Tony Vandemore: From Professional Baseball Player To Farmer
LESSONS LEARNED: Tony Vandemore, a former professional baseball, hits one out of the park with Habitat Flats.
By Tharran E. Gaines | Photos By Habitat Flats
FarmLife: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
Tony Vandemore: “I’ve heard it said many times, that anything is possible if you put your mind to it; and that seems to be true. We took a big, big risk when we started Habitat Flats. It was right during a recession and probably not the best time to start a hunting enterprise, but it has worked out.
FL: What have you learned from older farmers?
TV: I never grew up on a farm, so pretty much everything I know about farming has come from farmers young and old … particularly Dan [Daugherity] who has been a partner and co-owner of Habitat Flats since the beginning.
I also had an uncle who worked for the State of Illinois in the DNR [Department of Natural Resources], and helped manage some refuges. So, a lot of the things I know about managing waterfowl, I learned from him.
FL: Name a mistake that taught you a lesson.
TV: There have been lots of them. Most of the things I’ve learned about farming for ducks have come through trial and error. As an example, I used to think you had to work every square inch of soil, including the moist-soil areas, and plant millet, buckwheat or something. Then, we’d get a flood in August and all that stuff we planted died, whereas the plants that have evolved to survive in that environment tend to make it through. So, now, if the plants in those flood areas have feed value for ducks, we try to leave them alone.
FL: How have you changed since you were younger?
TV: I think I’ve become more patient, particularly when it comes to farming. I used to work on farms when I was younger, but I didn’t have any vested interest in them. But when I started farming here, it was nerve-wracking. I was always worried about getting enough rain, getting too much rain, having it get too hot and everything else. So, I had to learn to chill out a little because there’s really not that much you can do about it. If you have to replant, you have to replant. Fortunately, with the big equipment Dan has, we can catch up pretty quickly.
FL: How has your lifestyle changed?
TV: I’ve always been very active, but it’s obviously changed since college. Most of my focus then was on baseball, even though I continued to go hunting in the off-season. Even after college, I continued with baseball, playing for a San Diego farm team for two years, before returning to Missouri and using my degree in business marketing to develop Habitat Flats.
FL: What have you learned about predicting the future?
TV: I’ve learned that the only things you can fail at seven out of 10 times and still get a promotion is being a weatherman and playing baseball. On a serious note, though, I have learned that you can’t put all your eggs in one basket on the duck-management side. If you want to keep ducks around for 60 days, you have to offer a variety of food sources based on their nutritional needs. And that is going to change throughout the season, based on the temperature and the weather.
FL: What’s something you’d like to do or learn?
TV: I’m pretty simple, but I’d like to see my daughter shoot a turkey or a duck when she gets older. Of course, she’s only two years old right now, so it will be a little while. I guess I wouldn’t mind fishing for peacock bass, either. You have to travel to Central or South America to find them, though.
FL: What advice would you offer FarmLife readers?
TV: Enjoy what you do. I see myself as being extremely fortunate to work outdoors every day. Our Massey Ferguson tractor is so comfortable and user-friendly, even farming isn’t really work.