The four finalists for the 2008 Ag-Chem Operator of the Year program have been chosen: Donald Suflow, Cargill Inc., Maynard, Minn.; Kyle Jones, Heartland Coop, Slater, Iowa; Randy Archer, Bollmeyer Inc., Hinton, Iowa; and Michael Grube, Valley Agronomics LLC, Ashton, Idaho. All will attend the 2008 Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) Conference and Expo, Dec. 2-4 in Austin, Texas, where the grand prize winner will drive away on a new Harley Davidson motorcycle.
Donald Suflow, Cargill Inc.
A 25-year veteran of custom application, Donald Suflow is the go-to guy at Cargill's Gluek and Maynard, Minn., locations. He believes a good custom applicator is one who treats every field as he would his own.
Suflow was nominated by Doug Hanen, production supervisor, and Jeff Morris, FSC Operations Lead at the Maynard and Gluek Cargill locations. Morris says that Suflow's work ethic, job performance in the field, and the fact that he keeps the environment in mind at all times are qualities that make him a good candidate for Operator of the Year. "Our customers say that Don is the best applicator they've had, and they know that the job will be done to their satisfaction every time," he says.
Kyle Jones, Heartland Coop
Each field is different, and a good custom applicator will know each waterway, terrace, and wet spot in all the fields he applies. Kyle Jones, who has been spraying for Heartland Coop in Slater, Iowa, for almost 22 years, handles each field as a unique piece of land. "Whether it's a square 100 acres, or a rough, terraced farm, he makes that field his top priority," says nominator Brad Essick, Location Manager at Heartland Coop.
Essick says he nominated Jones for the Operator of the Year because of his reliability. "Kyle gets his work done in a timely manner, and when I say timely, I also mean that he gets the field work done efficiently and the way it should be done," he adds. "This past year he sprayed 44,000 acres and I didn't have one customer complaint. To me that epitomizes a quality applicator."
Randy Archer, Bollmeyer Inc.
His pursuit of perfection, exceptional customer service, and willingness to help are the qualities that put Randy Archer into the elite group of finalists for Ag-Chem Operator of the Year.
Archer began at Bollmeyer Inc., a small business of four employees, in Hinton, Iowa, fifteen years ago. Crystal Jauer, Office Manager, says, "It's Randy's experience and customer service that set us apart from the competition. He's energetic and people love to be around him."
Archer sprays 25,000 acres per year of custom application as if each acre were his own. "It's important to do the job right," Archer says. "I try not to destroy any more crop than necessary to get the job done."
Michael Grube, Valley Agronomics LLC
Understanding the individual needs of each producer allows top custom applicators to stand out from the crowd. And, sometimes the best way to get this type of understanding is to walk a mile in their shoes. That's how Michael Grube, a former farmer and life-long resident of Ashton, Idaho, helps the team at Valley Agronomics LLC stay ahead of the competition.
"Michael is more than just an operator. Being a farmer once himself, he is very conscientious of the concerns growers have and does all he can to meet those needs," says Bryan Miller, who nominated Grube. "He is always accurate and focused on doing a great job for each farmer."
Grube's mechanical mind, or farmer mentality as some would say, has been quite useful at Valley Agronomics. When issues arise Grube can usually fix them himself and keep on moving with the job at hand.
Professional applicators provide an important piece of the puzzle in the crop production cycle. The Ag-Chem Operator of the Year program recgonizes the importance of honoring the unsung contributors in a successful application business. The program acknowledges that one of the most difficult things for an ag retail business is finding good operators, and seeks to recognize the top professionals in the field.
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Ag-Chem Operator of the Year