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Top farmers share big future ideas

The 2013 AG CONNECT Expo Masters & Mavericks are some of the most forward-looking farmers in the U.S. And, they're all looking at ways to bring new management systems and technology on to their farms to the greatest benefit to their farms' bottom lines.

The farmers discussed the specific ways how they'll do that on Tuesday at the biennial farm show, held this year in Kansas City, Missouri. For Kathy Applegate, who farms with her husband Doug and family near Oakland in southwestern Iowa, looking ahead to the future of her farm doesn't necessarily require that long of vision.

"The next step for technology in our operation is at this time. The future is here for us," says Applegate, whose family is utilizing Android smartphone and tablet computer technology to manage their operation on-the-fly. "For us, it's about picking up a smartphone to not just call a repairman, but use it with bookkeeping and overall recordkeeping. When you worm more efficiently, you save time. And time is a very, very rare commodity."

For Gregg Halverson, who operates Black Gold Farms near Grand Forks, North Dakota, it's more about the people than it is the tools. He's on a high-tech farm whose management depends on the input of IT, accounting, financial and management professionals. But, while they're already utilizing new technology -- including interactive systems from a new management team member who recently worked for Microsoft -- it's more about bringing those strengths together most efficiently.

"We have folks in our upper management team who are experts in what they do," Halverson says. "Every year, we come together as a group and come up with a written strategic plan that we follow. Everything we try to do on the farm tries to fulfill those strategies."

Tim Richter operates Saratoga Partnership in northeast Iowa, but he says he doesn't want do it forever. To that end, he's taking a different approach to his family farm's future; he's looking outside the family.

"We are a farm family, but we want to transition into a new generation on the farm that's not related to us. It's unusual, but we want to be operating with a board of directors," says Richter, who recently purchased land near Kansas City, something he saw as a good opportunity for a strong investment. "It kind of makes it easier because it's not a brother or son. It's a good thing for us to do."

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