As seen in the Tried & True Spring 2023 issue
Editor’s Note: We offer our deepest condolences to the Vantiger family after the passing of Jim on July 3, 2023. We were honored to be able to interview him and peek into the incredible life he led and the legacy he now leaves behind.
As an 88 year old Iowan farmer, James Vantiger doesn’t have any regrets in life. Born in 1935, James, who goes by Jim, had a typical farm boy childhood. Coming from generations of farmers, Jim said, “I knew what I had to do.” He didn’t see any reason to attend college. After graduating high school in 1953, Jim started what he called “the School of Hard Knocks.”
He was deeded 100 acres of farmland by his father in West Point, Iowa and so began Jim Vantiger’s legacy. Farming all the light hours of the day, Jim needed help keeping up his house on the farm. He found a lovely couple looking for a home to rent. In exchange for feeding him a few times a day and washing his clothes, he let them live there rent free. Jim worked tirelessly and never hesitated to get creative to solve a problem. He worked the land given to him to the best of his ability.
In 1956, he married his life-long partner, Georgianna, who he would spend the next 66 years with until her passing last spring. Shortly after marriage, Jim’s grandfather deeded 160 acres to Jim’s father who in turn passed it to Jim, which was another blessing that Jim would take full advantage of with his diligence and hard work. The following year, Jim started his grain broker business, which he still runs today, called Vantiger Farm Market. With the number six being the apparent theme for the Vantigers, Jim and Georgianna were then blessed with six children.
Jim slowly bought more farmland until he owned a whole square mile of what he called “the richest ground in the world – but it couldn’t drain.” So began Jim’s passion for water management and his journey to make it more accessible to southern Iowa.
He remembers the early days of farming when clay tile trenches were hand-dug with an 18 inch spade or sometimes with a steam engine. “That sure was a lot of work,” he remarked. Jim’s memories of those laborious times helped inspire this issue’s article on pre-engine-powered excavation techniques, which can be found on page 12. With a chuckle Jim told us “that’s what the backhoes are for now!” He snickered as he told a memory of his buddy who built his house on high ground and could only get to by boat just because of the immense amount of standing water.
For years it was difficult to get quality pipe to his small town in the middle of Iowa farm country. He would have to get up in the middle of the night to help unload trucks of pipe that were being shipped in from out of state. It was a real inconvenience. He would even try to coordinate his grain trucks to pick up pipe while out on their deliveries.
In 2006, when Jim caught wind that Fratco was looking to expand their operation to Iowa he tried to think of how he could advocate for them. He knew it would be very beneficial for the economy of his small town if they chose Mt. Pleasant, plus, to have Fratco manufacturing right down the road would open so many doors for Jim’s customers.
Community was always of great importance to Jim. He is a well known philanthropist in southeastern Iowa and believes deeply in giving back to his community. By supporting Fratco, Jim was also supporting his community. So, he went down to the local real estate agent’s office and told him he wanted to help Fratco find some land in Mt. Pleasant. The agent told him there was only one piece of farm ground left – 287 acres out by the highway. Jim recounted, “I took an interest in it and called up Chris Overmyer, and Fratco ended up buying it!”
Jim’s son started to handle the day to day on the farm so his focus could shift to his new business, Vantiger Equipment and Supply, which was founded in 2007. Now part of the Fratco family, Vantiger Equipment and Supply helped to bridge that gap even more between farmer and accessible pipe for ag water management.
For almost 20 years, Fratco has provided quality jobs and added stability to Mt. Pleasant, a town that has been through economical struggles in the past. Mt. Pleasant’s small town feel certainly hasn’t changed as Jim still runs his business on the honor system. If one of his contractors or farmers come in when he isn’t there, they can just grab what they need and leave him a handwritten note. The quaintness of Jim’s story so closely aligns with our values here at Fratco; community and family matter. We are proud to call Jim family and look forward to continuing to work with him and in his community for many years to come.
When he’s not selling pipe and grain, you can find Jim watching movies and just sitting back relaxing. He still owns that square mile of farmland, but at 88 years old, he lets his son do most of the physical labor. As he has aged, it’s become more difficult for him to be in the trenches of daily farm work. He recently had a quadruple bypass and had a pacemaker put in, but none of that is slowing him down. He says he goes to bed every night and his brain never stops—sometimes waking up in the middle of the night just to figure out how to do the next day’s job to the best of his ability.
Fratco thanks Jim for the wonderful relationship they’ve shared ever since the company opened their Mt. Pleasant location. Experienced and loyal customers like Jim have led Fratco to their 100 years (and counting) of successful business and partnerships.