Doing Exactly What He Always Wanted

The world is full of people who don’t enjoy their work, people who are doing the last thing they would have imagined when they were young. How those unhappy people must envy Eric Vander Plaats!

Way back in elementary school he decided he liked working with pigs and he was one sad little kid when his dad got out of the swine business. So Eric figured he’d found the ideal part-time job when he went to work for Pipestone System as a high school senior. Today, he’s the manager of the System sow farm Dakota Superior—and still as happy with his job as when he was 18.

“What I like about our company is how much opportunity it offers employees,” Eric explains. “As the company grows, there is room for me to move up and stay with the organization that trained me in the beginning.”

“If you look back at my time here, you’ll see I started way at the bottom. I’ve been through what Pipestone System calls its Level-3 Program and the manager-in-training program,” Eric continues. “Essentially, they’ve taken a power-washing part-timer and made him a manager!”

Back in high school, Eric developed those power-washing skills at Buttercup sow farm near Elkton, SD. He continued working at Buttercup through his college at South Dakota State University. After he graduated from SDSU in 2005 with a degree in ag studies, Eric applied to work for the company he knows best.

“I was hired to work full-time at Buttercup where I was the gestation barn team leader until May 2006 when I was named assistant manager at Twin Rock (a sow barn in Pipestone System 13 miles northwest of Pipestone),” Eric says. “Then, in October 2006, I applied for the manager’s job at Dakota Superior.”

Once there, Eric took hold. When he arrived in 2006, Dakota Superior was saddled with a lingering memory of disease issues at the barn. Eric, along with eight full-time employees and three part-timers, worked hard to overcome that image. “In 2008, ours was the most-improved farm of the year!” he notes with pride. “Last year, we weaned 87,000 pigs.”

All that and he still found time to have a happy life outside the sow barn! Last summer Eric married Chelsea, an LPN from the Pipestone area. He never passes up an opportunity to work with his dad on the family farm and pursue his outdoor hobbies: fishing, ice-fishing, and snowmobiling.