A love of farming, curiosity about hybrid corn and a willingness to solve problems helped Ray Hagie to form Hagie Hybrids in 1933. A son of a cattle farmer, Hagie went to Iowa State College to study and earn a degree in animal husbandry with the goal of returning to the family farm in north central Iowa.

When the U.S. became involved in World War II agriculture experienced a labor shortage due to men serving overseas. Detasseling corn, which had been work for men, later became the job of women and children. However, they were shorter and didn't have the stamina of men. To help solve this problem, Hagie helped create a high-clearance tractor for the women to ride and detassel the corn.

In 1947, Hagie grabbed the claim of developing the world's first self-propelled sprayer and created a second company separate from Hagie Hybrids. "The new sprayer had a 100-gallon tank and a 12-foot spray boom on the back of it," said Jim Williams, marketing manager for Hagie.

Hagie Manufacturing became devoted exclusively to producing and selling only self-propelled sprayers. In the 1960s, Hagie Hybrids was sold to United Seed, which kept the brand name United Hagie for many years. Hagie Manufacturing thus became the exclusive focus of the family-owned company.

Today, Hagie Manufacturing is owned by Ray's son, John Hagie. Ray passed away three years ago. John's son, Alan serves as the chief operating officer. Hagie Manufacturing is based in Clarion, Iowa, and employs 330.

The biggest difference today for a Hagie sprayer is that the booms are at the front of the machine instead of the back as the original was built.

"Hagie primarily makes two types of agricultural equipment," Williams said. "One is the self-propelled sprayers, which can have anywhere from 800- to 1,600-gallon tanks with four-wheel drive. And the other is our line of detasselers for the seed corn industry."

Although Hagie Manufacturing has been a company focused on agriculture, it has branched out to developing machines for snow removal. Williams explained that four years ago, officials at the Minneapolis airport saw one of Hagie's self-propelled machines in a nearby field. They noticed the high clearance and the boom on the front. They thought that Hagie's machine might be adapted into snow removal equipment. They approached Hagie about building such a machine and Hagie modified some of its equipment.

With this success, soon other airports wanted similar machines. "Once Minneapolis bought our machines, other airports wanted one. We now have similar machines at airports in Boston, New York, Reno, Toronto, Detroit and more."

As the snow removal equipment side of the business was growing, Hagie decided one year ago to purchase Vammas, a company that manufactures snow removal equipment for airports. Vammas was owned by Patria Company in Finland.
Agriculture remains the main focus, and Hagie stands apart from other major self-propelled sprayer companies, Williams said, because Hagie only focuses on self-propelled sprayers.

"Hagie employees are experts in self-propelled sprayers. They don't have to divide their time and expertise among tractors, combines and other equipment. This allows Hagie to focus specifically on the needs of growers, dealers and cooperatives. Also, our customers buy directly from us. Hagie does not sell through a dealership."

Williams said the company expects to expand beyond the Corn Belt in 2009.

"Working for Hagie is like working for family, and we think of ourselves as the best kept secret in agriculture," Williams said.