History of the first round baler

More than five decades of finding better ways to make hay

“Find a need, fill that need with a product built to last, and simply build the best.” 

These words were famously spoken by Vermeer founder Gary Vermeer, who made a name for himself by doing just that. It started with the invention of the big, round hay baler in 1971. Here’s how it came to be…

Gary Vermeer black and white photo in a field

A brief history

It began when a local cattle producer told Gary he was getting out of the cattle business because it was too labor intensive and he could no longer do it alone. That was when Gary decided a one-person hay system was needed — a machine that helped hay producers do MORE. 

After chalking it out on the Vermeer factory floor and field-testing the first prototype, Gary and his team knew their round hay baler design was something big. And was it ever. What became known in the industry as "the big, round baler" was introduced in 1971. With it, hay producers could make hay bales almost 10 times bigger than what they could with any other baler on the market. Perhaps more important, it turned a process that traditionally required multiple people into a one-person job. Finally, hay producers could single-handedly put up high volumes of hay in shorter periods of time. 

Of course, this was only the beginning. 

Over the years, Vermeer has introduced numerous innovations that have moved the hay and forage industry forward. Sometimes it’s little things like making it MORE convenient to hook up or maintain your equipment. New products like the industry’s first net lift system. And major game-changers like the industry’s first self-propelled round baler. For the last 50 plus years, Vermeer has been passionate about helping hay and forage producers find a better way to make hay. And we’re excited about what the future has in store.

Illustration sketch of a Vermeer baler

Chalk it up to innovation

Innovation can happen anywhere. In the case of the Vermeer round baler, it took place on the factory floor. And what better place for engineering minds to collaborate? Gary Vermeer had an idea spinning 'round in his head and there was only one course of action: Chalk it up and build it. Gary and Arnie Mathes, a Vermeer engineer, drew up the initial design and had a prototype ready for field testing a mere 45 days later. The result?

“It didn’t work,” recalled Al Van Dyke, who worked at Vermeer. “They couldn’t get the bale to start. Then Gary got a fence post, threw it in there and the bale took right off. So then he knew he had something. So he ordered a bunch of these long cardboard tubes. Then he figured out the fingers to catch the hay.” And the rest is history.

Meet the family behind the Vermeer round baler

Generations of the Vermeer family have been involved in the business and continue to carry on the legacy of innovation and improvement. Our ultimate goal is to help our customers do important work and be Equipped to Do More®. All of Gary’s children served as CEOs or company leaders at one point, and now the third generation is leading the company. Gary’s grandson Jason Andringa serves as president and CEO and his granddaughter Mindi Vanden Bosch leads the Forage Solutions team. 

Cut out images of the Vermeer 604 R-series balers

See the current lineup of Vermeer round balers

Wet or dry hay. Part-time, full-time or custom operations. Vermeer has the round baler you need to put up dense, high-quality bales you can be proud of.