Swart added to Cotton-Grave team
March 16, 2021

Swart added to Cotton-Grave team


New faces to help lead established farm management agency into the future.

In 1960, Ben Abben, the namesake of Abben Cancer Center, started Ben Abben Farm Management, creating a farm management, real estate and appraisal operation. John Cotton came on board in 1965, launching Abben-Cotton Land Management and Realty serving the tristate region. Following Abben’s passing in 1981, Gary Grave joined Cotton on New Year’s Day 1982 and the pair have been offering services for 39 years together.

Now, as they begin to phase out of the operation slowly, they are ready to place the future of their namesake service business over to Koenecke and Swart to carry into the future.

For almost 40 years, Grave and Cotton have worked in partnership providing farm management to absentee landowners. Two years ago, Cotton Grave Farm Management added Mike Koenecke, and this March 1 another local professional joined the team as Brent Swart came on board.

“Mike is taking over a major portion of John’s farms and Brent is assuming management of the majority of my farms,” Grave explained.  John and Gary will continue to manage a few selected farms.

Swart said “it’s nice” to be part of such an established operation, calling it a “good opportunity.”  “Gary and I have worked together on the farming side for years,” he said.

Combined, Cotton and Grave have over 110 years of experience in the farm management industry and since 1982, the two men have worked side-by-side as Cotton-Grave served regional agriculture owner-clients in a variety of capacities.

Located at 517 N. Grand Ave., Cotton-Grave specializes in farm management appraisal and farm real estate services primarily in Iowa and Minnesota. 

“Mike and I have been acquaintances,” Swart said. “We knew each other previously and are now bridging our experiences as we develop a business plan together.”

“There’s a lot of history in this firm and both Gary and John have done a great job building up the business,” Swart said. “The nice part for the Spencer community is that Gary and John have made a concerted effort to find two local professionals and keep the business in town.”

“I have known Brent’s family for years,” Grave said. “Brent is the third generation of the Swart family I have worked with.  I knew Brent would be an ideal individual for our office.

Swart is a native of northwest Iowa where he was born and raised on his family’s farm in rural Spencer. Swart, and his brother Steve, are the fifth generation owner/operators of their family’s farm were they grow corn, soybeans and cover crops. He has been involved in agriculture his entire life. After graduating from Terril High School, Swart continued his education at Iowa State University where he received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Agronomy in 2001.  During that time, Swart held several internships with retail, seed and crop protection companies in the ag industry.  Upon graduation, Swart began work on his Master’s Degree in Crop Production & Physiology with an emphasis in Weed and Seed Science. During grad school, he worked for Iowa State as a teacher and researcher. With the completion of his Master’s thesis in 2004, Swart began a 16-year career with Pioneer Hi-Bred Intl. He worked as an independent Pioneer Sales Rep for 12 years before moving on within the company in 2018 as the local Pioneer field agronomist, operating in nine counties in northwest Iowa serving growers, sales reps, and territory managers with product and agronomic knowledge and support. 

Outside of work Swart is in the community as District 1 Director on the Iowa Soybean Association and is a member of the National Corn Growers Association and Iowa Farm Bureau. He is also involved in the Iowa Athletic Association as a high school basketball official and is a certified Private Pilot as well as holding certifications as a UAV (drone) pilot. 

Swart, and his wife Mandy, live in Spencer with their two children. Citing Swart’s experience and education, Grave said he couldn’t think of a better person to bring in to take the business forward alongside Koenecke.


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