Integrity, Caring, Commitment, Growth, and Teamwork – these are the core values of PIPESTONE. They serve as a road map for all employees in pursuing the company mission of Helping Farmers Today Create the Farms of Tomorrow. The David Neuberger II Core Values Award is an honor bestowed upon individuals who exemplify the Core Values in all facets of their lives. This year, the deserving recipient of this award is Mark Uilk, a dedicated member of the PIPESTONE family.
A Journey Unplanned
A career in the swine industry was not the plan for this young dairy farmer. However, his aspirations of returning to the family farm were altered by a challenging dairy market. Embracing new opportunities, and a suggestion from Dr. Barry Kerkaert led Mark to transition from cows to sows. The shift marked a significant first step in a career that now spans decades.
On April 1st, 1999, Mark started as a Swine Tech with PIPESTONE at a farm that was then called Red Rock/Split Rock. Over the next few years, he expanded his swine knowledge – learning the ropes as a farrowing tech and gestation lead, steadily climbing the ranks until securing the position of a site manager in 2005.
“The love of the job just turns into a way of life and once you get to that point, suddenly time just flies, and next thing you know it’s 20-some years later. One thing in my life that has always been solid is PIPESTONE. The leadership we have here is amazing – they make sure we stay solid,” comments Mark.
Facing Challenges with Resilience
Even an experienced site manager can be thrown a curve ball and 2023 did just that as Mark was challenged to lead multiple teams through devastating PRRS outbreaks. His resilience and commitment to the well-being of pigs and people have left a lasting impact on all who work with him. “He represents PIPESTONE so well, and it’s been inspiring to watch him grow and develop people with an unwavering commitment to the shareholders he serves,” noted Troy Woelber, Executive Vice President of Pipestone Management.
In the day-to-day, Mark leads his team by example, “It’s how you carry yourself mainly, what we do with our hands, how we talk, where we go with our feet – as a manager those things are easy to portray. It shows what we’re focusing on, whether it’s commitment to the job, caring for the safety of others, the integrity of being alone in the barn, or the pressures of working hard for the growth of the entire team,” explains Mark.
The David Neuberger II Core Values Award is not just a symbol of recognition; it signifies an individual’s impact on the success of PIPESTONE and the farmers they serve. Given annually to only one recipient, this award is a testament to the significant contributions made by the recipient. Nominees are evaluated on their understanding and commitment to PIPESTONE’s Core Values, agriculture service, and their involvement in the teaching and professional development of others.
Upon receiving the award, Mark expressed his humility and gratitude. “I’m so honored and humbled to get this award and to be part of PIPESTONE.” He attributes his success to the dynamic leadership of the company and the supportive work environment that promotes personal growth the performance. His advice for new employees: “Root yourself in day-to-day focus, find joy in what you are doing, and turn your job into a way of life. Galatians 6:7 says, “We reap what we sow.” We all have that choice.”
Mark still finds joy in his day-to-day and his recent move to the PIPESTONE-managed sow farm, Dakota Superior, has reignited his enthusiasm for sow production. His office window even overlooks the family farm where he spent his childhood; life seems to have come full circle.
As we celebrate Mark Uilk’s achievements, the David Neuberger II Core Values Award guides PIPESTONE employees on the path of excellence, commitment, and the pursuit of a brighter future for agriculture.