After searching all of North America for the best custom applicators, AGCO Application Equipment has awarded Gary “Butch” Hammond with the title of 2011 Operator of the Year. Hammond is an operator with Cargill Inc., in Alma, Neb.

Hammond’s steadfast commitment to always do the right thing and to go the extra mile has been a driving force behind his 27-year career that includes applying nutrients and protectants on more than 1.3 million acres of crops. His dedication to the job doesn’t stop in the field. Hammond also is a trusted expert, mentor and friend to fellow operators at Cargill Inc.

Hammond’s hard work and accomplishments were celebrated on December 1, 2011, at the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA) Conference and Exposition in Boca Raton, Fla., when he was presented a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle as the winner of the 2011 AGCO Operator of the Year award.

For the past six years, Operator of the Year recognizes the outstanding achievements and professionalism of the agriculture industry’s premier custom applicators. Ag retailers from across North America nominate their best custom applicators. Kelly Swanson, who works with Hammond, submitted this year’s winning nomination.

“Butch is dedicated to his customers,” says Swanson. “He’s always willing to go the extra mile to help others or finish a field, even if it means forgoing his own personal plans. In his spare time, he often helps growers transport grain to the elevators, either by truck or rail car.”

In the nomination, Swanson says Hammond’s influence goes beyond his work as a custom applicator.

“Butch has left a big impact – not only on his own children – but on many other youth by sharing and teaching them his love of fishing, hunting and respect for the land and all of creation,” explains Swanson.

Hammond and wife, Bonnie, have been married for 35 years. They have five children and also have been certified foster care parents providing love, guidance and support to 11 foster children in need. “It is a true honor to just be nominated for this award – the reality has not really set in yet for me,” Hammond says. “I cannot thank AGCO enough for this tremendous honor, and let’s keep in mind that the other three finalists are all winners as well.”

Judging criteria for Operator of the Year included exceptional service, professionalism, personal character and community enrichment. A panel of judges narrowed the entries to four finalists. Hammond and three other finalists traveled as guests of AGCO to the ARA Conference and Exposition to be recognized for their accomplishments.

Mark Sharitz, AGCO Application Equipment director of marketing, had this to say, “We admire Butch’s many years of being a positive role model for his family, his community and his colleagues. We are grateful for his service and commitment to the application business and for the chance to celebrate Butch as our 2011 Operator of the Year. We have the unique opportunity to meet some remarkable individuals through the Operator of the Year program, and the finalists this year are no exception. It’s an honor to recognize these outstanding individuals and to personally thank them for their important contributions on and off the field.”

In addition to Hammond, the other finalists for 2011 Operator of the Year are:

  • Ken Nystedt, Hudye Soil Services Inc., Norquay, Saskatchewan
  • Lonnie Reckmann, Hamel Seed & Farm Supply Inc., Worden, Ill.
  • Michael Spade, Harveyville Seed Co., Harveyville, Kan.

While they did not take home the title of Operator of the Year or the Harley, each of the well deserving finalists were recognized during the award presentation and took home a new iPad. All nominees, in addition to the finalists, received a certificate recognizing their nomination for this prestigious award.