Convention Headlines

Pittsylvania County farmer and state veterinarian honored

A Farm Bureau volunteer leader of 40 years and Virginia’s state veterinarian were honored Nov. 28 with Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s 2012 Distinguished Service to Farm Bureau and Distinguished Service to Agriculture awards at the VFBF Annual Convention in Chantilly.

Former VFBF board member Joseph H. Williams of Chatham is the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Farm Bureau Award. A member of Farm Bureau since 1971, Williams raised 400 acres of tobacco in Pittsylvania County for decades before starting a vineyard and winery with his family.

Williams also served on the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Rural Revitalization Commission and is a graduate of the Virginia State Police Academy and a former state trooper.

“Joe represented his counties well during his 15 years on Farm Bureau’s board of directors,” said VFBF President Wayne F. Pryor. “An effective director represents his members both as a leader and as a listener. Joe could always be counted on to help the rest of the state understand the needs of all producers in his district, especially the unique situations faced by Southside Virginia tobacco growers.”

Williams is a past president and board member of the Pittsylvania County Farm Bureau. He also chaired the VFBF wine grape and legislative advisory committees and served as vice chairman of the organization’s federal farm bill and flue-cured tobacco advisory committees.

Working alongside him at The Homeplace Vineyard are his wife, Brenda; his son, Jesse; his oldest daughter, Renee, and her husband, Billy Reaves; and his younger daughter, Mary, and her husband, Chris Smith.

Dr. Richard Wilkes is the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award. As Virginia state veterinarian since 2005, Wilkes has been an effective and credible spokesman for animal agriculture at a time when animal activist groups have sought to redefine how farm livestock is treated, Pryor said.

“Dr. Wilkes was a key player in the passage of a bill in the 2011 Virginia General Assembly to define standards of care for agricultural animals to ensure that their proper care be defined by science,” he explained. “He has also been instrumental in leading the development of the Virginia State Animal Response Team for emergency situations.”

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Veterinary Services administers laws and regulations that apply to health requirements for livestock and poultry. Wilkes has been a leader in putting in place plans to stop the spread of disease through commerce—both in and out of state, Pryor added.

Before joining VDACS in 2004, Wilkes had a 26-year career as a private veterinary practitioner serving agricultural clients. He holds a bachelor’s degree in dairy science from Virginia Tech and a degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Georgia. He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and the Virginia Food Animal Practice Academy.

With nearly 150,000 members in 88 county Farm Bureaus, VFBF is Virginia’s largest farmers’ advocacy group. Farm Bureau is a non-governmental, nonpartisan, voluntary organization committed to protecting Virginia’s farms and ensuring a safe, fresh and locally grown food supply. View more convention news as it becomes available at

Contact Greg Hicks, VFBF vice president of communications, at 804-241-4633.


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