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Faces of Farming

Shawn Kosmiski of MFA's River Valley Agronomy in Higginsville is MFA’s 2023 Applicator of the Year

Whether spreading fertilizer or spraying herbicides, custom application becomes more complex every growing season. Pesticide regulations, weed resistance, soil health concerns and high input costs add pressure to ensure operators do the job just right.

It’s a demanding position, but not a thankless one. That’s why MFA Incorporated annually recognizes the work of custom applicators and shines the spotlight on those who excel at their job and in their communities. The “Applicator of the Year” award seeks nominations from throughout MFA’s trade territory, considering the operator’s customer service and quality of application, what makes the operator stand out as a true professional, and how the operator enriches the community.

Out of 18 nominations, this year’s top honors went to Shawn Kosmiski, a custom applicator for River Valley Agronomy in Higginsville, Mo. Nominators described him as a “true professional” and said, “Shawn displays exceptional service and quality application to customers by treating the fields he covers as his own. His vast knowledge of custom application paired with his eye for detail allows him to discover problems before they become a problem. If Shawn notices something is wrong, he doesn’t hesitate to call or check things himself.”

Kosmiski, who celebrates five years with MFA this March, was recognized Feb. 8 at the company’s annual applicator training. Here’s what he told Today’s Farmer about winning the award and his approach to the job.

What do you think helped you stand out among those who were nominated for Applicator of the Year?
I don’t know that I do anything that special, but I do believe in doing a job well, no matter what it is. Everybody tells me I’m an old soul, and I take an interest in the customers. I’ll have conversations with them and make sure they understand what I’m doing and that I understand what they want. I feel like the more you talk to the farmers, the better relationships you build, and over time, you build trust. That means everything in this business.

How do make sure you’re doing the job well?
Honestly, the biggest thing is to get a good night’s sleep. If you come into work well-rested and with a sharp mind, you’re less likely to make mistakes. The other important thing is to ask questions when you’re not sure of something. The easiest way to mess up is to just wing it or use your own opinion instead of taking time to call the farmer or the manager to get it right. Communication is key.

Why is it so important that you get it right?
With the chemicals and crops we’re working with today, one little mistake can turn into a really big problem. We’re dealing with a farmer’s livelihood here. You put the wrong chemical in a batch, and you can cost the customer and the company a lot of money very quickly. And not just money. It could cost MFA business and your reputation.

How has technology such as AgSync and River Valley’s new agronomy center impacted what you do?
It helps a lot. We’re a lot more efficient, and there’s much less waiting and downtime. In the past, it would take pretty much an hour to load one truck with fertilizer. Now it only takes minutes. We can get through more acres in a day, and that’s good for the farmer and MFA.

What do you enjoy about being a custom applicator?
It’s peaceful. I love working with farmers, but on a day-to-day basis, I’m out here by myself. I get to see the countryside. I see deer and turkey and drive along the Missouri River. I worked in a welding shop before this and realized I can’t do the same thing every day. In this job, one week I’m spreading fertilizer and next week I may be spraying chemicals or working on equipment. I love to fish. But if I had to do it 14 hours a day, seven days a week, I probably wouldn’t love it as much. That’s what I like about this job. There’s so many different parts to what we do.

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