The Pelican Rapids Area Rotary Club recently welcomed Robert Gray as a member. Gray is an engineer at West Central Turkeys in Pelican, and he is pictured with two colleagues from the turkey plant who are also Rotary members, Todd Kampstra left, and Steve Foster.

The West Central Turkeys plant in Pelican Rapids is the tenth largest facility in the Hormel system, in terms of square footage. 

A glimpse of the operation was offered recently by Robert Gray, at the Pelican Area Rotary Club noon meeting. Hormel, the parent company of Jennie-O turkeys, has 42 locations around the nation. 

A mechanical engineer from Nebraska, Gray originally intended to work in the auto industry in engineering and design. But his path led to food processing, and he has worked in Oseo, Iowa; Knoxville, Iowa; Willmar, and now West Central for the past four years. 

The Jennie-O operation has about 650 employees, said Gray. With two processing facilties in Willmar, there are about double the number of employees there. 

The Pelican plant is a “further processing” facility, with its main output being lunch meats, turkey breasts and turkey bacon. West Central is not a “kill plant,” so whole turkeys are shipped to Pelican for further processing and packaging. 

It is an entirely different landscape here in the Pelican-Otter Tail County lakes area, said Gray. 

“There are no natural lakes in Nebraska, so it was a real change coming up here.” 

Football is the state pastime, and Huskers game day was like “4th of July, Christmas and New Years Eve all rolled into one.” 

A pilot, Gray has taken a special interest in the Young Eagles Aviation organization, which has a chapter in Fergus Falls. The program introduces flying to high school students from throughout the area. He has also taken a special interest in the Pelican Rapids city airport, and volunteered at the city and Rotary Club’s Fly In breakfast. He and fellow West Central Turkey Rotary members also recruit a large crew of volunteers for the annual Rotary Turkey Feed.