When the safety committee at the Hormel Foods Austin (Minn.) Plant welcomed a new leader, he quickly landed on a key to the team’s success. He began to ask where he could find more people like Rod Ryks. Everyone he approached laughed and told him, ‘He’s one of a kind.’”
Rod Ryks is a 21-year production professional at the Austin Plant. He’s also a recent recipient of the Hormel Foods jersey, designed to celebrate the inspired people who make the inspired food the company has long been known for.
“This is awesome,” he repeated as Plant Manager Clint Walters and previous Pride of the Jersey recipient Mark Turvey handed him the Hormel Foods hockey-style shirt.
Rod stood at the front of the room as Clint and Mark sung his praises. Sporting a dyed-pink beard and matching tie and head scarf, he also stood out. In addition to his work for Hormel Foods, Rod is committed to the community’s breast cancer fundraiser Paint the Town Pink.
When he slipped the bright-red Hormel Foods jersey on, it was a moment he won’t soon forget. Neither will those in the packed conference room who came to honor their friend and co-worker.
“We all come to work to do a job and do the best that we can. And to be recognized…it means a lot,” Rod says.
He grew up near the Austin Plant he has called home for more than two decades. He wanted to be part of the Hormel Foods team for as long as he could remember, so when an opportunity arose 10-plus years into his career as a grocery-store meat cutter, he jumped at it.
“My journey has been really good, really good,” Rod says. “This is a company that is diverse and it takes everybody to make things work. And things work well around here.”
I come to work each day with the attitude that your day is going to be what you make it.Rod
He is known for greeting everyone at the start of each day, often with a reminder to be safe. The latter is evidence of the passion Rod brings to his role as co-chair of the plant’s safety committee, a responsibility he gladly accepted.
“I really feel in my heart that everybody deserves to go home the way they came in in the morning or at night,” he says, quoting exemplary safety statistics from his area alone. “I truly believe that safety is our first goal…employee safety, food safety and safe animal practices. And this company does that.”
As committed to his friends and family as he is to his job, Rod’s annual work for breast cancer research and awareness is well-known. His inspiration is his wife, a nine-year survivor of the disease. Rod has amped it up this year, even by his standards, going pink and pledging to raise $10,000 for the Hormel Institute. Funding research is the answer, he believes.
“Twenty years ago, it [breast cancer] was a death sentence. Ten years ago, when my wife was diagnosed, she had a fighting chance. And she’s still here today.”
“His energy is infectious,” said one co-worker during the Pride of the Jersey ceremony. “The way he feels about those around him.”
Rod’s response is characteristic.
“I come to work each day with the attitude that your day is going to be what you make it.”
Pride of the Jersey is a yearlong effort to celebrate the culture, the people and the purpose of Hormel Foods, Inspired People. Inspired Food.™