Vermeer Founder Passes Away at Age 90

Creator of the round baler, and other labor-saving inventions, leaves a long legacy of innovation.

Published on: Feb 2, 2009
Farm inventor and innovator Gary Vermeer has passed away. The founder of Vermeer Corporation and chairman emeritus of the firm in Pella, Iowa, died Feb. 2 at the Comfort House of Pella. He was 90.

Vermeer is survivded 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, Iowa, cover 1.5 million square feet - more than 33 acres - under roof. 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 Gary Vermeer’s children, Robert Vermeer and Mary Vermeer Andringa, now serve as co-chief executive officers of Vermeer Corporation. Three of his grandchildren also are active in the corporation.

Vermeer is best known for inventing the round hay baler, which revolutionized the industry in 1971 by turning the labor-intensive practice of hay making into a one-man operation. Under his guidance, other products manufactured by the company include stump cutters, trenchers and tree spades, among many others. Today, the company manufactures more than 100 product models, including a more recent line of Vermeer Navigator horizontal directional drills, and many other products in its four product segments - forage management, specialty excavation, environmental transformation and underground installation.

Born September 29, 1918, in Pella, to Jacob and Anna Vermeer, Gary Vermeer was raised in a farming community with strong Dutch roots. After his marriage in 1941 to Matilda Van Gorp, the couple started their lives together with 120 acres of land. Throughout the years, Vermeer continued to accumulate farmland, and though he hired farm managers as factory demands increased, Vermeer always took time out of his schedule to climb back on the cultivator, planter or combine, as recently as spring of 2007. All of his grandchildren - and many of his great grandchildren - have enjoyed sitting at his knee or by his side while he harvested corn.

In honor of Gary Vermeer and his lifetime of contributions, a website has been established. Visit www.garyvermeer.com for more information, including funeral arrangements and memorials, as they are determined.