Respected and adored, Ken Schmitt is a successful farm manager at Farmers National Company. Always staying up-to date with the latest crop news and technologies for managing an agricultural operation in Iowa, Schmitt’s clients are nothing but grateful for his excellent service.
“We are in your debt,” said John Wilson of Wilson Farms, Ltd. “We will always be grateful to you for helping our family partnership toward vastly-increased profitability.”
Schmitt grew up on the family farm in Greene County, Iowa. He carried on the tradition of the family business and farmed for several years for himself while receiving his degree in farm operations from Iowa State University. He then began his career as a farm manager for Farmers National Company in Jefferson, Iowa.
After 27 years of hard work and building lasting relationships, Schmitt has much to show for it. He currently serves 82 clients with 14,532 total acres throughout the state of Iowa.
Those who know him commend him for how well he communicates with his clients to keep them informed and involved every step of the way.
“Ken is an excellent communicator,” said client Lawrence Geisler of Churdan, Iowa. “He not only explains things beautifully, he keeps me updated with monthly reports. He always returns my phone calls and makes sure I understand everything that’s going on. I feel comfortable knowing that if I have a question, he can get me an answer.”
Asked to explain his secret to good client service, Schmitt noted his personal approach.
“I almost feel like they’re family to me,” he said. “I try to get to know them as well as I can, fi nd out what their interests are with their property and make sure that when they check in they feel comfortable with the decisions I’m making.”
Each property is unique, he said, and requires a tailored management plan.
“If you’re taking care of 50 properties, it’s like gaining 50 years of experience,” he said. “It’s a continual learning process, and each farm has something different from the rest.”
NOT AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
Always keeping the clients’ best interests in mind, Schmitt reaches out for expertise from other professionals in the field to help aid his management decisions.
“He really values our input,” said Brian Berns, a field sales agronomist for Farmers Cooperative Company. “He always comes in with an open mind and takes the time to gather all of the options in order to make the best, most informed decisions for his clients.”
To Schmitt, being able to problem-solve is one of the keys to being a successful farm manager.
“I’m the first to admit that I do not have the answers to all problems,” he said. “What I do have after 27 years in the field is the knowledge to call for help when I need it.”
Schmitt’s clients trust that he will keep them informed about any new technologies or solutions that may be a good fit for their property.
“Tiling has become very important here in the Midwest, where we have dark, heavy soils,” said Brent Rockers, professional farm manager lead at Syngenta “However, it can be pricey to install. Ken has been able to convince his clients to spend the money upfront to install tiling because in the long run it will help to increase their yields.”
ALWAYS LOOKING AHEAD
Client Jim Rundle praised Schmitt for his ingenuity and forward thinking.
“Ken convinced us early on that tiling was the way to go, and we’ve noticed a big difference in our fields,” said Rundle, DDS at Rundle Brothers LLC in Indianola, Iowa. “Spots that were previously under water are no longer there. Our production has increased immensely thanks to Ken. I am very confident that he will always have the latest information to bring to us if he thinks changes should be made. We can trust that he’ll see that things get done.”
Schmitt also has successfully modified crop rotations to increase production and profits on his clients’ land.
“I’ve been trying to analyze different rotations to determine what’s the most economical and profitable for a particular farm,” Schmitt said. “We’ve really seen a payoff in the past three or four years with a continuous corn rotation, in some cases increasing bottom lines by more than $100 per acre.”
TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
When Schmitt is not out managing various properties, he is actively involved on the board of directors for Farmers National Company and enjoys spending quality time with his children and grandchildren.
His son Bryce, 23, has learned everything he knows about agriculture from his dad.
“He likes to show me things that he learned when he was a kid from his own dad,” Bryce said. “He shows me how they did it back in the day, and it’s really cool to see how things have changed over the years.”
Added Schmitt’s daughter, Britni: “My dad is just amazing with my kids. He’s such a good role model for them. He has all of the qualities that I want my kids to possess when they get older.”
Agriculture is an ever-changing industry, which brings uncertainty. But Schmitt’s years of experience as a farm manager have taught him that change can also bring opportunity.
“We always have to keep our eyes open for opportunities that exist,” he said. “There will always be change, but the key to success is growing strong through that change.”
AWARD WINNING PERFORMANCE
Schmitt received the 2013 Professional Farm Manager of the Year award at the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers (ASFMRA) 84rd Annual Convention and Tradeshow, held Nov. 11 to 15 in Reno, Nev.
To honor Schmitt for this achievement, Syngenta made a $1,000 donation in his name to the Greene County 4-H Foundation, an organization that helps develop future agricultural leaders in his hometown.
“I would like to thank Syngenta, AgProfessional magazine and the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers for giving me the opportunity to join such a great group of honorees,” Schmitt said.
The Professional Farm Manager of the Year Award has been presented since 1986.
To watch a video honoring Ken Schmitt, visit www.youtube.com/syngentaagus.