Irrigation Leader
Featured,  Interview

Kevin C. Adams Scottsbluff, NE

General Manager | Farmers Irrigation District

Years working in irrigation: 42 

Years as manager: 27 

Number of employees: 20 

Size of service area in acres: 63,000 

Amount of water diverted for irrigation per year in acre-feet: 177,000 

Main crops irrigated: Alfalfa, corn, edible beans, dry edible beans, wheat 

Predominant irrigation methods: Center pivot

Irrigation Leader: What is the top issue facing your irrigation district today? 

Kevin Adams: One of the issues is infrastructure. We’ve been replacing 80‑to 90‑year-old structures with our own money. Drought and lack of water in the reservoirs is an issue as well. Now, on top of everything, we have had to suspend pipeline projects because we have been unable to buy pipe and because of the cost. We've run about 137 miles of underground line so far. That helps conserve water and makes maintenance easier. 

Irrigation Leader: What future issues are you preparing for? 

Kevin Adams: We are preparing for future droughts, water savings, and infrastructure replacement. With new laws in Nebraska, we may be able to qualify for some funds. 

Irrigation Leader: What are your top issues regarding personnel? 

Kevin Adams: It’s a different world of hiring right now. I’ve been searching for a month or two to fill a current position. We are looking at making changes to our pay scale. People don’t seem to want to work in this field because it’s physical and dirty and you have to contend with rain and storms. We’re slowly finding employees, but learning how to work with the personalities of today’s young people is a big issue. We are teaching supervisors how to train people so that they want to continue to work in this field. I’ve been working with the University of Nebraska to bring back its 1‑hour manager trainings. 

Irrigation Leader: What training do you currently provide your employees? 

Kevin Adams: We provide on-the-job training to deliver water to the landowners. Sometimes, we send employees to do 1‑day seminars on working with people and things like that. 

Irrigation Leader: How much do you spend on training each year? 

Kevin Adams: I suppose $25,000. 

Irrigation Leader: What kind of safety programs do you have in place? 

Kevin Adams: We have a safety policy, and we have a safety committee that meets quarterly. We show training films about such subjects as laying underground pipe, welding, burning weeds, and running equipment. We provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions and provide input. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the most important thing you have learned as a manager? 

Kevin Adams: The most important thing I’ve learned is to be truthful, respectful, and direct. If your employees respect you, they will go above and beyond to complete a task successfully. 

Irrigation Leader: What are the top skills needed to be a successful manager? 

Kevin Adams: Beyond truthfulness, it’s important to have knowledge of the irrigation system that you can pass on. You also need to be able to sit down with employees and work out differences. We want them to stay, so we work with them. That seems to be working really well. 

Irrigation Leader: What is the best way to work with a board of directors? 

Kevin Adams: Always be truthful with them and tell them what’s going on. I have a working replacement program for vehicles and equipment that I go through with them. They also help me interview supervisors. 

Kevin Adams is the general manager of Farmers Irrigation District. He can be contacted at (308) 641‑7402.