At the Purina feed plant in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, business is booming. As a part of the Land O’Lakes, Inc. feed business, the plant oversees the production of Purina brand livestock and lifestyle animal feeds, servicing dealers, as well as farm and fleet stores and livestock producers in the Northeast region.
And every day, it’s people like Chris Brady and his team at Harrisburg who make the best animal nutrition possible. We recently sat down with Chris to catch up and learn more about his path to the plant.
Thanks for chatting with us today. First up, tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up and went to school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which is about 20 miles south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
When I was 20 years old, I enlisted in the Army. I did basic training in Alabama, and then was stationed at Fort Myer. There, I worked at the Arlington National Cemetery assisting with funerals for military personnel. Next, I went to Johnston Island, which is far out in the ocean, about 800 miles southwest of Hawaii—or about 50 feet from the sun.
After that, I moved around a bit and somehow managed to make it back to Harrisburg, where I started my career with Purina in 2006.
How exactly did you end up at Land O’Lakes?
This is a funny story. When I first applied for an elevator operator position, I seriously believed that the job would entail me taking skids of butter (because the position was listed under Land O'Lakes) from one floor, press a button in the elevator and away I’d go!
I was surprised when I found out what the job actually entailed, because I had no idea Land O'Lakes was an agriculture company or that Purina was a part of the business. But I knew it was a great company to work for, and I knew if I got the job, I could work my way up. I was willing to work as hard as I could, regardless if it meant pushing buttons in an elevator or taking ingredients off of a truck.
Clearly, you got the elevator operator job.
Yes, when I first started at Harrisburg, I was an elevator operator. Just over a year later, I was promoted to the mixer operator position with lead man responsibilities. Another year later, I moved to my current role of second shift production supervisor.
Did you ever imagine you’d end up working in the agriculture industry?
No! Coming from a military background, I figured this would be a temporary position until I found a permanent position in law enforcement. But once I started working at the mill, I discovered that I wanted to be here for the long haul. The guys on the shift became my family, and my vision of the future changed from being a policeman to working my way up in the company.
What’s your typical day look like?
The only thing that’s typical is that I work from 2:30 p.m. to about 1:30 a.m. Otherwise, there's always a different challenge, which makes my job exciting. My day depends on the customers and what needs to be made, if the machines are functioning correctly, if the plant has the correct amount of ingredients, that sort of thing. Each day is different than the one before.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
The team I have is the best part. They make the challenges we come across easier because we all work together. And we work very efficiently, which can be seen in our numbers.
There is one thing I always do to lead my team—trust them. I believe that if I tell my team the expectations of the night, they will figure out together on how to achieve those goals. My job is to empower my team to do their jobs. And if they ever have questions, they know they can always come to me. I enjoy being a supervisor to such a great team.
Have you had any particularly memorable days?
This actually happened not that long ago. Just so everyone is aware, on a typical 11 hour shift, we bag off somewhere between 7,500 - 8,000 feed bags. One day, we came into our shift and saw a large lineup.
Turns out, my line operators had set a goal for themselves that they were going to get out 10,000 bags. By the end of the shift, the whole team had exceeded that goal. Not only did it feel good to hit the goal, but it felt great knowing the reason why we achieved it was because we worked as a team.
One last question. What do you do for fun, outside of work?
I enjoy going to amusement parks with my daughter, Izzy. If the ride is fast and goes upside down, you'll see me on it. And if the Ohio State Buckeyes are playing, you’ll find me in my basement, rooting for my boys.