Many times, we think planning for the future includes contributing to a 401K or an IRA investment account, purchasing real estate, or for some stockpiling food and other necessities. While those are important, at Southwest Meat Association (SMA) we invest in the future in a slightly different way — investing in the upcoming generation of meat and poultry industry leaders. A few ways that SMA provides for the future of the industry includes hiring a summer intern, employing student workers during the convention, and awarding numerous SMA Foundation scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students during SMA’s Annual Convention each summer. 

The SMA Foundation was formed in 1987 using donations from SMA members interested in assisting students pursuing meat industry careers. The SMA Foundation is comprised of a select group of SMA members, including:

  • Jason Beyer of ABF Packing
  • Pat Nicholson of Farm to Market Foods
  • Troie Burch of Double B Foods
  • Jim Ondrusek of Pederson’s Natural Farms
  • Glen Kusak of Yoakum Packing
  • Don Rea of The Meat Board
  • and Rick Kimbrell of StartKleen Legacy. 

SMA Foundation scholarship fundraising is comprised of various events held throughout the year, including:

  • the Bob Ondrusek Memorial Golf Tournament
  • SMA Foundation live and silent auction
  • SMA Suppliers’ Showcase
  • annual dove hunt
  • various raffles
  • and through the generosity of SMA members.

Since 2012, the SMA Foundation has awarded $1,134,500 in scholarships. At SMA’s 66th Annual Convention this past July, the SMA Foundation was fortunate to award $117,000 in scholarships to 38 undergraduate and graduate students from various universities across the United States. 

With the start of SMA Foundation’s scholarship program nearly 40 years ago, many of those recipients are still in the industry today. A few of the recipients are now employed by SMA member companies. Some have even served on the SMA Board of Directors, including Michelle Wiggins with Eddy Foods, Tyler Kusak with Yoakum Packing, and Denise Hawks with ABF Packing. SMA’s very own Dr. Joe Harris, CEO, and president, was also a SMA Foundation scholarship recipient.

Other past scholarship recipients are now serving various roles in industry, ranging from:

  • food safety and quality control — Jonathan Savell, senior director of FSQA at Standard Meat Co.
  • sales — Mark Frenzel, territory manager at A.C. Legg
  • product development &mdash Amanda Smith, manager of product development at H-E-B
  • academia &mdash Dr. Loni Luckerk, associate professor of animal science at West Texas A&M University
  • advocacy &mdash Dr. Leslie Frenzel, director of youth programs at American Meat Science Association.

SMA’s internship program has grown in popularity.  The summer-long internship program encompasses event planning, marketing, and superb organizational and communication skills. The key takeaway from the internship is the networking environment. Many of SMA’s interns go on to receive additional internships and potential job offers from companies in the industry. 

Here is what previous SMA interns and scholarship winners had to say about the influence SMA has had on their careers:

“My involvement with the Southwest Meat Association as an intern and scholarship recipient allowed me to explore areas of the meat industry and learn more about how important it is to support packers and processors. As a current law student, I look forward to a career advocating for the meat industry, just like the Southwest Meat Association does for its members,” said Brittany Shipp, law student at Texas A&M University School of Law. 

Jenna Hunt with National Beef Co. said, “My internship with SMA influenced my career by exposing me to all the opportunities within our industry. I was able to meet countless industry leaders, attend research and educational presentations from academic leaders and work directly with large businesses in the industry. Being an SMA intern and scholarship recipient provided me the experience, connections, and knowledge that I needed in order to flourish and start my career in the meat industry.”

Meghan Clancy, research and development specialist at Standard Meat Co. said, “SMA scholarship support allowed me to successfully pursue undergraduate and graduate studies in the meat industry. Through SMA summer internships and conferences, I gained real-world experience, met one on one with industry leaders, and developed a broad professional network. Today, I work in a career I love, side by side with many of the people I met through those programs. I truly could not have done it without the financial and networking support of SMA.”

Investments and interest rates may change, but SMA’s loyalty to the upcoming generations of meat and poultry industry leaders will never waver.