Sow 17 Assistant Manager
“Attack your day.” That’s the rally cry at the farm according to Jennifer, the assistant manager at Ochylski Sow Farm (Sow 17) located near Diagonal, Iowa. Jennifer—a crossfit athlete and trainer, mother of four children and a grandmother—applies her principles of positive thinking, encouragement and drive every day on the farm.
Fifteen months ago Jennifer had never stepped foot on a swine farm, but after a friend referred her to Iowa Select Farms she began her new career as a technician at Parker Sow Farm (Sow 16). After just a few weeks, both the farm manager and farrowing department head at the time saw something special in Jennifer. “Mike and Melissa took a chance on me, and starting teaching and training me to take on higher positions in the farm,” said Jennifer. Within a few weeks she was doing “day one” work, helping attend sows and provide special care to the baby pigs, and a few months later she had moved up again into the farrowing department head position.
Also a crossfit instructor in her spare time, Jennifer has a personal philosophy to never stay in one place. “I don’t take a job to stay at entry level. I am competitive, and am going to work my way up,” she says. When Jennifer joined Sow 16 they were climbing their way up the SelectPride list, and in Q2 and Q3 of 2015 they earned the coveted #1 spot, and she couldn’t have been more proud of her team.
In October of 2015, Doug, who had taken over as farm manager of both Sow 16 and 17, asked Jennifer if she would be interested in moving over to his other farm to be their breeding department head. Being transferred is a common practice within Iowa Select Farms as it allows employees the opportunity to cross train, be promoted to open positions or help troubleshoot, improve or enhance a farm. “I was terrified,” admits Jennifer, “but I don’t back down from a challenge so I took the opportunity and attacked it head on.”
In December, Jennifer was again promoted to assistant manager of Sow 17, working to still learn the breeding side of the farm while helping Doug with all of the daily operations at the site. “We have a saying, it ‘head down, attack your day,’” said Jennifer, who starts every day with a morning meeting to cover breeding goals, farrowing goals, the wean schedule and timelines. “I try to keep a positive atmosphere, that is the most important,” said Jennifer. “I am a firm believer that your attitude helps you succeed for the day, the week and the year, and that every person on the farm is important and they all have say.”
Jennifer knows some days will be challenging, especially as the team works to improve and hit their targets. “We are going to get there, said Jennifer. “We are competitive, and we’re going to improve this farm as a team, and chase after Sow 16.”
When asked about her contribution to the billion pound journey, Jennifer goes back to what she’s learned as a crossfit instructor and athlete. “It’s about creating a community, a place that is encouraging and a place where we teach. It’s not always about being the number one farm, it’s about encouraging those to better themselves, that’s what I want to bring to this farm.”