It’s time to celebrate community.
On Wednesday, May 4, Iowa pig farmers brought community leaders from Eagle Grove, Fort Dodge and Webster City together to thank them for their continuous efforts to work through COVID-19 issues since the spring of 2020. The pandemic immediately put stress on every link in the food chain, but those communities, along with the many that surround them, pulled together to keep the food supply open between farms, processing plants, and grocery stores in order to provide safe food for consumers.
The event, hosted at Prestage Foods of Iowa in Eagle Grove, also resulted in more than 2,250 pork servings being made available to local food banks and pantries. Prestage Foods, along with Mary Ann’s Specialty Foods and Webster City Custom Meats each donated pork product that included pork loin caps, bacon and ham steaks. The items were split between the 16 food banks and pantries that serve Hamilton, Wright and Webster Counties.
“Keeping wholesome pork on the menu involves many moving parts,” said Kevin Rasmussen, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA). The Goldfield pig farmer noted that the world not only relies on farmers, but also meat processors, grocers, restaurant employees, and so many others.
Sandy McGrath, Eagle Grove Mayor and Wright County Public Health Administrator, noted that Prestage Foods of Iowa implemented public health measures immediately at the plant when she approached them at the beginning of the pandemic. “There were no (Covid-19) outbreaks at the plant because they put safety measures into place to protect their employees and our communities,” she said.
By working with the community, Jere Null, CEO of Prestage Foods of Iowa, said his plant workers were able to keep the plant operating throughout the pandemic. “When I look around the room today, I’m reminded of the big circle of sustainability that we are,” Null said. We have grain farmers who grow feed for the pig farmers. They deliver pigs to our plant for processing, and that meat also supports Mary Ann’s and Webster City Custom Meats. Then there are representatives from Fareway, who stock that pork product for all of us.”
“These communities are a good group of people who welcomed us here. There are a thousand people who rely on this plant for their livelihood – that includes truck drivers, electricians, butchers, and many others. All of whom we were able to keep employed for the past two years,” Null said.
Kelly Korleski of Mary Ann’s Specialty Foods and Phil Voge of Webster City Custom Meats echoed Null’s comments about the importance of working with public health officials and keeping their employees on-board and working throughout the past two years.
“It was tough. Difficult. But we had great communications with Hamilton County public health and they helped us put processes in place to keep our doors open,” said Korleski.
McGrath praised the pork industry for what it has meant to her community. She especially thanked Prestage Foods. “You have been a productive, engaged, and supportive member of our community, just as you said you would when you came here to build and open the plant.”
Keeping the food supply chain operating mattered, Rasmussen told those gathered for the event. Those actions also matter because of the way they made pig farmers and other community members feel. “The communities represented here and other communities around us have provided support and encouragement during stressful times. You have lifted our spirits on challenging days and provided inspiration to help others clear hurdles in front of them.
“When our communities gather around for supporting others, it touches our hearts,” he concluded.
This is the seventh community Thank You event that the Iowa Pork Producers Association has organized in the past 14 months. Two more are planned for the future.