Vermeer Manufacturing Co., Pella
1918 - 2009

Gary Vermeer once said he wasn’t too worried about running the business because it wasn’t the most important thing in his life, farming was. In 1992, at age 73 he was still farming 1,500 acres near Pella. He said his company had always been “a kind of hobby.” Some men have no hobbies - Vermeer’s made him millions, creating jobs for many, and helped make Iowa strong.

He was born and raised in the Pella area. In 1947, Vermeer was a young farmer looking for a way to make the job of farming easier. An inveterate tinker, he designed a mechanical wheel hoist for his own use, but soon his neighbors were asking for one. That winter he built four, and the next year he and his cousin Ralph, a Pella banker, launched their company Vermeer Manufacturing with a $25,000 investment. They followed the hoist with a power-takeoff system in 1949 and the company was on the map. Vermeer knew they needed to stay on the cutting edge of development. He continually changed products to keep his young company competitive. In the 1950s, Vermeer developed a line of trenching equipment. In 1957, the stump cutter was introduced, followed by the first tree spade in 1965. The horizontal directional drilling machine, introduced in 1991, was instrumental in building the information superhighway. But Vermeer was proudest of the 1971 invention of the large round hay baler. It allowed many farmers to keep their operations going because haying could be done without a full crew.

When Vermeer Manufacturing celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1998, it had more than 3,000 employees, a campus at Pella with 7 assembly plants and 100 product lines manufacturing 24 hours a day six days a week. Gary Vermeer continued to serve as chairman emeritus of this private family business.