Fremont County Iowa

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A View From The Attic

Week of  09/01/2014

Fremont County Historical Society      

                     VOGEL POPCORN                 

By Lona Lewis

Sunday, September 7,  Fremont County Historical Society will open the Art Vogel Popcorn Theater  in Iowa’s Championship Rodeo Museum and Fremont County History Center.  The new museum is a blending of historical exhibits about Fremont County and exhibits telling the story of the Rodeo.  The Vogel exhibit will highlight one of the County’s most successful businesses   

First the story,  Alex Vogel and his son,  Arthur, were farmers in the Hamburg area in the 1930’s, and times were not good.  They tried growing a limited amount of popcorn, which they sold to a business man in Indiana.   When he came to look over their farm, he told them their popcorn popped up better than any other he had seen.  He offered to buy more from the Vogel’s if they would sell it to him exclusively, which they did for a couple for years.

Art Vogel did not know it at the time, but he would take that experience, use his skills as an entrepreneur and, in time, run the third largest wholesale and commercial popcorn company in the world - and he would do it in Hamburg, Iowa.   By the1970’s, the company was selling more than 30 million pounds of popcorn worldwide.

Vogel and Son Popcorn Company began in 1943, with Alex and Art’s vision of creating a business by contracting with local farmers to grow popcorn that would be bagged and sold.   All facets of the business --growing, processing and marketing -- went into making Vogel popcorn great eating.

When you read the above it sounds so simple, when the reality was Art Vogel’s attention to detail was the key to growth.  Company videos from the 1970’s and1980’s talk about increasing the yield of popcorn from 1 cup corn to 40 cups popcorn to 42 cups.  Vogel knew hybrid seeds were the key to yield.   His company worked to identify several varieties of popcorn seeds.   Then the company worked with farmers to decide the best seed for their soil type. Vogel employees worked with farmers all through the growing season to make sure there was maximum production.

Next fertilizer came under close scrutiny.  Art Vogel recognized the benefits of fertilizing with anhydrous ammonia and started the Vogel Fertilizer Company.

Equipment was constantly modernized One of the companies selling points was a machine that  polished seeds to ensure the bee wings (hulls) were removed before they were bagged.  Vogel was a charter member and president of the American Popcorn Institute, a trade association of processors of popcorn, dedicated to improving the quality of popcorn and making consumers aware of its many qualities.

In 1978, the National Association of Concessionaires awarded Art Vogel  “Concessionaire of the Year”.

The Historical Society Board decided to place in the Art Vogel exhibit a wall dedicated to honoring successful entrepreneurs.  Each year the Society will honor businesses from all over the County beginning in the 1800s until today.  This wall will become, over the years, a tribute to Vogel and all the others that contributed to the success of Fremont County. 

You are invited to join us in Sidney on September 7 at 2:00 p.m. to help open the Vogel Popcorn Theater for all.

(Open hours for the museum are 1 to 4 every day except Monday.)