20 under 40: Kameron Gradert

Kameron Gradert

Owner of Crop Dusters in Ireton

IRETON—The aviation bug hit Kameron Gradert hard at an early age.

Inspired by his father, Brian, the Ireton native soared to new heights.

“I was just a little kid, my dad became a pilot in 1999 and I was instantly hooked,” Kameron Gradert said.

The 27-year-old aerial applicator, or as many call them “crop duster,” Gradert joined his father in business as a partner in 2011, just one year after his dad started Crop Dusters.

As soon as Gradert could reach the pedals his father was teaching him how to fly. Because of that, Gradert said he contributes his passion for his job to his father as well as a group of airport friends who Gradert refers to as the “Sheldon crew.”

Gradert started flying professionally at the age of 19. His first spray plane was a Radial-powered Air Tractor.

At the age of 20 he went to Florida and received training to fly Turbine Ag aircraft. He started flying a 402 Air Tractor and the following year he purchased a 510 Thrush that he flew for two years before he stepped up to a M18 Dromader. Gradert recently purchased a dual cockpit 550 Thrush that he flies.

From the farmer who owns and operates 80 acres of land, to those who own thousands of acres, each customer is important at Crop Dusters. Giving the customers a return on their investment, ensures the customers will call again for services the following year.

“Flying your fields, to maximize your yields” is the slogan at Crop Dusters.

“We fly on several ag products to ensure protection of the crops,” Gradert said. “Whether that is protection from insects, weeds, fungus, nutrition depletion etc. and we do so without running over any of the crops that we work so hard to protect — all of that funnels down to our slogan.”

First and foremost, Gradert dedicates his success to God. God along with having parents who have helped him on his road to success are all things he is grateful for along with his wife Carolyn.

“It takes a special kind of woman to marry a crop duster,” Gradert said.

They have a son, Maveryk.

“I like to joke around that I tried for Goose or Ice Man, but my wife wouldn’t approve,” Gradert said.

A family business rooted with the love of agriculture and aviation is what Crop Dusters is about. While Gradert is curious to see if his son will want to fly, he plans to support him in all his dreams and aspirations, much like his parents did for him.

Not only is Gradert a crop duster, he added a second business, Aerial Guidance Solutions, which sells GPS for ag aircraft. This and maintaining the aircraft help him stay busy year round.