Gary Vogt makes farming a good life in Spring Valley
“He’s obviously been very successful as a farmer and he has a work ethic like no other,” said Justin Osborne, Gary Vogt's son-in-law and Four Daughters Winery's director of winery operations. “I’ve described many times Gary’s work ethic to other people saying he would shovel rocks all night long.”
SPRING VALLEY — Through his miles of corn and soybeans, Gary Vogt has plowed on with a good life.
After planning his retirement for a few years, Vogt said the 2022 harvest was the time to “pull the pin.” He cultivated his family farming roots from his dad, though “I didn’t ever think I’d be a farmer,” Vogt said, and finished with two years of good crops and commodity prices.
While many know the Vogt family for their winery, cidery and restaurant at Four Daughters Winery, Vogt has farmed their land for 45 years. Vogt is known around the winery, too, for talking with customers and giving tours. His son-in-law and director of winery operations, Justin Osborne, says customers often seem to know who this welcoming, grateful farmer is. “I love to talk to people,” Vogt said.
“We raised a lot of corn and a lot of soybeans but we raised four really talented girls, too, and I’m proud of them,” Vogt said. His wife Vicky and daughters Kristin Osborne, Shawn Vogt Sween and Justine Vogt work with the winery.
Vogt was born into farming after his father bought his first Minnesota farm in 1956. “He was actually a city boy, he had no idea how to farm,” Vogt said. The 240 acres fulfilled a dream that he made possible with funds from serving in World War II.
At 5 years old, Vogt took to riding in the tractor. He didn’t ride along on Sundays, though, when their family relaxed a little by fishing after their morning chores of feeding the cows and pigs.
These values started Vogt’s work ethic and “work hard, play hard” motto.
“He’s obviously been very successful as a farmer and he has a work ethic like no other,” Osborne said. “I’ve described many times Gary’s work ethic to other people saying he would shovel rocks all night long.”
While that’s not a task Vogt has done, he comes to the winery to clean storage rooms, add windbreaks or complete any project he can work hard at for several hours. This is his “nothing to do” phase, as Osborne described it. Vogt's other main phases are farming and traveling to Arizona.
Gary has farmed with his brother Ron since officially joining their dad in middle school. “It’s the only farm I’ve ever known,” Vogt remarked. Their mom was also a “big part of the farm,” he said — she worked with the chickens, gardened and canned food. Gary and Ron dug into their first year with about 600 acres.
“If a neighbor would retire or quit, we’d either buy the land or lease it from them, and it (the farm) just gradually grew,” Vogt said.
The Vogts grew their farm to 5,500 acres, which accounts for miles around the winery. Much of their corn went to a hog farmer, and recently became the valuable product of bourbon. Four Daughters added bourbon to its selection in July 2022.
“He got to see my brother and mine’s success, and it was all because of him. He gave us the jump start,” Vogt said about their dad, who would ride in the combine into his 80s.
Vogt said the days aren’t as much about the 18-hour stretches but days like checking the corn drier at 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m. and finishing off that night’s sleep by 4:30 in the morning. It’s a way of life he loves, saying it’s “satisfying.”
“That’s what you do during harvest but not a lot of people can do it. A lot of farmers do it … and I couldn’t do that all year long. It’s a month and then I’m done,” Vogt said.
While the corn and soybean portion of the farm will no longer be family-run, Vogt said family friends are renting the land — and they already agreed to sell a portion of the corn for the bourbon. Vogt will also finish hauling corn next spring and summer.
“I love the freedom of farming and growing stuff,” Vogt said.
“Most farmers they work hard, they try to be good stewards of the land. We try to leave it in better shape than we got it. My motto’s always been work hard, play hard. I’ve had a lot of fun in my life,” Vogt said. “I just live life to the fullest.”
The family of entrepreneurs decided to add a winery to continue the family-growing tradition in 2011 .
“This was one of my original corn farms, and it’s good we built it here,” Vogt said of the Four Daughters land. “People love to get out of town on the weekends and during the summer.”
“We planted all those grapes out there by ourselves, we dug the holes for all the posts. I enjoyed it, that’s what I do, I grow things,” Vogt said.
After the long haul of harvest, Vogt expected his last one to feel just as exhausting but instead, Gary and Vicky drove in the final load of corn as their family watched in November.
“I thought one of the coolest things of my whole farming career was a couple weeks ago when we were down to our last 10 acres and all the son-in-laws, the daughters, the grandchildren … were all in this small little … drier shack,” Vogt described. “That was kind of cool. I don’t get real emotional but that was a cool night, they made it special.”
In retirement, Vogt plans to have more time for “leisurely things” like continuing to fly a plane, ride motorcycles, bungee jump, skydive, travel and climb mountains. And visit his favorite places at Four Daughters: the bourbon lounge and barrel room.
The Hamilton Auction Company is also hosting a live and online retirement auction in December. The auction includes used farm machinery such as tractors, grain trucks/semis, combines and more equipment. The preview dates are from 9 a.m. to noon on Dec. 10 and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 12 with the live auction starting at 10 a.m. on Dec. 13.
As Vogt might say, “We made it.” He reflects on much with this phrase: When their kids were young, the family lived in a trailer house and Gary sold vacuum cleaners in the winter. His parents grew up in the Great Depression and worked hard. Gary never took an agriculture class and they started the winery after one of Vicky’s college papers. But they “made it.”
And there might come a time when the next generation, like his grandson, will make it as a farmer.
If you go
What: Gary and Ron Vogt farm retirement auction
When: 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13
Where: 22773 780th Ave., Spring Valley