The Beginning: Willmar Poultry and Egg Company
Willmar Poultry Company (WPC) first opened its doors in July of 1945 under the name Willmar Poultry and Egg Company. The founders, Albin Norling, Albert Huisinga and Herman Nelson were turkey farmers who relied on processors to pay growers a fair price for their birds. The three men didn’t feel this was the case. In what would become a major theme for the next 75 years, those founders decided to take processing into their own hands; they believed they could do things better for themselves. Herman Nelson, Albert’s brother-in-law, soon sold out of the business, leaving the Huisinga and Norling families in charge.
From Small Family Business to Industry Leader
In 1951, Albert’s nephew, Ted Huisinga, joined the company and seven years after that, Albin’s son Ray came on board. Ted and Ray immersed themselves in the business and worked together to grow the company from a small family business to an industry leader.
Ted Huisinga and Ray Norling were at the forefront of the Minnesota turkey industry’s growth during the 1960s and 1970s. Following Albert and Albin’s theme of “we can do it better in-house,” Ted and Ray poured resources into research and development in all areas of the business. WPC began to ship its birds eviserated and on ice to prevent spoilage in lieu of the “New York-dressed” style, which was standard at the time. They designed plastic poult boxes to replace costly, single-use cardboard boxes. The new poult boxes were easy to sanitize and reuse, and they are the industry standard today. The leadership team worked cloesly with researchers at the University of Minnesota and other industry experts to track, control, and in some cases, help eradicate disease from Minnesota flocks. After a devastating hatchery fire in 1978, they adopted and perfected automated incubation controls in their new hatchery, which catapulted WPC to the top of the industry in poult production.
Need for Expansion
Albert Huisinga spent a lot of time in the 1950s and 1960s convincing local farmers to start growing turkeys, but the growers complained about the high cost of medications, barn supplies, feed and propane. To support those farmers, WPC purchased equipment, supplies, and medications in large amounts and began marketing farming equipment. WPC also began operating its feed mill, Farm Service Elevator, at this time in order to mill and mix local grain for turkey farmers. Sharing its bulk purchasing power allowed WPC to sell to those area farmers and give them a better price than they were able to get on their own.
This business model was so successful that in 1970, WPC created a retail branch (PALS – Poultry and Livestock Supplies) solely for the eqiupment, propane, medication and feed additive products. Once PALS was formally established, a warehouse was built at its present location.
Technology and Collaboration
After the hatchery fire and ultimate success of the incubation technology, Huisinga and Norling became known as businessmen who were not afraid to take a risk on new technology. In 1985, after most turkey farmers had moved from the Quonset style barns to the now iconic pole style barn, PALS began marketing the Pal-Tech Zone, a microprocessor that served as the brain to turkey barns. This technology both improved air quality and decreased energy costs by controlling the barn doors and air vents. This allowed each zone to receive its ideal air flow.
Accomplishments like the incubation technology and the PAL-Tech zone, and Ted and Ray’s reputation as R&D supporters, led entrepreneurs and researchers to seek them out to fund their ideas. Nova-Tech Engineering got its start because Ted and Ray funded the materials for Marc Gorans’s research into humane and cost-effective beak and claw treat prcesses. Epitopix was born becasue Ted and Ray funded Dr. Daryll Emery’s research into SRP technology. The Minnwest Technology Campus in Willmar exists because Ted and Ray, with Nova-Tech Engineering, had a vision of a technologically advanced, collaborative community for companies to start or grow businesses in all aspects of the life sciences. Select Genetics was formed in March 2017 by the merger of Willmar Poultry Company dba Ag Forte and Valley of the Moon Commercial Poults, an Aviagen company in direct competition with the Hybrid turkey breeds. The purpose was to expand the nationwide distribution channel for the high performing genetics found in the Nicholas turkey breeds.
Today, the Huisinga and Norling families continue to lead 8 affiliated companies, including PALS, with shared services provided by Life-Science Innovations, and employ over 1,600 people across the country. Their companies do business on six continents. They own the country’s largest private technology campus and continue to support high-level research and development to support and grow their foundational industry – turkeys. They place a high value on stewardship, excellence and trustworthiness. From a small processing plant to the country’s largest producer of commercial poults, the Huisinga and Norling families have paved the way.
PALS is located in Willmar, Minnesota. We market animal health supplies and equipment.