Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
From the day the company was founded in 1980, Kalona-based Brenneman Pork has sought to give back to its community.
“I can drive my kids to school and know 20 people as I pass by, and you really can’t do that anywhere in a city,” Public Relations Representative and Farrowing Specialist Erin Brenneman said. “You know everybody, you really are weaved into a small town, and you really are a part of that … You feel responsible for giving back to that, because you know you rely on them so much for you to even exist.”
That goal takes a number of forms. The business donates product to fire department breakfasts, school boosters and concession stands.
“We are in the business of feeding people, and we know how important that is to people, especially as times are getting weird and tough, and how important it is to have a nutritional, affordable source of food,” Brenneman said. “We also love to host elementary schools or bring ourselves to them. There’s lots of speaking engagements … we love to open our doors and let people come through and see what we do.”
Indeed, the company is a local operation, despite its size. Other than two out-of-state sow farms in Missouri to ensure piglet health, Brenneman said the operation stayed near its roots.
“It’s another thing that’s unique for our size of farm, we are not spread out. I think you can hit every one of our pigs within a 30-mile radius,” she said. “All of our corn is brought in by local feed growers … That’s something we really like, we want to be able to get our arms wrapped around it, it’s not something that we want to feel goes out of control.”
That’s a lot of pork: The company sends around 1.2 million pigs to market every year, a number that Brenneman said works out to feeding around 3.7 million people annually.
That level of production takes a lot of help. Brenneman said the business had around 100 salaried employees, plus 50-60 contracted growers. Much of that help comes from a younger than conventional workforce.
“One of the things that we really pride ourselves on is keeping youth here within the community and hiring youth,” Brenneman said. “If we can give youth the opportunity to get involved with the farm in some fashion and raise their families here and help grow this community, that’s something the Brenneman family and this farm is really passionate about.”
Brenneman said many found that fact surprising.
“When people on the outside think of the farming community, it’s not what they picture,” she said. “(But) the world of agriculture, the doors are wide open for anybody that wants to get in there and show up on time and work hard.”
Another unique trait of the company’s workforce is its degree of specialization, according to Brenneman.
“We like to specialize in jobs, you hone in on one thing you’re really good at,” she said. “To do one thing better than everybody else really helps you focus on your strengths.”
For all its quirks and mindful practices, Brenneman said that workforce was truly what made the company tick.
“It is the people, we have amazing, fantastic, uber-intelligent people, it’s incredible to work with them,” she said. “We just surround ourselves with so many great, smart people that every day it’s like you’re soaking up this wealth of knowledge, and there’s tough days, don’t get me wrong … but you surround yourself with those great people and it does make it worth it in the end.”