Vermeer Founder Passes Away

March 2009 Vol. 64 No. 3

Gary Vermeer, founder and chairman emeritus of Vermeer Corporation in Pella, IA, died Feb. 2, at the Comfort House of Pella. He was 90.

He is survived by his wife, Matilda, and three children and their spouses, Stanley and Alma Vermeer, Robert and Lois Vermeer, and Mary and Dale Andringa, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

Gary Vermeer and a cousin started the business in 1948, after inventing a wagon hoist five years earlier, which made it easier to unload corn. Demand for the labor-saving device from his neighbors prompted him to open Vermeer Manufacturing Company.

From that small operation, the company has grown over the past 60 years to an international organization that manufactures agricultural, construction, environmental and industrial equipment. Today, Vermeer Corporation has industrial dealerships in over 60 countries and on every continent except Antarctica, in addition to hundreds of agricultural equipment dealers throughout the U.S. Its corporate offices and manufacturing facility in Pella, IA, cover 1.5-million-square-feet. That includes seven manufacturing plants, a parts distribution center and the Global Pavilion, which includes an arena, training center and the Vermeer Museum. Two of Vermeer’s children, Robert Vermeer and Mary Vermeer Andringa, now serve as co-chief executive officers of the company. Three of his grandchildren also are active in the corporation.

Perhaps Gary Vermeer’s best known manufacturing contribution is the Vermeer round hay baler, an invention that revolutionized agriculture in 1971 as it turned the labor-intensive process of hay baling into a one-man operation. One of his many innovative ideas and industry-changing products over the years, Vermeer’s hay baler concept was a solution to his common theme, “there has to be a better way.”

Under Vermeer’s guidance, other products manufactured by the company include stump cutters, trenchers and tree spades, among many others. Today, the company manufacturers more than 100 product models, including a more recent line of Vermeer Navigator horizontal directional drills and products in four product segments: forage management, specialty excavation, environmental transformation and underground installation.