Mary Kraft Recognized as Select Care Excellence Award Winner

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“I guess it’s how I am with people,” Mary softly replied to a radio broadcaster who asked her about why she was being recognized with the SelectCare Excellence Award. That was her full answer, as the broadcaster picked up the cue to move on.

We won’t know if her red cheeks were from the attention or from the cold of Operation Christmas Meal, but what do we know is that Mary never saw this recognition coming, nor did she expect it.

Which is crazy, if you ask anyone who knows her.

Human Resources Supervisor Dana Spree says Mary will do whatever it takes to make her team successful—training, coaching, supporting, and sometimes just being understanding when times get tough.

Julie Haas, Mary’s longtime farrowing department head, recalls a time when there was a single father who worked at Erikson. “I was up in the breakroom when I heard him telling Mary he may not make it to work the following day because he was almost out of gas, and payday was still a few days away,” said Julie. “She loaned him some money for gas to get to work, but more importantly, to get his daughter to school.”

Julie says over her nine years working with Mary that there have been many times when Mary, herself, and others have helped employees with Christmas gifts and coats and mittens for their children. “She cares some much for all of us, especially when she seems people struggling.”

Julie says Mary has also has the ability to change people for the better. “I’ve never been a hugger,” said Julie. “I have a hard personality and really bristle if I see someone moving in,” she laughs. “But Mary hasn’t stopped trying to hug me for nine years now and a few years ago I actually started hugging back. My husband has noticed how I’ve softened, and she’s made me a warmer, kinder person.”

Spree says that some people who may have struggled with job responsibilities elsewhere have flourished under Mary’s coaching, guidance and encouragement. “She creates such a positive culture on her farm,” said Spree. Her leadership team is tenured and strong with allows many the opportunity to work closely with new or transferred employees.

Mary’s boss, Mark Lee, said she’s extremely dedicated to her farm and her team, part of what makes her an excellent sow farm manager. “Mary holds herself and her people accountable to provide great care the animals and exceed production goals. Last year the team increased pig age, increased PCP (pregnancy confirmed positive) rates, lowered pre-wean mortality rates, developed their ventilation know-how and heightened their biosecurity culture. She is excellent at receiving and administering coaching and she knows what she’s doing.”

Noel Williams, Chief Operating Officer for Iowa Select Farms, says her caring nature and personality are how many know her, but unless you work really close with her, people aren’t able to see how well she raises pigs.

“When we were deciding which farm to retro fit to evaluate open pen gestation, we chose Mary’s farm because we knew she would make it work and could help train others,’ said Noel. “Not without trial and error, but she made it work and we all learned from it. Her abilities and contribution helped us help train others, and it was one reasons we took it across the system.”

For those who know Mary, knows she dislikes talking about herself, and is most proud of the accomplishments of her family. Her husband, Aaron, manages Primrose Sow Farm and her son, Jordan, is his farrowing department head. Mary’s daughter, Kaci Pohlman, manages Jamestown Sow Farm. Her other son, Jake, is the breeding department head at Thorsen Sow Farm. Even her youngest daughter, Kylee, is involved—she helps stock the Little Free Pantry in Riceville.

Dean Reddel, who has worked for Mary for over 20 years at Erikson Sow Farm sums up what makes Mary so deserving. “It’s that she will do anything to help a person, her farm, or the company out. She has such compassion for her team and the animals—she’ll do anything to make things better for everyone.”

Reddel, we believe, sums up what so many are feeling—“I’m proud to know her, and proud to work for her.”

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