Farmers Union Insurance agent Dan Ness of Devils Lake.

 

Dennie Stratton can remember a Saturday long ago in which his mother drove to Devils Lake to visit him, and a bad crack in her windshield needed to be fixed.

As they walked into the dealership, a friendly service manager was dealing with an angry, loud customer. The service manager quietly resolved the complaint and turned his attention to Stratton and his mother.

“He just walked up and smiled and acted like nothing ever happened,” recalled Stratton, who was District 1 manager for Farmers Union Insurance at the time and is currently the Sales Director for Crop Insurance Distribution. “He was the happiest guy in the world. And it was technically his day off, and he was swamped. That’s one of the reasons I knew he would be fantastic.”

That service manager was Dan Ness, who would eventually embark on an award-winning career as a Farmers Union Insurance agent in Devils Lake. In his 10th year, Ness is part of a three-person agency, alongside Armen Hanson and Kim Zinke.

“I’m working in an agency that has been here a long time with a great team,” Ness said. “It’s just been fantastic.”

Since becoming an agent, Ness hasn’t looked back. At the 2023 Sales Conference in Bismarck, Farmers Union Insurance honored Hanson, Zinke and Ness with the Premier Agency award, a prestigious accolade that goes to the top agencies in the state over the past year.

“I absolutely love what I do,” he said. “It’s a business where you just become part of a family. We all play a role in our communities.”

Stratton didn’t know it at the time, but Hanson had already laid the first bricks for Ness’ path to Farmers Union Insurance while he was at the dealership. In fact, their relationship goes back even farther.

“I was his (vocational) ag teacher in high school,” Hanson said. “He was always very outgoing.”

Hanson said it’s common for agents to keep an eye out for folks who would make a good addition to the Farmers Union family.

“You just run that through your mind all the time,” he said. “He was ready for change. Dan had put in a lot of time over there.”

Said Stratton: “It was perfect. He had already had a career in customer service management with a good business background. I don’t think I ever saw him without a smile on his face. He’s a hard guy to forget.”

Between growing up on a farm near Lawton and working in the automotive industry for many years, Ness said his experiences have given him the knowledge to be able to visit with customers about all areas of insurance. And that extends to the air, as Ness is a pilot with his own small plane.

“It all helps because we insure everything, whether that’s farms, homes, cars or airplanes,” he said. “Having been in the automotive business, that helps with adjusters (on auto claims).”

He and his wife Bonnie have three grown children and seven grandchildren. In addition to his work helping Farmers Union families, he has served on numerous boards such as the Lake Region State College, CHI Hospital and Devils Lake Rotary Club. It’s all part of Ness’ commitment to service. 

“I like helping people,” Ness said. “A minute out of your day can mean a lot to a customer. It can really put a customer at ease and take care of their concerns. I think that’s part of what we’re all about.”

When he’s not helping customers, Ness enjoys flying, scuba diving, restoring cars and spending time at his lake home, where his Farmers Union Insurance flag flies right underneath his American flag.

“I believe very strongly in our brand,” he said. “I don’t care where you are, you represent the brand. If you walk into my house, you’ll see a Farmers Union Insurance rug. And outside, you’ll see the Farmers Union Insurance flag flying.”

— Chris Aarhus, NDFU