A Hometown Hero
story by Julia Wall
The soil in Henderson County has been farmed for generations. The Williams Farm, like many others, is a result of decades of painstaking work, hardship and triumph.
Owner Robbie Williams owns a 600-acre plot of land on which he lives and raises soybeans, wheat, corn and cattle. He and his wife, Liz, have two daughters, Anna, 8, and Caroline, 19. Like many farmers, Robbie doesn't just farm in one place but also leases around 5,000 additional acres from nearly 20 landowners all over the county. He oversees several employees on his leased and owned land and is "constantly solving problems," he says. "It's kind of like playing a chess game."
Although problem solving is a large part of being the boss of an enormous operation, Robbie sees his work as deeply rooted in his family and in himself. "We need to all appreciate everything before us, " he said. "All the hard stuff was done by the people before us." Robbie is tied to his family's farmland. He farmed some of the same lands he lives on today with both of his grandfathers.
In 2004 the Henderson County Chamber of Commerce named Robbie the "Agriculturist of the Year" for his immense support of the agriculture sector. Although farming is a way of life for Robbie, he also has a passion for land that involves more than just sowing seeds — and caring for more than just his own land.
In December 2011, with the encouragement of state officials, Robbie and five partners — Will Esche; Tommy Dempewolf and his son, Tom; and brothers Scott and Houston Keach — purchased some 650 acres of wetlands located near Henderson's John James Audubon State Park. The six friends pooled their resources to build trails and wheelchair-accessible boardwalks that were designed by Will, who was left a quadriplegic by an accident in 1992 but who nonetheless helped operate construction equipment during the construction effort.
It was part of a vision to have the land acquired by the state of Kentucky and incorporated into Audubon Park. Because of their efforts, the group was recognized by the Henderson Rotary Club with a Hometown Hero Award.