SCOTTS BLUFF COUNTY—It’s growing season and the roar of the crop applicators is a sound not easily missed. For some, however, it could be the beginning a career as it was for Tony Schmid, Operations Manager for the Aviation Division at Westco.
Growing up on a Kansas farm, Schmid fell in love with agriculture at a very young age. A local applicator did his family’s farm and the two formed a relationship. “We would run out in the yard and wave at the pilots as they flew by and they would wave back at us.”
Schmid wanted to be a fighter pilot, but that was not in the cards. “I’ve always had a love for agriculture since I grew up on the farm, and wanted to be a fighter pilot, but that was not in the take. There was nothing going on that could use a fighter pilot, and my eyesight was good for commercial flying, but it wasn’t good for the military.” He decided that commercial application was the career he wanted to pursue.
Schmid began by working as a mixer and a loader for the pilot who flew over his family farm and while there, learned a lot about deal with the chemicals. The pilot also told Schmid that things were changing so rapidly, that he should get an education. Schmid acquired his degree in crop protection from Kansas State University soon after.
After graduating, Schmid began to build his flight time as a pilot. “For several years, I begged and borrowed and worked my way and saved my money and built my flight time. And then I had the opportunity to work with a guy that started an operation in Kansas. And I got an airplane and he and several other pilots kind of showed me the ropes and taught me things to watch for and things to do. And that’s how I got into the business.”
After moving to the Scottsbluff area, Schmid became an agronomist at Westco. He now manages the aviation division at Westco.
Schmid loves the challenge as it requires complete concentration and precision to make sure that field gets the right amount of the compound that is being applied. He also mentioned that because it requires so much concentration and precision, any distraction could end in disaster. “Even distractions such as making one more pass on the field and you start thinking about the next field and forget about the guywire that’s sticking out from the pole on the end and you hook a wing. Those don’t end well. So, there’s a lot of special training, a lot of focus and concentration that’s necessary.”
Schmid stated that the pilots and families of these pilots sacrifice a lot and he thanks his family for being extremely supportive of what he does.