"It is hard to believe that 35 years have passed since I started working for the ASCS Service (a forerunner of FSA)," Ladd said.
Ladd grew up in the Childress community, north of Monette, as the son of James and Junie Qualls Ladd. He had one sister Teresa Ladd Ashley.
"Farming was our life, and I tried my hand at all aspects of it," Ladd said. "We grew cotton, soybeans, and corn, plus raised hogs and cattle."
"I also did my share of picking corn by hand and shoveling it into the barn," he said. "There was a lot of hands-on work to do back then. I also chopped and picked cotton. That all sure helped me to decide that I didn't really want to farm for a living when I grew up."
Ladd graduated from Monette High School in 1967 and was encouraged by his teacher Billie Layne and high school principal Edna Mae Freeman to go on to college and get a good education.
"That sure sounded good to me, as I had visions of being a banker and sitting behind a desk," Ladd said. "While attending classes at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, I worked three summers measuring ground for Jack Gray, ASCS administrator in Craighead County. I graduated in 1971 with a degree in business with a minor in agricultural economics. It is ironic that my first full day on my first full time job at Commercial Credit was on Dec. 2, 1971, and my last full day on my job here at the FSA office was on Dec. 2, 2011, 40 years later."
Ladd and his wife, the former Marsha Honnoll, of Leachville, moved their family to Cookeville, Tenn. They went on to live in Harriman and Tullahoma, Tenn., and Grenada, Miss., while he was with Commercial Credit. He started out as a customer service representative and moved up to branch manager.
"One Saturday morning in May 1978, Mr. Gray called me and told me there was an opening as a field man with ASCS, if I was interested," Ladd said. "I was so pleased that he thought that much of me and quickly accepted the job. I will always be thankful for that opportunity."
Ladd worked in several county offices throughout his ASCS and FSA career, which included Hot Springs, Crittenden, Greene, and in Craighead County since 2001. He and his family have predominately lived in Lake City, where his children grew up.
The Ladds have been married for 44 years and have three sons, Dale Ladd, a Batesville optometrist, Ryan Ladd, a special needs son who lives at the Jonesboro Human Development Center, and Justin Ladd, who works for Rural Development, another USDA agency. They have four grandchildren, Drew Ladd, Ashlin Ladd Austin, Jacob Ladd and Andy Ladd. They also have one great-granddaughter, Bella Austin.
"Dale and Justin graduated from Riverside School, and Marsha and I call Lake City home," Ladd said. "We are close to our children and grandchildren and that is just where we want to remain. We have so many happy memories of this area and are looking forward to retirement and all it has to offer, which will probably mean playing more with the grandkids and traveling from time to time.
"I had already started thinking about retiring when the offer came this year for a buy-out. It just sweetened the deal for me and I moved the retirement date up," Ladd said. "There have been so many changes in regulations and programs, with present problems that need to be worked out from all directions. The FSA service is the go-between and has to answer questions from both directions. Truthfully, I didn't want to go through another farm bill change."
Four county executive directors and six program technicians in Arkansas are taking advantage of the retirement offer, Ladd said.
During the reception Linda Newkirk, Arkansas FSA executive director, presented Ladd with a plaque recognizing his 35 years of service to the agency. Several gifts and cards were also received from business associates and friends.
"The best part of all of this is that I have got to do what I enjoy for a living and still stay close to the area I love," Ladd said. "I feel like I am a very fortunate man and try to never take a day for granted. Marsha and I are thankful for our family and friends. We are going to take life a little slower and enjoy every moment of it while we still can."