We began our day at 7:00 AM at the Hormel Plant, where we were welcomed by Jeff Grev, VP of Legislative Affairs and Mr. Clint, Plant Manager.

We learned that George Hormel started the company in 1891, harvesting 610 hogs the first year.  The existing Austin plant which was built in 1982 is housed on the original site.  The Austin plant harvests 19,000 hogs per day and approximately 5 million annually.  Of the most interest to us of course was the amount of SPAM produced annually which was 95 million pounds! In Austin alone, Hormel employs 1880 people.

Food and employee safety are paramount for the Hormel Company and in 2018, the least number of safety incidents in company history were reported.  We were then given an extensive informational tour of the packing plant.

Our next stop of the day was the Hormel Institute, where we were guided by Brenna Gerhart, Development Associate for the Institute.  The Hormel Institute is a cancer research facility funded by the Hormel Foundation which focuses on alternative cancer remedies.  Each lab at the Institute works independently on their research projects and is fortunate to have the only Cryo computer in Minnesota to utilize for the projects.  Next, Gail Dennison, Director of Development and Public Relations Executive Director of the Hormel Institute discussed with us the research facilities, staff and fund raising for the Institute.  Dr. Morris who is focusing on stem cell research explained her use of microscopic imaging, tumor histopathy and the prediction of tumor metastasizing.

After a fabulous lunch at the Old Mill Restaurant, located along the Cedar River, we then met at Absolute Energy and were welcomed by Rick Schwarck, Founder and President along with Tim Hauge, Director of Purchasing.  They discussed with us the quantities of corn processed through the plant along with the products that are produced by Absolute Energy for use in the Ag sector.  Tim then took us through all the stages of the plant to observe how corn is processed to produce ethanol.

We then met up with our designated groups to discuss with an Austin community leader “Exploring Austin’s Strengths.”  We had on Monday in the same small groups done some brainstorming on questions we each wanted to ask our leader concerning the Austin community.  We asked questions concerning how these leaders have observed the Austin community has evolved in their experience, what were positive as well as negative impacts on the community, along with many others that were more specific to the individual and the responsibility they had in the community.  All of these questions were to assist us to work to improve our own communities by using the experiences and observations of others.

As a group we were very fortunate to be granted a private tour and Social at the SPAM Museum and shop.  We appreciate the effort Jeff Grev made to give us this opportunity to view this important historical component of the Austin landscape.  It was interesting to view the story boards and exhibits depicting how the Hormel plant began and has changed over the years. All of the food served to us used SPAM as an ingredient, including the cookies.  An opportunity was given to everyone to make a Christmas ornament using an empty SPAM can if we chose.  Amazing how a group of adults raging in ages of 25 to 60 can act like children when given glue, pipe cleaners, and ribbon….

The final event of the evening was for all of us to meet with our EQ-i coaching groups and have dinner together to catch up and further expand and grow our Emotional Intelligence.  We have all become closer in these groups and utilize our peers to assist us with difficulties in our lives as well as having them as cheerleaders.

Submitted by Angela Hopp


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