard purchased 675.5 acres near the Potomac River in Poolesville, marking the beginning of a family legacy that spans more than 150 years. Through diversification and proximity to the C&O Canal, the Willard family’s original farm, purchased for $10,581, remains intact today. 

Harry Willard’s forward-thinking in 1905 birthed a custom farming operation that thrived through various ventures, from a John Deere Dealership to a feed mill. Despite the Great Depression, the Willard farm endured, and subsequent generations actively participated. Embracing transformative technologies in the mid-1960s, the Willard family adopted the “no-till planter” and paraquat early on, positioning themselves at the forefront of innovation. Grass waterways, field edge filter strips, and cover crops reflect their commitment to environmental stewardship. 

In 2021, Willard Farms achieved the National First Place Award in the dryland soft red winter wheat category, with a remarkable yield of 141.41 dry bushels per acre. Established in 1970, Willard Agri-Service pioneered fluid fertilizer, offering efficient solutions to plant fertility needs. 

Today, the company stands as a beacon of precision agriculture, offering farmers access to the HighQ decision support system. Individual members of the Willard family and Willard Agri-Service have garnered numerous accolades, including Mid-Atlantic Master Farmer, Maryland Grain Producers Man of the Year, and the Agricultural Retailers Association Lifetime Achievement Award. The Willard farming operation, initiated in 1871, remains vibrant today under the leadership of Scot Poffenberger, Billy Willard Jr., and Joe Sayer, with approximately 900 acres of corn, 600 acres of full-season beans, 400 acres of sorghum, and 600 acres of wheat. 

The Willard Family expresses gratitude to its customers and dedicated employees for their integral role in the enduring success of the family legacy.

Quotes from the Nominators

“The Willard Family have a long and storied history of conservation excellence and serve as exemplary stewards of the lands that they both own and operate across the region. They are both initiators and innovators when it comes to adopting new technologies and practices that help to promote the conservation of soil and water resources while balancing the environmental benefits with the economic viability of their farming enterprises”, said District Manager for the Montgomery Soil Conservation District John Zawitoski. “The District congratulates the Willard Family for being recognized for this prestigious honor as this year’s Governor’s Agricultural Hall of Fame inductee.”

“We are excited to be part of honoring the Willard family for their amazing accomplishments and life-long service to Maryland agriculture,” said Executive Director of the Maryland Agriculture Council Susan Summers. “They truly deserve this prestigious award, and we are happy to host this event to highlight such an amazing family who has transformed the agricultural industry.”

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