The Farmland Foods sign outside the ham packing plant in Martin City, Missouri may be changing, but according to Brent Vernon, the facility’s new plant manager, nothing is changing inside the plant. Smithfield Foods is a $15 billion global food company and the world’s largest pork processor and hog producer. In the United States, the company is also the leader in numerous packaged meats categories with popular brands including Smithfield®, Eckrich®, Farmland®, Armour®, Cook’s®, John Morrell®, Gwaltney®, Nathan’s Famous®, Kretschmar®, Margherita®, Curly’s®, Carando® and Healthy Ones®.
A company-wide realignment, which took effect March 1, 2015, unified all of Smithfield’s independent operating companies, brands – including the Farmland Foods brand – marketing, and more than 48,000 employees around the world under one corporate umbrella. The initiative is called, “One Smithfield.”
“There are around 450 employees at the Martin City location, some of them having been there for as many as 16 years,” says Troy Reese, the facility’s Environmental Coordinator. Brent Vernon, the new Plant Manager, has been with the company for over 30 years, recently transferring to Kansas City from Grayson, Kentucky.
Executives from the Martin City CID were invited on a tour of the South Kansas City plant for a look at day to day operations, and to find out more about the packaging plant’s long-term goals.
“One of my primary goals is to make sure we are doing our part to support the goals of our local Kansas City community,” says Vernon. “We don’t want to be thought of as this scary manufacturing plant with security fences all around. We’ve got a lot of good people working really hard every day to make a good product, and we want them to have opportunities in the community as well.
More than 60% of the Martin City plant’s workers are bilingual. “Almost all of our communication must be in English and Spanish,” says Reese. “Otherwise, we lose half our audience and it’s hard to accomplish anything. For this reason, many community events go unnoticed by Smithfield’s employees because most local marketing is written in English.
“We’ve been doing more community outreach, bringing in community leaders and services that can help people get involved,” says Reese. Smithfield recently hosted a health fair and offered many essentials, like flu shots, on-site.
“It’s difficult to take a day off to take care of important things like flu shots so we do everything we can to make it easier for our people to be healthy,” says Reese. Hearing tests are also frequently administered as many parts of the plant floor are very loud, and could be damaging if appropriate ear protection isn’t worn.
Speaking of appropriate protection, one thing the CID observed throughout the plant was how serious they are about cleanliness. When employees arrive, depending on what area of the plant they work in, they will need to completely cover up and disinfect themselves before entering any area where meat is present. This includes a wipe down of sanitizer on safety helmets and boots, as well as gloves – and more sanitizer on top of the gloves.
Employee praise is rampant. From the raw meat department to the smokehouse, to processing, to packaging…. every person we encountered, in every department on the plant floor, was acknowledged and appreciated. Machines certainly help do the work, but it’s clear Smithfield’s people are the magic behind the product.
“Where is everyone?!” a supervisor yells. We were holding up operations in order to grab a photo!
“The supervisors are the heart of the plant,” says Reese. “They work hard every day to make sure everything runs smoothly, and are a huge asset to our overall operations.”
We noticed many key people taking pride in their work, from all departments on the plant floor. “We have good processes for moving the meat from raw to packaged, and good people to do that work,” says Reese.
So what does the future hold?
(We’re thinking they need to have a float in our Martin City St. Patrick’s parade but that’s a conversation for another day!)
“The sign is about the only thing changing,” says Vernon. Three shifts of packaging operations are in full swing going into the holiday season, with no plans of slowing down anytime soon.
Reese says they plan to donate an abundance of hams during the holiday season this year, most of them going to local charities, such as Ozanam, Harvesters, Cars for Christmas recipients, and a few others. They are also proud to be sponsoring the Royals for the second year in a row. #Takethecrown
We are super excited to have Smithfield Foods supporting our district’s initiatives and hope to provide as much support in return, to the entire “One Smithfield” team.
For more information about Smithfield and the “One Smithfield” initiative, please visit their website at http://www.smithfieldfoods.com