Four of North America’s best custom applicators have been selected as finalists for AGCO Application Equipment 2011 Operator of the Year. The annual program recognizes the outstanding achievements and professionalism of the industry’s premier custom applicators of crop nutrients and protective chemicals.

Covering millions of acres throughout their combined careers, these four outstanding individuals will cover even more ground as they travel to Boca Raton, Fla., as guests of AGCO to attend the ARA 2011 Meeting and Exposition Nov. 29-Dec. 1. There, they will discover who among them will receive top honors and a brand new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Gary “Butch” Hammond, Cargill Inc. (Alma, Neb.) — Hammond’s 27-year career includes covering more than 1.3 million acres with precision and care. His commitment to excellence in the field has made him a favored and trusted applicator with his customers. A long-respected mentor to his colleagues, Hammond is frequently sought after to train new employees and sharpen the skills of other operators through best practices, tips and insights only a veteran can offer. In his spare time, he often helps growers transport grain to the elevators, either by truck or rail car. Hammond and his wife have five children and have been certified foster parents.

Ken Nystedt, Hudye Soil Services Inc. (Norquay, SK) — Often the first and last to leave the shop, throughout his 19-year career as Hudye Soil Services’ main operator, Nystedt demonstrates how a strong work ethic earns respect. Covering tens of thousands of acres each year as an applicator and a master mechanic known to make his own tools, Nystedt is a born leader who is respected by his co-workers. When he pulls up for the job with his genuine, wholehearted smile, customers trust 100 percent  that he will take good care of them. Nystedt is a volunteer firefighter. He also dedicates time in the winter to groom the extensive network of snowmobile trails in the community.

Lonnie Reckmann, Hamel Seed & Farm Supply Inc. (Worden, Ill.) — Whether it’s a phone call after hours, or a visit to scout the fields, this is the kind of personalized service and care that Reckmann has brought to the application business throughout his 35-year career. With more than a million acres covered under his watch, Reckmann has the natural ability to jump into the operator station of multiple sprayers and floaters on any given day and run each perfectly. Reckmann has been a volunteer firefighter for 25 years and is an active member in his church.

Michael Spade, Harveyville Seed Co. (Harveyville, Kan.) — Being an applicator does not start and stop at the field for Spade. His sincerity and continuous pursuit of excellence in every aspect of the job translates into new and repeat customers. He is a state-certified custom applicator who is working to achieve Certified Crop Advisor status. Spade regularly attends workshops and meetings to further his knowledge of the products and the issues and trends affecting the application business. Spade is an active member of his church. He has served as a city council member and on the board of directors for North Lyon County Youth Association.

A panel of judges selected the four finalists from a nationwide call for entries. Judging criteria for Operator of the Year includes exceptional service, professionalism, personal character and community enrichment. All nominees will receive a certificate recognizing their nomination for this prestigious award.

For more information about the 2011 Operator of the Year finalists and AGCO TerraGator, RoGator and SpraCoupe self-propelled sprayers, visit http://www.applylikeapro.com.