For Hormel Foods team members, there are few if any honors that rival receipt of the Pride of the Jersey. The prize is a rare one reserved for those who live the company’s Cultural Beliefs in the most extraordinary ways; the best of the best.
But for recipients Heidi Swenson and her father, Keith Hanson, there was something even sweeter: the joy each felt when the other earned the right to wear the coveted jersey.
Heidi earned the Pride of the Jersey in 2021; Keith was awarded in 2017, the year the program began. Now retired from his nearly 35-year career in the shipping department at the Austin (Minn.) Plant, he was out and about recently when his phone signaled a text message. It was Heidi telling Keith her exciting news.
“I thought, well, that didn’t surprise me,” he says. “She works hard. Her mom and I are both very proud of her.”
Heidi, a 15-year Hormel Foods team member and current compensation manager, received her jersey from Tommy Swearingen, director of labor relations and safety.
“When I think of Build Bridges, she is a constant partner in educating the business partners with wage data and statistics. When I think of Create Solutions, she looks for justifications and presents options. When I think of Speak Up, she isn’t afraid to challenge us and talk reality, and finally, when I think of Results Matter, she leaves most meetings with, ‘Let me know if there is anything else I can do,’” Tommy says.
When I think of Speak Up, she isn’t afraid to challenge us and talk reality, and finally, when I think of Results Matter, she leaves most meetings with, ‘Let me know if there is anything else I can do,’Tommy
For the past five years, Heidi has been in human resources at the company’s global headquarters in Austin, Minn. She steadily built her career while raising three children and pursuing a college education, earning her bachelor’s degree from Southwest Minnesota State University in 2009.
Heidi gives credit to her mom and dad for her accomplishments. Not only did they help with babysitting so she could attend university classes at night, they gave her values that have positioned her well for success.
Keith also credits his parents, “I had two very hardworking parents who instilled a good work ethic in me, and it has passed on to my kids,” he says.
Keith and Heidi both grew up in Austin, a members of the third and fourth generation of Hansons to look to Hormel Foods for their life’s work. “It isn’t really an uncommon thing,” Keith says. “Hormel Foods has been very good for the town of Austin.”
Keith’s father and grandfather worked at the Austin Plant before him. In fact, it was his dad who suggested he follow in his footsteps in the flagship plant’s shipping department. Keith is grateful he heeded the advice. Receiving the jersey the year before his retirement was the crowning achievement on a fulfilling job history. It also gave Heidi a treasured memory.
To keep his award under wraps, co-workers worked with Heidi to cook up a story.
“Heidi told me she was going to do a presentation and that they had agreed to let me come and watch her,” Keith says.
It really was just a ruse, however. Keith entered the room expecting to witness his daughter’s public-speaking skills. Instead, he became one of the first team members in Hormel Foods history to be honored with the company jersey.
“It’s not often that family gets to be there,” Heidi says. “That was really, really special.”