All that’s left of Vice President Mike Pence’s visit to Andy Bollinger’s farm Sept. 29 are the ruts in the fields from heavy rain and cars mucking through mud.
But it was all worth it. After all, the vice president was visiting.
“It was a nice night. A neat experience to be able to meet with the vice president,” says Bollinger, who co-owns Meadow Spring Farm outside Lititz, Pa., a 650-acre, 400-cow dairy.
Hundreds gathered on the farm in the afternoon and evening for a pre-debate rally featuring Pence and other local politicians and ag leaders. It was a chance of a lifetime for Bollinger and his family, but he had no idea why his farm was chosen over the hundreds of other local farms the vice president could have gone to.
In fact, he only found out on the day of the visit who suggested his farm. It was his local ag lender, who also is politically active.
“I didn’t know that I was on the list,” he says.
It was only 12 days ago that Bollinger and his wife received a call from the White House asking him to host the vice president on the same night of the first presidential debate. Bollinger says his wife couldn’t believe it; she thought she was being scammed. So, she hung up the phone.
Thankfully, White House staffers called back, and after convincing Bollinger that the request was legitimate, he said yes.
“We’re enjoying telling the story now,” he says. “I believe they wanted this area, and they wanted a family farm, so we felt honored to be picked.”
Getting farm ready
Thankfully, silage chopping was already wrapped up by the time he and his family got the call to host the rally. A week earlier, he says, and they probably would have turned the offer down, but the timing turned out right.
But farm work, especially during harvest, never ends. Bollinger and his employees pushed to get all their manure hauled and spread on local fields, and they made their fifth cutting of alfalfa Sept. 24. The only thing left was to plant winter rye. They used their own drill and rented another drill from a nearby implement dealer and planted 250 acres on Sept. 26 and Sept. 28. They finished at around 10 a.m. on the day of the rally.
He and his employees also helped line up local vendors for equipment needs for the event. And the Secret Service did a lot of vetting of Bollinger and everyone involved in the farm.
“I knew it was going to be intense, and it was,” he says. “It was two or three of the most intense days leading up to it, but it was fun.”
‘It’s Mike and Karen’
Just before Pence took the stage, Bollinger says he got the chance to meet with the vice president for about 10 minutes. They talked a little about farming, although much of their conservation was about their families.
“He was very personable. He told me, ‘It’s Mike and Karen,’” he says.
“I don’t know if I would’ve done it for someone not holding office,” he adds. “I thought from the perspective of having the vice president here on my farm … was too good of a thing to pass up.”