By Samantha Ludeking, Driftless Journal Production Manager
Meet Michelle Wood, Human Resources Manager at Waukon Feed Ranch (WFR). She has her hands full at the company, which employs around 200 people between all their different lines of service, managing licenses, certifications, trainings and more.
“The name is kind of misleading,” Wood noted, “it started as a family-owned and operated feed mill, but the family has grown the operations to meet many needs, and that’s just one of many parts of the business today.”
Wood grew up just outside the city limits of Waukon on her family farm and has always known about the WFR. When she attended Iowa State University in Ames for Ag Business, she took the opportunity to intern with the previous HR Manager, Nancy Everman. After graduation, she wanted to return to Allamakee County because of her interest in agriculture, enjoyment of outdoor activities the area has to offer, and ability to be close to family. After graduation in 2017, she applied for the position from which Everman was retiring, with about a year of overlap so she had a great foundation to know the position and responsibilities she took over in 2018.
“It’s a lot of coordination due to the diversity of operations,” Wood stated about her position. The company manages eight different farms with hog operations on contract in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. They produce and deliver many different blends of feed, manage grain shipments and deliveries as well as storage, a full line of agronomy and crop nutrition products including a drone applicator, a fuel station, LP delivery, a mechanic shop, a construction business and both short and long-haul trucking.
For Wood, that means managing not only employee information and personnel coaching, but managing certifications, licenses, physicals and trainings for CDL drivers, safety trainings for all departments, rules and regulations in multiple states and management of benefits. She also oversees the payroll manager and handles some public relations activities for the company.
Making things a bit more complex, the company has people moving into the state from across the country to work with them through work visa programs and is beginning to offer this externally to other farmers in the area.
“It’s important to make sure when we bring new people into the community that they become well acclimated and have all the resources to succeed here. With Waukon Feed Ranch being family owned and locally operated, it is very important to our whole team to be involved in the community, we especially like to support youth in agriculture,” she noted.
That’s a big job in a family-owned business that focuses on growth to meet farmers’ needs in the area. In her spare time Wood, the mother of two-year-old Hudson, farms with her husband, Taylor, growing crops, gardening and raising beef cattle for farm direct sales.
“We farm mostly at night and on weekends on our 240 acres we bought from Taylor’s Grandma in 2018,” she added.
She is also currently serving as secretary on the Allamakee County Economic Development and Tourism Board. Keeping busy is status quo for Wood, something not likely to change anytime soon.