Ray was raised on a small diversified farm in southern Indiana, where he learned the responsibility of caring for a farm at a young age. During his youth, he explored many facets of agriculture, from maintenance to caring for livestock and tending crops. Believing that it is a privilege to farm, Ray began Gaesser farms in Corning, Iowa in 1977 and turned the original few hundred acres into 6,000 acres. His operation includes 620 owned acres and an additional 5,400 rented or custom farmed acres. Corn is grown for a local ethanol plant and soybeans are grown for Stine Seed Company. Gaesser farms uses the latest technology and innovations in seeds and equipment, and continues to test new practices to conserve and enhance resources. Caring for the land is a priority. Gaesser farms has been 100 percent no-till since 1991 and has planted cover crops since 2010.
Off the farm, Ray is an active member in the local and national agriculture community, serving in executive roles for the American Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Soybean Promotion Board, Iowa Economic Development Agriculture Advisory Board, North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance and International Soybean Growers Alliance. Ray has also served on numerous soybean trade and education missions around the world, working to improve international relationships and trade for U.S. agriculture. Ray was recognized as a Lenox Iowa Rotary Rural Good Citizen in 1999, and received the Adams County Iowa Conservation Award in 1992 and the Iowa Master Farmer Award in 2012. In 2013, Iowa Congressman Tom Latham read and placed into the Congressional Record a tribute to Ray’s achievements in agriculture, including as President of the American Soybean Association.
Before her retirement, Ray’s wife, Elaine, was Gaesser Farm’s accountant, and served as President of Iowa Women in Agriculture. Along with Ray, she was named an Iowa Master Farmer in 2012. Together Ray and Elaine have two children, Chris and Jennifer. Chris is the farm’s agronomist, a member of the Iowa Soybean Association’s Supply Committee Advisory Council, and (with his wife Shannon) the farm office manager. Jennifer teaches vocal music at Atlantic High School. Ray and his wife are active members of St. Patrick Catholic Church.