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AGCO Announces Four Finalists of 10th Annual Operator of the Year Contest

10 Sep 2023

imageAGCO Corporation (NYSE:AGCO) announces the four top operators chosen as finalists for AGCO’s 10th Annual Operator of the Year program, recognizing some of the best custom applicators in North America.

“The AGCO Operator of the Year award recognizes top professional applicators whose work often goes overlooked but is essential to farmers and ensures they achieve the best yield possible,” stated Conor Bergin, tactical marketing manager of AGCO Application Equipment. “This is the 10th year of the program, and the ag retailers provided us with nominations of professionals who are not only excellent at what they do and hard working, but also consistently go above and beyond expectations and are very involved in their communities.”

The 10th Annual Operator of the Year four finalists, nominated based on their skills, dedication, customer service and community involvement, include:

Curtis Fick, South Dakota Wheat Growers, Carpenter, S.D. – Known for his attention to detail, precision and always going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations, Fick covers an average of 40,000 acres every year. Fick volunteers for local events, regularly helps out at his church and is part of the local fire rescue team. “Curtis is an outstanding operator and takes great pride in the work he does. He is very particular about each task, treating each field as if it were his own,” stated Mike Madsen of South Dakota Wheat Growers. “Curtis has gone three years without a spray claim and his precise application has gained the trust and reliance of many producers in the area.”

“I was shocked when I found out I was selected as a finalist for AGCO’s Operator of the Year,” said Fick. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me. And, I had no idea the award is nationwide.”

Tom Kestel, Ag Partners LLC, Alta, Iowa – With 14 years of experience, Kestel applies 35,000 acres per year and has established a reputation as the “go-to guy” for custom application. He enjoys mentoring new operators in the company and always has his machines field-ready the night before. Kestel volunteers in the community and is active in his church. “If we could clone Tom, I could guarantee you that we would never have a field complaint again,” stated Brian Nepple of Ag Partners LLC. “Tom effectively gives up his spring, summers and falls to work in the field and we never so much as hear a negative word from him.”

“When Brian told me I was a finalist for AGCO’s Operator of the Year, at first I thought he was joking, but when I realized he was serious, I was in shock,” said Kestel. “I didn't really think that this would ever happen to me. Now, I'm really excited to represent my company and my fellow applicators.”

Brian Manolovits, Wilbur Ellis, Mott, N.D. – With nine years as a custom applicator and the head of the Environmental Health and Safety program at his branch, Manolovits continuously goes above and beyond to meet any deadline. While he typically applies about 20,000 acres each year, this year he successfully completed 30,000 acres in three months. Manolovits is a member of the Mott Volunteer Fire Brigade, serving as the training officer, helped organize the Pee Wee football program in his community, and has organized several motorcycle ride benefits for families going through difficult times. He also was a member of the North Dakota National Guard for more than nine years and served 15 months overseas in Operation Iraqi Freedom II. “Brian takes great pride in the quality of his work,” stated Derek Mayer of Wilbur Ellis. “If he sees a problem or issue in a customer’s field, he always calls the customer or lets his manager know.”

“It was quite a surprise to learn I am a finalist,” said Kestel. “I didn’t even know I had been nominated until my boss told me I had been chosen as a finalist.”

Dennis Rigney, Crop Production Services (CPS), Rochester, Ind.  – Covering an impressive 50,000 acres a year with skill, precision and speed, Rigney has experience with a wide variety of crops and farming practices, making him the go-to-guy at his branch. Rigney is active with his grandsons’ sports teams, and volunteers at the local community building. “Dennis is the definition of a professional applicator,” stated Jeff Parry of Crop Production Services. “He is continually expanding his knowledge of agricultural practices and equipment by attending training events and learning new ways to improve efficiencies and results.”

“I was astonished when I found out that I am a finalist,” said Rigney. “I learned of the award several years ago in a magazine, but I never thought I would have a chance of winning it.”

The four finalists will be guests of AGCO at the 2015 Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) Conference & Expo on Dec. 1 through Dec. 3, 2015 in Palm Desert, Calif., where one of them will be announced as the 10th Annual Operator of the Year. The winner will receive the grand prize of a new Harley-Davidson® motorcycle, and the retailer who nominated the winner will receive 100 hours free use of their choice of an AGCO TerraGator® self-propelled high-floatation applicator or RoGator® self-propelled sprayer.

These custom applicators spend hundreds of hours in the field every season, using technologically advanced application machinery, like a RoGator or a TerraGator, to apply fertilizer and crop protection products on millions of acres of crops, allowing farmers to achieve their best possible yield. This year, AGCO created an original song and music video in honor of these unsung heroes of agriculture, “Watch Him Go,” that celebrates these professionals’ diligence and hard work. To view the video, visit


Farmers Hot Line is part of the Catalyst Communications Network publication family.