AGCO Corp. has chosen the four finalists for its 12th annual Operator of the Year award, which recognizes the thousands of hard-working custom application professionals across the nation.
More than 40 applicators were nominated for this year’s award. A panel of judges at AGCO evaluated the applicants and selected the four finalists based on skills, dedication, customer service and community involvement.
“The AGCO Operator of the Year award is a salute to the application professionals who deliver the latest in product advancements and technology to the fields,” said Mark Mohr, tactical marketing manager at AGCO Corporation. “Their techniques and skills amplify the precision and effectiveness of fertilization and crop protection across millions of acres each year.”
The four finalists are:
- Russ Krans, Head Operator at West Central FS in Wataga, IL
- John Manning, Operator and Shop Manager at CHS Elburn in Newark, IL
- Andrew Myburgh, Certified Applicator at the Wheat Growers Co-Op in Aberdeen, SD
- Terry Wilson, Rig Operator at Ferti-Tex in Comanche, TX
Krans, of West Central FS, operates a RoGator 1300, and covers 25,000 acres every year. He was nominated by colleague Brandon Hall, who says Krans is the kind of operator every grower wishes for. When there is an especially difficult field with topography challenges that nobody else wants to apply, Krans raises his hand and does an impeccable job.
A volunteer firefighter for 30-plus years, Krans is also a local road commissioner. He serves as Treasurer of his church and is a keyholder, meaning he must unlock and re-lock the church doors every day.
“It’s nice when you hear feedback in the fall about how good your control was during the season, because that’s when you know for sure,” Krans said. He has used other brands of equipment before, and prefers AGCO’s RoGator. “It’s really stable on hills, and if you’re not stable on a hillside, you don’t feel safe.”
Manning, of CHS Elburn, runs a RoGator 1074 and a TerraGator 8103, and applies 36,000 acres per year. He was nominated by colleague Tara Bernard, who said Manning has been farming with his dad since he was a child and that has given him a deeper love and respect for land stewardship. He is relentlessly focused on quality work, even if that means calling a farmer to say a field is too wet to spray so the job must be delayed until another day. He’s also a talented mechanic, often able to fix or patch equipment right on the spot in the field.
“I never have a day when I don’t love coming to work,” Manning said. “The farmer that demands the most is the one you probably do the best work for because he expects more. I spray as if it’s my own.”
Myburgh, of Wheat Growers Co-Op, operates a RoGator 1300, and applies about 41,000 acres each year. His colleague Dick Siefkes nominated him, and says that customers often request Myburgh by name because they know he will treat their land as if it were his own.
Originally from South Africa, Myburgh is a permanent resident of the U.S. and lives on a small farm where his two sons help care for 60 head of sheep, calves, a donkey, ducks and chickens. He also coaches the local soccer team, and often mentors and trains other applicators who want to learn the trade.
“I do whatever it takes to get the job done right, and make sure our customers are happy with the work we do for them,” Myburgh said.
Wilson, of Ferti-Tex, runs a RoGator 1100B, and applies 35,000 acres each year. He was nominated by colleague Tyler Hicks, who says Wilson is their most requested operator because he is reliable and trustworthy, leaving everything in better condition than he found it. Wilson learns the quirks of each customer’s fields and their preferred farming techniques, and is known for his accurate application skills and impeccable maintenance of his equipment. He is also deeply involved in the local community, spending time with senior citizens at the local retirement home, cheering on sports teams and lending a helping hand.
“I like the precision,” Wilson said. “When switching crops, you have to make sure the containers are clean and the nozzles are clean before you go to the next crop. You’ve got to make sure you know what’s in the next field over, how the wind is blowing and how each farmer wants it done.”
The finalists will be guests of AGCO at the 2017 Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) Conference & Expo, which is held November 28-30 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. During the event, the AGCO Operator of the Year will be announced and presented with the grand prize of a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The nominator of the finalist that is chosen will also receive a brand-new Yeti cooler.
“The glowing recommendations of this year’s nominees affirm the crucial role that these applicator professionals play all across America,” Mohr said. “Their dedication goes beyond their day jobs as they volunteer their time and energy to help their neighbors and make their communities stronger – values that we recognize and applaud with the AGCO Operator of the Year award.”