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Vermeer Manufacturing Co.

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Companies > Manufacturers

Vermeer Manufacturing Co. (VMC), founded in 1948 by Gary J. Vermeer,[1]  manufactures agricultural, construction, environmental, and industrial equipment. Over the course of its existence, VMC has been recognized for its novel contributions to the forestry and agriculture industries, including the world’s first large round hay baler, tree spade, and stump cutter.[2] Based in Pella, Iowa, the company has over 150 dealerships throughout the world.[3]



The Wagon Hoist

In the 1940s, farmer Gary Vermeer designed an implement for harvesting and storing grain. The invention was a modified wagon with a mechanical hoist, able to elevate grain,  previously a backbreaking task for farmers. Vermeer continued production after four original wagons proved very popular with his neighbors. By 1948, Vermeer, with the help of his cousin, was operating out of a 2,500-square foot (232-m2) factory in Pella, Iowa. Vermeer Manufacturing Co. was officially established. Though the wagons were popular at the time of their introduction, they did not outlive the development of hydraulic wagon hoists presented by other companies.[4]

Vermeer’s Hammermill Improvement

When his mechanical wagon hoists were rendered obsolete, Vermeer conceived of another development: a right-angled power take-off drive for hammermills. These hammermills, used to mix and grind livestock feed, had wide tractor belts that often loosened and flew off. The power take-off (PTO) drive that Vermeer included helped keep the belts in place. An ad placed in the local newsletter had VMC making 100 PTO drives a week.[5] Following this success, the company took on an additional 18 employees.

Trenchers Join the Product Line

In the 1950s, VMC began developing trenchers with a PTO drive, similar to that of the hammermills. The first version, introduced in 1951, was known as the Model 12 and was intended for agricultural use.[6] The birth of this trencher paved the way for other models, and soon the company was selling self-propelled and crawler trenchers.

The Expansion of Vermeer Manufacturing

In the mid-1950s, VMC began selling its products internationally with the 1955 creation of Vermeer Holland. This new facility served as a production and distribution center for European customers. Around this time, the company initiated a cash incentive program for its employees to reward them for the company’s success. Three years later, in the midst of a major economic downturn in the U.S., the company was able to stay afloat, maintaining 67 employees.[7] By the following decade, VMC had grown to 300 employees, and had instituted a profit-sharing program. With this growth came the establishment of six international locations to handle the sale and shipping of products.[8]

New Product Developments

The company’s new growth was complemented by new product developments. The period extending from the late1950s to the early 1970s granted the company considerable recognition due to the introduction of novel products.

The Stump Cutter

The year of 1956 marked the introduction of VMC’s stump cutter. In contrast to the competition’s versions, this stump cutter required only one operator. Additionally, it took only minutes for the machine to chew up entire stumps. The stump cutter gained widespread popularity, displacing older, more cumbersome models. It would continue to be developed and improved, eventually being offered in several sizes with forged-steel teeth, higher torque, and greater maneuverability.[9] ==== Improved Trenchers ==== During the 1960s, the company modified its trencher line, which initially consisted of two PTO-drive machines and three crawler models. In addition to improving its track trenchers, VMC developed a rubber-tired trencher to which could be attached such implements as backhoes and loaders. Eventually, these trenchers would evolve to incorporate hydrostatic drive.[10]

The Tree Spade

In 1965, the company introduced the TM-700 tree spade, a machine used for digging, moving, and replanting trees. This machine was popular among homeowners as well as landscaping companies and tree nurseries.[11] Two years later, the company had designed a variety of new models, ranging in size and capacity.

The Large Round Hay Baler

VMC’s most significant contribution to the agricultural industry came in the early 1970s with its introduction of the first large round hay baler, thought to be the predecessor of all large round balers since.[12] In response to his neighbors voicing their frustration about the difficulty of providing feed to their livestock, Vermeer began conceptualizing a new implement with this complaint in mind. The result was a baler, operable by one person, that produced bales weighing about a ton. Additionally, the bales produced were wound tightly enough that they would shed water. The company was plagued with controversy and lawsuits following the injuries and deaths of farmers who were operating the equipment improperly. Consequently, adjustments had to be made to the balers.[13] Despite this incident, VMC sold more than 85,000 large round balers over the next 25 years.[14]

A Family Affair

In 1974, two years after the company had expanded into Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland, Vermeer’s second son Robert was appointed to the company’s board of directors as the vice president of finance. The following year, Robert's older brother, Stanley, came onboard and was employed in the experimental department. In 1976, Vermeer’s daughter Mary joined as a part-time employee to the 685-employee-strong company.

The Vermeer Brush Chipper

In 1978, VMC debuted a brush chipper capable of grinding up materials such as large trees -- up to a 12-inch (30.5-cm) diameter -- as well as storm-damaged brush, and discarded Christmas trees. The wood chips resulting from the process could be readily used in landscaping applications. These machines were well received.

The Implications of Environmental Regulations

In the early 1980s, environmental issues began to surface, and stricter regulations were implemented. These rules affected VMC, as it had been using a metalworking coolant known as TRIM Sol and producing between 220 and 2,200 pounds (100 and 998 kg) of waste each month.[15] Because of this, the company, listed as a small-quantity generator of hazardous waste, had to modify its practices. The amendment came in the form of an in-house coolant management system in lieu of shipping waste to a facility in Alabama. This system recycled coolant, and waste was therefore reduced. As an additional benefit, the company saved $100,000 in the first year after the new system was put in place. By 1986, VMC was saving $150,000 per year, thanks in large part to fewer coolant purchases and lower labor cost.[16]

The Restructuring of VMC

In 1982, the same year Mary began working at VMC full-time in market research and human relations, Stanley was named president of the company. Two years later, Robert became the company’s executive vice president and secretary treasurer. In 1986, four years after he was named president, Stanley decided to leave VMC to focus on charity work. Following Stanley’s departure, Robert became CEO and chairman of the company, which now comprised 786 employees. In 1989, Mary was named COO and president of the company.

Trenchless Equipment

The end of the 1980s saw a variety of developments from the company, such as a silage baler, automatic twine-tying systems and bale ejectors. Its next major offering, however, was a line of horizontal directional drilling machines known as the NAVIGATOR line, introduced in 1991. Used with a handheld pneumatic piercing tool called the Hammerhead Mole, the NAVIGATOR machines could dig trenches while avoiding damage to topsoil. These implements were designed to dig tunnels beneath the earth’s surface, even under buildings, rivers, and lakes, to accommodate pipelines such as those used for gas and water, as well as fiber optic cables. This new technology was responsible for VMC’s continued growth. In 1993, the company opened two more manufacturing facilities, and hired 900 new employees. That year’s sales totaled over $270 million, and the following year, the company earned $320 million.[17]

Vermeer University

The same year VMC introduced its trenchless technology, the company started an in-house education program called Vermeer University. The intention of the program was to provide training for employees and dealers in technical and professional development. Three years after its establishment, Vermeer University had 600 students in 25 different courses.[18]

Departmental Reorganization

In 1995, VMC reorganized itself, resulting in four separate divisions: agricultural (hay balers, hydraulic rakes, and mowing equipment); contract (specialized equipment for companies such as Caterpillar, John Deere, and Fiat-Hitachi); underground (rubber-tired trenchers, trench compactors, and NAVIGATOR and Hammerhead products); and environmental, which, in addition to products such as tree spades, log splitters, and brush chippers, included the previous year’s development, the Brawny TG-400 large tub grinder used by landfills, construction companies, and contractors to eliminate heavy organic waste. Each of the four divisions, employing over 2,000 nonunion workers,[19] operated out of one of the company’s seven facilities in Pella. These facilities were located close to one another, an advantage that was apparent during cyclical slowdowns of the departments. To prevent laying off and rehiring employees, workers could be moved from one division to another.

Financial Success

The mid-1990s brought continued growth, with Vermeer products being sold through 75 American and 66 international outlets. Additionally, the company had more than 442 agricultural dealers in North America. In 1995, VMC earned $350 million in sales, and the following year, the $400 million mark was reached.[20] This success was attributed in part to the company’s strategy not to carry any long-term debt.

The Company Today

Vermeer Manufacturing Co., celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2008, continues to be operated under the direction of co-CEOs Robert (Bob) Vermeer and Mary Vermeer-Andringa.[21] In addition to 150 worldwide dealerships, the company also runs the Vermeer Charitable Foundation.[22] VMC is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of trenchers, and has become one of the most successful privately owned companies to date.[23]

Equipment List

Agricultural Equipment

Compact Equipment

Environmental Equipment

Trenching Equipment

Trenchless Equipment


  1. Construction Industrial Equipment. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  2. About Us. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  3. About Us. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  4. Company History. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  5. Company History. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  6. Company History. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  7. Company History. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  8. Company History. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  9. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  10. Vermeer. Construct My Future. 2008-09-09.
  11. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  12. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  13. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  14. Company History. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  15. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  16. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  17. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  18. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  19. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  20. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.
  21. About Us. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  22. Charitable Foundation. Vermeer. 2008-09-09.
  23. Vermeer. Funding Universe. 2008-09-09.

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