Dakota Farmer

Wholestone Farms adds pork processing capacity at 2 plants

A new plant will be built in Sioux Falls, S.D., and upgrades will be made at the Fremont, Neb., plant.

Kevin Schulz, Editor

June 29, 2021

2 Min Read
Wholestone Farms rendering new plant to be built in Sioux Falls
BRIGHT PORK FUTURE: An artist rendering depicts the new pork harvest facility to be built in Sioux Falls, S.D.Wholestone Farms

More pork harvest capacity is on the horizon, as Wholestone Farms plans to build a state-of-the-art facility in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Wholestone Farms, based in Fremont, Neb., has purchased property in an industrial park on the east side of Sioux Falls. Scott Webb, Wholestone Farms CEO, says construction is expected to start in spring with a completion date of early 2025.

“We would start up as a one-shift operation, processing 3 million head per year,” he says, adding it’s “an ideal location due to its proximity to several of our producer-owner farms.”

Wholestone Farms is comprised of more than 200 independent producer-owners that collectively market 12 million hogs annually. These farm families are primarily located in Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota, with a few producer-owners located in Illinois and Indiana.

Fremont to add shift in 2024

The Fremont facility operates one shift and harvests about 3 million head per year. “We’re in the process of making major improvements, some of which include the installation of a linear cut floor, modern robotics, building a new rendering facility, additional coolers and expansion to the on-site barn,” Webb says. “These large investments will prepare us for a second shift starting in 2024, allowing us to process approximately 6 million head annually,”

Upon completion of the more than $500 million Sioux Falls plant, Webb says more than 1,100 workers will be employed at the South Dakota plant. Finding that large of a workforce does not intimidate Webb, as he sees time is on the company’s side.

“We’re in 2021 right now, and it would be probably 2024 before we’d start hiring people, so a lot of things could change. I mean no question that labor is tight today coming out of the COVID pandemic, but I think as things settle back down over the next couple of years, we feel pretty confident in our ability to get to labor,” he says.

“We work really hard to be the employer of choice, and in the way we treat people and being competitive with our wages and really good benefits for employees,” Webb says. “So, we will cross that bridge when we get there, but we feel pretty good about that because we do have time on our side.”

The Fremont facility was built by Fremont Packing Co. in 1946 and was purchased a year later by Hormel Foods. Wholestone Farms bought the plant from Hormel in 2018, and processes about 520 million pounds of finished product annually.

The new construction at the Sioux Falls plant will be designed to also accommodate a second shift. “It’s just a matter of how long it takes to ramp it up from hiring people and getting people trained,” Webb says.

He says it would likely be 12 to 15 months upon plant completion before a second shift is added at the Sioux Falls plant.

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

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