Today we’d like to introduce you to Tori Ahlmeyer.
Tori, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I believe everyone’s story is unique, and my story is no exception to that belief. As with many industries, people will often say that it isn’t about what you know but about WHO you know. This concept has proven exceptionally true for me in my career thus far. My passion for agriculture began on my small family farm in Southern Illinois. I’ve known since childhood that I was meant to be a part of the agriculture space, whether with animals or other avenues. Initially, my heart was set on veterinary medicine, but my experiences and choices led me in another direction. After high school, I was admitted to my dream school, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. There, I started down the pre-veterinary track. Throughout my undergrad, I participated in numerous jobs, clubs, and activities that allowed me to expand my interests and skills. These activities ultimately directed me away from the field of veterinary medicine to a specialized career path in the agriculture sector – more specifically, the poultry industry. My professional career began at the National Turkey Federation in Washington, D.C. As a national association, NTF exposed me to numerous high-level faucets of the turkey industry, such as the regulatory and legislative spaces.
Most importantly, working for this association allowed me to meet and build relationships with some of the industry’s best and brightest minds, from veterinarians to live production managers to company vice presidents. As my relationships and connections blossomed, I was awarded additional opportunities within the industry. Following my time at NTF in D.C., I moved to Indiana, working with a poultry health and hygiene company. I traveled to farms around the Midwest and helped customers address various poultry health and environment concerns with expertise and specialized product distribution. Seeing how farms operate in real-time and interacting with America’s hard-working poultry farmers provided me with incredible field experience. After gaining precious insight into the live-production side of the poultry industry, I accepted a job in Chicago, IL, with Tyson Foods. Again, I have been introduced to a new and exciting side of the agricultural industry, where I can have the space to make an impact and celebrate growth in my career.
Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Finding a passion is one of the most challenging yet rewarding missions one could embark on. My journey has not come without hurdles and obstacles. While finding my passion for agriculture and advocacy for the industry, I also found that I am passionate about arenas such as health, fitness, and mental wellness. In my recent past, I have struggled with an eating disorder, depression, severely low self-worth/esteem, and imposter syndrome, to name a few. In a world where we can glimpse into anyone’s life via social media on a minute-by-minute basis, it is hard not to succumb to negative self-talk, the comparison game, or believing that you aren’t as smart as you thought when others try to spread lies and misinformation. Through therapy and surrounding myself with a community of like-minded people, I have understood these obstacles and how to address them in a manner that suits me and my needs.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I work in Food Safety and Quality Assurance (FSQA) at Tyson Foods Inc., based in Chicago, IL. My department oversees the Prepared Foods business unit – which encompasses all of Tyson’s prepared foods facilities. Tyson-owned brands such as Hillshire Farms and Jimmy Dean produce some of the most loved prepared food items such as breakfast sausages, snacking trays, and corndogs. Often, my responsibilities and focus areas change on a day-to-day basis. The FSQA team focuses mainly on the food safety and quality aspect of food processing. Our team is in place to ensure that food products are being manufactured and produced safely for consumers. My team and I have a hand in everything from plant foreign material investigations to facility audits, policy and procedural record-keeping to team member engagement programs. I am most proud that I am a part of a company that feeds the world and provides Americans with jobs within our borders. Tyson is one of the largest food processors in the world, and without the sustainable and efficient food production practices Tyson employs, many parts of the world (and America) would be without safe, affordable food options.
What do you think about luck?
Luck accounted for roughly 35% of my life and career thus far. It may have been luck that got me into U of I, and luck that placed me in the presence of such great mentors and colleagues. The other 65% was hard work, believing in myself, relying on my abilities and staying true to who I am.