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Frekings are MPPA Family of the Year

JACKSON -- New Fashion Pork is thriving because of the Freking family's commitment to old-fashioned values.And although the success of New Fashion Pork could allow the Frekings to live high on the hog, instead they focus on hard work, ethical and...

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Carolyn (front left) and Carroll Freking are shown with family: Bernie and Susan Hotovec, Linette Freking, and Meg and Brad Freking. (Submitted photo)

JACKSON - New Fashion Pork is thriving because of the Freking family’s commitment to old-fashioned values.
And although the success of New Fashion Pork could allow the Frekings to live high on the hog, instead they focus on hard work, ethical and fair treatment of employees and animals alike, progressive business practices and community service.
Those efforts led the Minnesota Pork Producers Association (MPPA) to name the Frekings the MPPA’s 2016 Family of the Year, a recognition the clan characteristically does not take for granted.
“It’s been a tremendous honor,” said Carolyn Freking of the recently bestowed award.
“We’re pretty tickled,” agreed Carroll. “And it says a lot for the kids.”
Family history
Carolyn and her husband Carroll, now in their mid-70s, raised four children - Christy, Susan, Bradley and Linette - along with many hogs at their rural Sioux Valley farm from the late 1960s through the early 1990s, always emphasizing personal responsibility, self-initiative and the importance of a good education.
“We expanded all through the years, and we were sort of getting bigger - we got up to something like 300 sows - but we never planned on it being anything like this,” chuckled Carroll.
“And then the kids took over.”
Today, New Fashion Pork is headquartered in Jackson, with Brad Freking as its CEO and managing partner. Two of his sisters, Linette and Susan, are also important parts of the business, as is his wife, Meg, who oversees New Fashion Pork’s information systems.
Founded in 1994, New Fashion Pork (NFP) employs over 400 people and owns 53,000 sows in six states, along with having interests in several related businesses (i.e., Triumph Foods and Daily’s Premium Meats). Annually, NFP markets roughly 1.2 million hogs.
“It’s all due to our kids,” credited Carolyn. “Brad’s intuition and vision have helped make the company what it is, and Linette has been with it since the beginning, too. Susan joined in shortly after it started.”
Brad and Meg (who grew up in the Alpha area) met as 4-H students. Brad went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal science at South Dakota State University (SDSU), while Meg majored in agricultural business at SDSU.
“Our kids all worked, growing up,” affirmed Carolyn. “If they had a 4-H project to do, it was theirs, not Mom and Dad’s - we had enough to do.
“When Linette, our youngest, was showing cattle, she’d get up at 5 a.m. to take care of her steer or heifer.
“We were a family that went to church every Sunday, sat down to meals together and demanded that their school work came before other things.”
Business expansion
Brad Freking’s education extended all the way to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota.
Nevertheless, Dr. Conrad “Connie” Schmidt of Worthington, who served as the Freking family’s veterinarian decades ago and was a mentor of sorts to Brad, foresaw a slightly different future for the Frekings’ only son.
“When Brad was growing up, he liked animals, and animal welfare and wellness were important to him and his parents even before they became hot topics - they were always excellent about taking care of their animals - but even though Brad did really well in school and is exceedingly smart, what he really wanted to do was use his veterinary medical knowledge toward innovations in the hog business,” observed Schmidt.
“He’s dedicated to excellence, he’s a good veterinarian and a hard worker, and he used his veterinary medicine background to help put together the system for NFP,” continued Schmidt.
“He knows about animal diseases, he knows about bio security, he knows how animals have to live to function properly, and all of that has helped him advance.”
Schmidt also mentioned that Meg developed important record-keeping systems that allow for tracking key index factors of pigs and their health.
“That’s a big part of putting it all together,” said Schmidt, noting Meg is the current vice president of MPPA.
Brad agrees assuring proper care of animals is vital.
“The care and feeding of the hogs and sows is an absolute foundational requirement to even be in our business,” said Brad. “The utmost care of our livestock is always a primary concern.”
Currently, NFP is taking what Brad calls “a significant step” in its involvement with Triumph Foods with the construction of a second pork processing facility in Sioux City, Iowa (it joined forces with Triumph Foods in 2006 for a pork processing plant in St. Joseph, Mo.). 
“The Sioux City facility is under construction now and will start up in 2017,” said Brad. “It will be similar to the JBS plant in Worthington in terms of size and scale, and a very high percentage of our hogs will be processed through our plants when that project is completed.”

Serving community, preserving values
In the midst of decades of business development, the Frekings have also been busy raising families of their own. Each of the Freking siblings involved with NFP has three children with their respective spouses.
“Meg and I have been married for 25 years,” said Brad, “and we have three boys.”
Brad said the ag economy has been “very robust,” but a challenge within it has been recruiting enough employees.
“We’ve been active in recruiting out of the universities, and have implemented some additional training programs to retain our current employees,” said Brad. “There are huge employment opportunities within the ag industry, and New Fashion is always looking for great people for the production side of the business - working with and caring for the livestock.
“But we also have a ton of opportunities for ag kids beyond raising livestock, and we work hard to match talent and retain those we bring on board.”
Brad is quick to share credit with NFP’s employee base for honors such as the MPPA Family of the Year distinction.
“You just can’t run an operation of this size on your own; it takes a lot of great people,” attributed Brad, also emphasizing that the MPPA honor is a recognition of “our entire family, not just of Meg and I.”
Attending to the needs of the communities in which they live and do business is a top priority for NFP, Brad assures.
“One of the hallmark programs our employee team has set up is a ‘Food for Kids’ backpack program that provides supplemental nutritious food for about 140 food-insecure kids throughout Jackson County,” said Brad. “That’s been a significant endeavor our team launched, and it’s in its second full year.”
Brad also cites NFP’s “tremendous support” of 4-H, FFA and other programs within the Jackson County schools.
“We encourage our employees to be involved as volunteers, and during the holiday season, we adopt families in need in three different counties [Jackson, Martin and Emmet in Iowa] to share both gifts and food,” Brad revealed.
Because NFP has succeeded to date with committed employees and a family foundation, Brad confirms it would be fulfilling to see it continue with the next generation.
“Our dream would be for our three boys, or for at least one or two of them, to be actively involved in the business, but our oldest is just 16 so it will be a few more years before those decisions are known or made,” Brad admitted.
Brad thanked the NFP team for nominating the Freking family for the MPPA honor, and he also gave a shout-out to Worthington.
“We have a feed mill in Worthington - the old Nutripro feed mill - and we appreciate all the local support we get from Worthington, from our corn suppliers and from our employees there who facilitate our business,” endorsed Brad.
So with the responsibility of marketing 1.2 million hogs annually, what is the favorite pork product in the kitchen of Brad and Meg Freking?
“With three boys, it has to be bacon,” laughed Brad. “The bacon from Daily’s is of outstanding quality - just don’t overcook the bacon.”

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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