2012 Professional Farm Manager of the Year: Brent Bidner
Brent Bidner was raised on a crop and livestock farm in McLean County, Ill. He grew up actively involved in the production of corn, soybeans and hay, and was part owner of a hog and cattle operation. After graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in agriculture economics, Bidner joined Hertz Farm Management, knowing he wanted to pursue a career that would keep him close to production agriculture.
Nearly 25 years later, Bidner provides professional farm management services for Hertz Farm Management clients who represent more than 18,000 acres across Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Colorado.
His approach to managing clients’ land includes taking care of the land the same way he would if he owned it himself. “I look at it as a long-term, not just a short-term investment,” said Bidner, AFM and vice president of the Monticello, Ill., office of Hertz Farm Management. “My goal is to leave it for the next generation in better shape than it was when I took over management of the property.”
Lisa and Brent Bidner have two sons, Ryan in the photo, and the older son Jake, who was at Indiana University when the photo was taken. Staying actively involved in the management of more than 18,000 acres across four states isn’t an easy task. However, those who know him best say he is the perfect man for the job.
One of his clients, Paul Gorden, president of Kenway Farm in Bloomington, Ill., needed to improve efficiency on the farm. Bidner recommended the installation of a grain-drying system, which has made it possible to store and market grain at the owner’s convenience. “Through this and other improvements, Brent has increased our corn production nearly 12 percent and soybean production by 10 percent when you compare pre-management averages to recent averages,” said Gorden.
Technology is constantly evolving and Bidner has embraced the innovative practices and upgrades that are necessary to ensure the success of the farms he manages. “A lot of people take soil tests every four years, but I’ve been taking soil tests every two years and variably applying fertilizer,” said Bidner. “I want to make sure I’m putting fertilizer where it is needed, as opposed to just blanket-spreading farms.”
Bidner has also completed a number of conservation practices and irrigation system improvements on the farms he manages. “Brent carried out a drainage installation project that was very complicated,” said Joel Hertz, AAC, ALC, AFM, ARA and chairman of the board emeritus for Hertz Farm Management. “It necessitated working with about 16 different neighbors, but he facilitated the project with ease and got the job done.”
In addition to traditional lease types, Bidner manages a number of farms on the flexible cash rent lease system. “Flex cash rent leases are mutually beneficial because owners can enjoy higher profits in years of high crop performance while protecting farm operators in low crop performance years,” said Bidner. “The program is especially valuable as a risk management tool for operators, who I consider a partner and a key player in achieving farm goals.”
Bidner helps clients navigate the transition from one generation to the next. Here he is with Paul Gorden, left, president, Kenway Farm, and Paul’s father and previous farm president, Ken Gorden. One of Bidner’s institutional clients under the flexible cash rent lease system, Michael Septer at UBS AgriVest LLC, has nothing but praise for Bidner’s management of the entire process.
“He develops good relationships with our tenants, making sure that he gets all of the information from them that he needs for his reports to us as landowner,” said Septer. “I have worked with many farm managers over the years. Many that did a very good job for us. However, I have always put Brent at the very top of the list. In the 20-plus years that we have worked together, never once has he given us anything but a level of service that went beyond what would be expected of other managers.”
Beyond making day-to-day crop management decisions, Bidner plays an important role in transitioning farmland to future generations.
“Farm managers today play a very important role in the management of the land,” said Brent Rockers, district manager for Syngenta. “Today, more and more children come off the farm, go to school, and then take jobs off the farm and move away. So, as we go forward and families want to keep that land in the family, they are relying heavily on professional farm managers to manage their farm for them.”
Bidner recently assisted in transitioning farm leadership from one generation to the next for client, Kenway Farm. Paul Gorden was raised on the family farm and comes from a long line of farmers, but had no personal farming experience at the time he took the role over from his father, Ken.
When asked how Bidner helped Kenway Farm achieve a smooth transition in leadership, Ken Gorden, retired president of Kenway Farm, praised Bidner’s deep knowledge of agriculture. “You need somebody back here that knows what’s going on and knows how to do it, and Brent’s the person,” said Ken Gorden.
Bidner communicates often with farm operators, such as Tom Ritter, right, who farms Kenway Farm ground. Paul Gorden explained, “We just don’t have to worry about the farm with Brent as our farm manager. Transitioning between generations can be a deep concern, but it takes a big burden off your shoulders to know that your farm manager will do a good job for you.”
Since becoming a shareholder, meeting with Bidner and beginning to receive the management reports, Ben Gorden, Ken’s grandson, has said, “I feel more directly connected to the farm and agriculture than I ever thought I would be, growing up.”
Bidner is so connected to the operation at Kenway Farm he was even asked to attend Ken Gorden’s 90th birthday party last December. He was invited to the special family event as a trusted advisor to update the entire family on the condition of the farm and future plans.
It’s taken a lot of hard work and dedication over the years for Bidner to earn this level of confidence from the people in his life. He is a firm believer that successful farm management goes far beyond seed and input selections and making the right equipment upgrade decisions, it’s a people business.
“When he is with you at your farm, you’d think that’s the only farm he has to manage. You are top of mind when he’s working with you,” said Paul Gorden. “Next to the land that we own for our farm operation, I think our next most valuable asset is Brent.”
Lisa Bidner described her husband’s dedication to his clients, “Brent is very successful as a farm manager because of how much he cares and how much he really tries to work for his clients. I think what makes a person successful is truly caring about people and not just trying to gain personal success.”
Bidner was presented with the 2012 Professional Farm Manager of the Year award at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) 83rd annual convention and tradeshow, held Oct. 29 – Nov. 2 in Indianapolis, Ind.
To honor Bidner for this achievement, Syngenta made a $1,000 donation in his name to the 4H Memorial Camp in Monticello.
“I would like to thank Syngenta, AgProfessional Magazine and American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers for honoring me with this award,” said Bidner.
To watch the video featuring Brent Bidner, visit www.youtube.com/syngentaagus.