A really well-suited piece of machinery is important if a custom applicator hopes to develop a good working relationship with a farmer. Tony Randolph of Farmville, N.C., has found the key to developing that relationship is good communications during the initial contact.
“If I can get it right the first time, I am well on the way,” he says. “I should know exactly what the customer needs and be able to deliver it.”
Randolph has worked for the past seven years as a professional application machine operator with Southern States Cooperative, Inc., in Farmville, N.C., treating 25,000 acres of crops each year, including corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, potatoes and several vegetable varieties.
Recently, he was named AGCO Application Equipment’s 2013 Operator of the Year, a recognition announced during the 2013 Agricultural Retailers Association Conference & Expo in Miami.
Randolph was cited by AGCO for his relationship-building skills with farmer customers and his attention to detail in understanding the challenges of their fields. He is known to invite customers to ride in his cab so he can explain the operation of his application machine.
He had earlier received an award for outstanding customer service by Southern States Cooperative.
Southeast Farm Press visited Randolph on Aug. 6 while he was applying granular fertilizer to a tobacco field near Lucama, N.C., using the RoGator 1386 spreader that he frequently operates.
“It is designed to apply fertilizer to any type of row crop,” said Randolph. “Its four-wheel steering allows me to drive down a row with minimum crop damage. It is capable of spreading fertilizer over a 40 to 100 foot width, putting on 75 pounds to 2,000 pounds per acre.”
Fitted with air ride cab and air ride suspension, it features easy access to its cab, which is twelve feet at the peak.
“I like operating the RoGator,” said Randolph.
Operator of the Year
He had earlier worked in the grocery business, but then he got a commercial drivers license with the intention of getting into trucking. But the Southern States position came open, and he took it, hauling fertilizer for a few years, then doing soil sampling, and then becoming a custom applicator.
The Operator of the Year program, now in its ninth year, is conducted by AGCO Application Equipment to pay tribute to North America’s top professional applicators for excelling at a demanding job that requires a high degree of skill and long hours in the field each season, while applying fertilizer and crop protection products to maximize production.
“He shows tremendous pride in his work, has a great relationship with his customers and does whatever it takes to make sure the job gets done,” said Mark Sharitz, director of marketing for AGCO Application Equipment, in presenting the award. “The passion and dedication shown by Tony earned him the distinction of being 2013 Operator of the Year.”
The other three finalists were Ben Hayes of Crop Production Services in Lanark, Ill.; Randy Bauwens of Town and Country Supply Association in Edgar, Mont.; and Tom Leuthardt of New Horizons CHS Service Center in Chokio, Minn.
AGCO manufactures the lineup of RoGator self-propelled sprayers and TerraGator self-propelled high flotation applicators, but the Operator of the Year award is open to all U.S. and Canadian agri-retailers and their custom applicators regardless of the machine brands in their application fleet.
Although many farmers elect to do their own applications, Phil Clift, operations manager for Southern States Cooperative in Farmville, N.C., says that Randolph illustrates how producers can benefit by utilizing a custom applicator. The main advantage — their expertise and focus on customer service that comes from years of experience applying thousands of acres each season.
“These are experts in the field who deliver proven, professional applications time and time again,” said Clift. “They perfect their skills by working in multiple fields every day, using the latest application technologies. They’re also experienced in operating different types of application machines for different types of applications throughout the growing season.”
Clift said customers also benefit because of the attention to detail provided by agri-retailers and their professional operations. “Our machines are all well maintained and regularly tested for application precision, including regularly checking to ensure spread pattern accuracy,” he says.
Relying on a professional applicator also enables farmers to focus their time and attention on other important issues on the farm, instead of spending long hours spraying or spreading their fields, said Clift.
Nominations are now under way for the 2014 Operator of the Year. Agri-retailers have until Oct. 24 to nominate their top custom applicators. For more information, visit www.applylikeapro.com.
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