Top of Mind: The Best of the Best

March 2, 2011 12:53 AM

Recognition doesn’t happen all that often in the business of farming. We get up and put on our boots and go to work because it’s who we are. It’s what we do. That’s what makes the Top Producer of the Year Award so special. The finalists are chosen from the cream of the crop of
agricultural producers in North America. Each has a unique story of business excellence tied to an individual family history, farming region and the crops or livestock they grow.

Such is the case with our 2011 winner, Jim Kline, who hails from Hartford City, Ind. Top Producer magazine honored Kline in part because he has steadily grown his business in a way that has been ethical and systematic. Kline rented his first ground—100 acres—from neighbors as a freshman in
high school. Thirty-nine years later, he farms 7,500 acres in Indiana, growing corn, soybeans and seed wheat, and is one of four members of a joint farming venture in Brazil that raises eucalyptus.

Kline is soft-spoken and modest. When we announced him as the winner at the Top Producer Seminar in Chicago, he thanked us, the award sponsors, his family and his wife, Lou. Then he said that being recognized among the "best of the best" along with the other finalists was thrill enough. This wasn’t just nice talk; he had expressed the same sentiment to me days before.

We salute Kline and our 2011 Top Producer of the Year finalists: Jake Clark of Grand Ledge, Mich., and the Crownover family of Sunray, Texas. You’ll get to know the Crownovers in our cover story this month and the Clarks later this year. The Crownover story is one of success and tragedy, hard work and strong values. They farm in the windswept panhandle of Texas, where
water runs shallow and family ties run deep. The Crownovers have managed to grow their business to 20,000 acres, enough to support four family units and provide good, solid jobs in an area that is desperate for stable employment.

Is It Spring Yet?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen enough white stuff this winter to last me a lifetime. Good riddance, winter. Let’s think spring.

In this issue of Top Producer, we offer articles to get you ready for spring decision making. Read up on customizable weather insurance and cash forecasting. Markets are still wild, so pencil in the date for the March 31 USDA Prospective Plantings report, which will give us a sense of where acres are headed. Finally, give yourself a good shake and let go of winter’s discontent. Spring is around the corner, which means another chance to grow profits.

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