2018 Operator of the Year Finalists

Learn more about the finalists

Find out more about each of the finalists for AGCO's annual Operator of the Year contest.

2018 Operator of the Year Finalists


Jerry Born

Farmers Union Oil of Southern Valley
Fairmount, ND

Born has spent 22 years and tens of thousands of acres per year either on a sprayer, floater or deep bander. He is a technology expert for all equipment and makes sure all machines are set precisely before any other operators set foot in the cab. He is the lead trainer for current operators and new employees — teaching them the proper methods for using both new equipment and the rest of the fleet. And he makes sure that new employees understand the processes around the co-op. Born takes pride in maintaining the equipment, recording every part purchased and service performed, even repainting equipment himself. When not going above and beyond for his co-op and customers, Born is very active in the region he grew up in, lives and works in. He can be seen supporting many local fundraising events, including the Richland County Pheasants Forever Banquet. When not on a sprayer, he can be found on a snowmobile, motorcycle or anything else with an engine.

Layne Heward

Heyburn, ID

Heward was raised on a farm that his family still owns and operates today, where he and his brother manage a small trucking business for dairy farms and run about 150 head of beef cattle. He has a passion for the application industry and has spent countless hours with the AGCO and Capstan executive and engineering teams to allow his sprayer to do things most previously thought to be impossible. He is an expert in sprayer technology and continues to push his own limits to learn how to work more efficiently and safely for his customers. His dedication to his craft is evident based on the customers that continuously request him by name. Heward is a husband and father who teaches the value of hard work and the importance of agriculture in today’s world. In his spare time, he is a member of the Declo Lions Club, which helps raise money to provide eyeglasses for those with impaired vision.

Jason Lane

United Prairie
Tolono, IL

No matter the time of day or field conditions, Lane always gets the job done, and gets it done right. He goes the extra mile to make sure every application is safe and accurate, and that every customer gets more than they expect. He keeps accurate records, maintains the machines regularly and is always willing to help others and train fellow operators. He will take anyone under his wing that is willing to learn and teach them how to be a successful operator, even while dealing with the pressures of working long hours during the season. In his spare time, Lane is a family man who helps his daughters with their 4-H activities. He is a volunteer fire fighter in his community and has served as the Fire Chief for the past 15 years. Lane also is an avid hunter, who displays impressive patience and a respect for the land.

David Zelhart

Donovan Farmers Co-op Elevator
Donovan, IL

Zelhart has been working for 35 years, covering close to 1 million acres, and has built a level of trust with his customers that allows him to provide the excellent in-season service they need to keep farming. He applies high-rate, pre-plant weed and feed each spring and spreads lime for each customer annually. He is a leader at the facility, making sure all equipment is ready to go each year and is the first to tackle maintenance tasks as they arise. When not on the job, Zelhart is a husband, father and member of the volunteer fire department and ambulance service in his community. He is an avid supporter of the Diabetes Foundation. As someone who has carried the burden of diabetes since a young age, Zelhart does not let it slow him down and displays impressive perseverance and a positive attitude in all he does.

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Operator of the Year

Learn more about the Operator of the Year campaign, view past winners and how to nominate your top operator!

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