Whoever said it’s lonely at the top didn’t know Jody Long. As the manager of the Jennie-O Faribault (Minn.) Plant, he is surrounded by team members who admire and respect him. So much so, they gave him the Pride of the Jersey award, an honor reserved for those who exemplify the values of Hormel Foods.
“Everything that jersey is meant for – Jody embodies it in every category. His leadership, his mentorship; he’s the person you need for a business like ours,” says Mustafa Abdille, human resources manager at the location.
Jody was honored at a weekly gathering of the plant’s managers. In addition to the distinctive hockey-style shirt, Jody received focused recognition cards from his direct reports. Many cited Jody’s belief in the importance of listening to team members – whether it’s personal or professional.
“I’m not very often at a loss for words,” Jody says. “But I was surprised.”
At the same time, he thought about so many others who are worthy of the Pride of the Jersey. “As a plant manager, it’s your people who make you successful,” he says. “I’m honored, but there are a lot of people who work for me who deserve it more than I do.”
Mustafa disagrees. His manager has been a game-changer.
“Jody has really helped move this plant in the right direction, and we’re all better for it. That pretty much seals the deal right there,” he says.
Among the many ways Jody has guided the Faribault Plant includes welcoming deaf people into its community of workers. The endeavor has enriched the location and earned national recognition for the company. And yet, the team was at times perplexed by the prospect and worried about how to ensure effective communication and Safety First, often considered the primary Hormel Foods Cultural Belief.
“As a plant, we were trying to figure out how it was going to work,” Mustafa says. “Jody put it as simply as possible. ‘This is just an individual who speaks another language. This is a new language barrier we need to bridge.’ Once we looked at it from that perspective, the rest was pretty simple.”
Everything that jersey is meant for – Jody embodies it in every category. His leadership, his mentorship; he’s the person you need for a business like oursMustafa Abdille, human resources manager
Jody has been with Jennie-O for 24 years, including a number of years with the company that preceded Hormel Foods ownership. He’s served as plant manager of the Faribault location since 2015. As he looks back on years at the helm, it’s fair to say the thing of which he is most proud is the facility’s diversity, equity and inclusion record.
“I think that’s one of the things Faribault is known for: giving everyone opportunities. We have the same standards for everyone,” Jody says.
Acceptance of all people is more than a corporate objective for Jody. It’s a life goal; a value that informs his life and his decisions.
“I grew up in a small town with no color,” he says. “When I got outside of that cocoon, I traveled the world 1,000 times because of the people I met.” Knowing better caused him to do better at work and at home. “I raised my kids differently than I would have. I have a different take on life.”
Jody and Barbara, his wife of 36 years, have three adult children and three grandchildren, with a fourth on the way. He credits all of them with being understanding and supportive, especially at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when hours were longer than usual.
“In this business, you put a lot of time in at work – and COVID required even more of us. My wife has been phenomenal through all of it; my kids have been supportive the entire time,” Jody says.
And so has the team. “The first year, was exceptionally busy. ‘We’ll tell you if we’re tired,’ they kept saying. I’m so proud of how hard they worked, how committed they were.”
When there is down time in Jody’s life, he fires up his smoker and cooks for friends. “I use Hormel Foods products 100% of the time,” he laughs. Before COVID-19 broke out, he and Barbara were dipping their toes into barbeque-competition waters. “COVID sort of derailed that,” he says.
He also enjoys a SPAM® sandwich made with SPAM® singles and a slice of cheese. “I eat SPAM® products four times a week,” he says. “I’ve loved it since I was 4. That’s the truth.”
Food figures prominently into the culture of the plant as well. The location is known for staging potluck meals with international fare that’s representative of the team Jody has helped build.
As COVID-19 restrictions are easing, shared meals are coming back.
“It’s getting better now. Our potlucks are coming back,” he says. “We’re working to keep our family atmosphere, while still focusing on safety. It’s part of what makes us different.”