Meet Three Outstanding Farmers

February 3, 2011 07:38 PM

Top Producer is honored to announce Jim Kline of Hartford City, Ind., as the winner of the 2011 Top Producer of the Year award. Watch and listen to Jim’s and his wife’s reactions upon receiving the award.

Kline got an early taste of farm ownership when he rented land as a freshman in high school and bought his first farm at the beginning of his senior year. Since then, Kline has built the original family farm into a 7,500-acre operation raising corn, soybeans and seed wheat that he now farms as a sole owner. In 2006, Kline invested in a joint farming venture in Brazil. While the farm originally planted soybeans, it is currently raising eucalyptus, a crop he and investors found to be more profitable.
While Kline has seen success through his farming innovation and growth, he has also faced personal setbacks. He lost his wife, Suzie, in 2006 after a long illness and painful death. In the midst of his grief, Kline continued to build the farming operation and raise two children as a single parent. He remarried in 2007 to Lou West, who remains a sounding board for him on labor issues and a team player during harvest and planting. Together, they serve on many community boards and mentoring groups for local youth. They also publish a farm newsletter that goes to landlords and suppliers.
As the 2011 Top Producer of the Year, Kline is awarded a new Challenger MT700 Series track tractor for 200 hours or six months and a trip for two to next year’s Top Producer Seminar in Chicago. Kline and the finalists also received an iPad, courtesy of Asgrow; a Toughbook computer from Bayer CropScience; and a digital camera package from SFP.
Watch AgDay's video about Kline:
The other two finalists were Jake Clark of Grand Ledge, Mich., and Justin Crownover of Sunray, Texas.
Clark farms the land that has been in his family for 175 years. Clark came back to the farm in 1996, but since he was a child he had dreamed of nothing but farming. He was wrenching equipment by age eight and chisel plowing by nine. His brother, Peter, describes him as “one of those rare and gifted people who have an innate understanding of machinery.” Today, Clark grows corn and soybeans with his father on more than 10,000 acres. Not only can Clark turn a wrench, he facilitated the farm’s transition to precision technology. He recently revamped the farm’s storage and drying capacity and added a new elevator system. He also built up side businesses, and the farm now includes fertilizer application, custom harvest and planting, and spray application among its farming enterprises. To give back to the community, Clark has cleaned up farm equipment and made the trek to town with 100 tons of machinery to the elementary school for career day.
Watch AgDay's video about Clark:
Crownover’s grandfather drilled his first irrigation well in 1960 to irrigate milo and wheat. In 1993, Crownover graduated from college and returned to the farm to work with his father, farming just seven sections of land. The farm business was scraping by at that point, and when the family lost land, Crownover often worked with no wages, accepting only room and board at home as compensation. In a few short years and with lots of hard work, Crownover, his wife, Stephanie, and his father and mother formed a partnership to farm 19 sections of land. Despite Crownover losing his brother and father in recent years, the family chose to work together and continue to devote themselves to growing their farm for future generations. The Crownovers have put special effort into management and organizational structure by developing an employee handbook that is being translated into Spanish for their Hispanic employees. Lone Star Family Farms has also made a commitment to support veterans by working with the Texas Veterans Leadership Program to help bring veterans back into the workforce.
Watch AgDay's video about Crownover:
These three top producers exemplify hard work and commitment not only to their businesses, but also to their families and local communities.
The Top Producer of the Year award is presented by Challenger and co-sponsored by Asgrow, Bayer CropScience and SFP. The award was given in Chicago, Ill., last week at the annual Top Producer Seminar with a record-setting crowd of more than 900 attendees.
For additional information and to watch videos on the recent Top Producer Seminar and the Top Producer of the Year award, visit

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