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Always an ag guy!

Jim Nauman completes a lifelong career in agriculture

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Mar 21, 2021

Not only did Jim Nauman dedicate his working career to John Deere, he also lives and breathes green when he’s off the clock. His collection includes more than just John Deere ag equipment, housing JD race cars, caps, awards, specialty items, and even the advertisements his grandchildren had been featured in.

While Jim Nauman of Blue Earth has never actually owned and operated a farm, he has had a big connection to agriculture all of his life.

Nauman will be retiring on April 1 from being the parts manager at Kibble Equipment in Blue Earth. His career with John Deere began in 1982, first at the E.J. Butler Co. John Deere dealership in Elmore, then at Detke-Morbac John Deere in Blue Earth, which became a part of Kibble Equipment.

“I lived on a farm until I was in the third grade,” Nauman says. “Then we moved into town in Ledyard (Iowa) in 1966.”

Nauman continued to work for farmers throughout his junior high and high school years; walking beans, baling hay, detasseling corn and other farm chores.

“We had a chalkboard at home, and mom would write on it that a farmer had called and wanted me to come help,” Nauman recalls. “And I also worked part time at the grocery store, lumberyard, gas station, water softener business, wherever I could.”

After graduating from high school, Nauman joined the Air Force in 1976 and served for four years until 1980. He was a missile systems cable splicer at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

“I came back home in 1980 and got a job at Cargill in Elmore,” he says. “I worked there for two years but I learned the grain elevator business was not my kind of work.”

That is when he started his career as a John Deere parts man at E.J. Butler Co. in Elmore, in 1982.

“It was the time of the Farm Crisis,” Nauman says. “And in August of 1985, we learned the owners were closing the dealership.”

Finding himself unemployed and with a wife and two small children, Nauman decided to put his GI Bill benefits to use and enrolled at Southwest Technical College at Jackson in electric motor repair and controls. He spent two years, 1986 and 1987 there, but also worked at Seneca Foods in Blue Earth in the summers.

“After I graduated at Jackson I got a job at T.E.C. Industrial in Albert Lea doing electric motor repair,” Nauman says. “I did that for three years.”

In October of 1990, Detke-Morbec co-owner Gene “Skip” Schimek called.

“They were looking for a parts man and they knew I had worked at Elmore,” Nauman says. “I was (co-owner) Ray Detke’s last hire before he retired.”

Nauman says he started working right at the time of fall harvest, right “in the heat of the battle.”

He was a parts man for three years until parts manager Rollie Sonnek, another co-owner, took over as business manager/co-manager of the dealership and Nauman became the parts manager.

“So, I was the parts manager for 26 years, and quit being the manager at the end of 2019, when Travis Woodwick took over the position,” Nauman explains. “However, I stayed on for a year and three months to help do training and make for a smooth transition.”

Nauman says he will miss his co-workers and the customers after he retires on April 1.

“Our customers become our friends,” he says. “Everywhere I go, I have customers stop and talk with me. I will miss that relationship I have developed with the farmers in the area.”

He says the Blue Earth John Deere dealership has a great reputation for always having the parts on hand that farmers need. Some of the dealership’s customers come from many miles away because of that fact.

“I do have a sense of pride that we are able to help farmers when they really need it; when they are under pressure to get the crop in or get the harvest done,” Nauman says.

He relates the story of going in at night and getting a part for a farmer so the farmer could keep on working through the night.

“He was quite appreciative because he got done before it snowed eight inches the next day,” Nauman says. “Later my wife and I were out for dinner one night and found out our meal had been paid for by that farmer as a thank you.”

Those long hours and being on call over weekends and holidays are one thing Nauman says he will not miss.

“I once had 35 calls for parts on a Memorial Day,” he says. “But that is just the way it works in this business. We are busy when the farmers are busy.”

Nauman has seen a lot of changes in the parts department over the years.

“We used to have parts for 8-row planters,” he says. “Now it is for 48-row planters. The technology has changed, too. The number and type of parts has increased dramatically.”

Nauman is also proud of another big accomplishment of his at the local John Deere dealership.

Kibble Korn.

“We used to sell Johnny Pop popcorn here,” he explains. “Then in November of 2015 I called the distributor to reorder it and they said it would no longer be available.”

Nauman got the idea of calling the popcorn company in Indiana himself and told them his customers loved their product and he would like to continue to be able to sell it and could they create their own brand.

“They said, ‘yes you can’ and we just had to send them the label design, which we had created at the Faribault County Register,” he relates. “We named it Kibble Korn and started selling it in February of 2016.”

Since that time, they have sold 80,000 bags of Kibble Korn, some of it at other Kibble Equipment dealerships. They order it 5,000 bags at a time.

“I have had some great times working here, and had the best bosses you could have with Detke-Morbac,” Nauman says. “I want to thank Ray and Mary Detke and Skip and Trisha Schimek for giving me the opportunity to work for them.”

Skip Schimek returns the compliment.

“Jim was an excellent parts manager for quite a few years,” Schimek says. “He was always a good, loyal employee.”

As far as what he is going to do in retirement, Nauman says he always answers that question with “Anything I want.”

One of the things he wants to do is spend more time with his grandchildren.

“Maybe I will be a professional day care provider,” he says with a big smile. “Call it Grandpa Day Care Service.”

He and his wife, Lori, have five grown, adult children, between them. And, nine grandchildren.

Another thing Nauman is going to do when he retires is go back to his roots and do some farming.

“I’m going to work for my son, Dusty, in the spring and fall each year,” he says. “Just like I worked for farmers when I was a young guy in high school. Only now my son is going to be my new boss.”