If ever there were a question about the focus of Hormel Foods, a larger-than-life sculpture gracing the front lawn of its global headquarters provides an unmistakable clue. Dubbed “The Big Fork — The Power of Food Sculpture,” the piece honors the potential food has to fuel our world. It is likewise a monument to those who work for the Austin, Minn., company. After all, they are behind some of the most beloved food products across the globe.
Rising 25 feet from the ground, the sculpture was designed and fabricated by Gordon Huether. From his studio in Napa, Calif., he’s been honing his craft for almost 40 years, working his magic for residential art and private commissions. However, it’s his public art projects that have arguably brought him the most acclaim.
A quick look at the sculpture, and you can see why.
Time to Fork Them Over
For starters, it’s a gigantic fork. It’s also clad from toe to tine with forks. Shiny, silver forks — both ordinary and spectacular – that catch the light.
In fact, it’s made from nearly 20,000 forks donated by Hormel Foods team members from throughout the world.
The company put a call out to team members to send in all manner of forks “for a future surprise.” Team members across the globe brought forks in from their homes – many of which had been in their families for years or even generations.
According to Deanna Brady, executive vice president of Refrigerated Foods, the movement grew out of a discussion about what it means to be – as team members like to say – a Food Forward company.
“We started thinking about symbols and our campus,” she says. “We really wanted a visual representation that signaled to our company, our team members and our community that we are a food company.”
Henry Hsia, a Hormel Foods marketing leader based near San Francisco, was boots on the ground. He began to take notice of thematic artwork in nearby Napa, widely acclaimed for its reverence for food. Some especially stood out – pieces by Gordon Huether.
We really wanted a visual representation that signaled to our company, our team members and our community that we are a food company.Deanna Brady, executive vice president of Refrigerated Foods
Henry researched and found the local artist. It took a few minutes to convince Darcy Huether, Gordon’s wife and work partner, that the call was really from the company, one that she knew so well. She was certain one of her cousins was playing a good-natured trick on her.
Unbeknownst to Henry, Darcy hails from Austin, Minn. Her family members have had deep roots in the community, and some even worked for Hormel Foods. She stopped in her tracks when she finally realized Henry’s call was sincere.
“Pretty much all my family has been influenced by, supported by or worked for Hormel Foods,” she says. She saw the beauty of the coincidence straight away. “This just has to be!” she said.
A Family Feeling
Nearly a year after work began, “The Big Fork – The Power of Food” sculpture was ready to make its debut. It traveled the 2,000-mile journey from Napa to Austin on a tractor trailer. Appropriately so, the installation took place in September 2022, just in time for Hormel Foods Spirit Week, an annual celebration of the company’s global team.
Deanna finds beauty in that. After all, she says, “We’re doing this for our 20,000 team members worldwide.”
“There’s a personal connection from the team, the Hormel Foods team, that were a part of the creation of that fork,” Gordon says. “I think that’s poetic.”
The artwork is now the centerpiece of Inspired People Plaza, a parklike setting on the front lawn of the Hormel Foods global headquarters building. It’s complete with tables and chairs, people and flowers during the warm-weather months. Not unlike a big, delightful, noisy family dinner, it’s their happy place.
Despite a career brimming with achievements and successes, Deanna is not likely to forget the day the sculpture came home to Austin – or home to the people to whom it’s dedicated.
“We’re doing this for 20,000 team members worldwide,” she says.
Chalk it up to yet another inspired idea from a company that wrote the book on them.
“When we have the opportunity to do a project like this that has a personal connection, of course it’s that much more meaningful,” Darcy says.