Introducing AAMP President Tom Eickman
The Illinois meat processor is AAMP's first third-generation AAMP president.Tom Eickman is a veteran of AAMP Board of Directors meetings, going back to his youth. He had attended those meetings years ago with his father, Michael, who was a board member as well. “Dad's always been very open and willing to take me along to different meetings,” he says. “That's why I kind of held off coming on to the board for a little bit, because I wanted to make sure that [son] Ashton would be old enough so that he would be able to be there and observe everything that that we're doing and that he can kind of have that same sort of experience.”
Tom, the owner/operator of Eickman's Processing in Seward, Ill., began his term as President of AAMP at this summer's convention in Charleston, SC. In doing so, he became the first third-generation AAMP president. His father Mike and grandfather Merlyn had served in the same role. Tom says that his father is still an important sounding board. “He stops in still once a week minimum just to say hi and check out the plant, but then he's also there for me to bounce ideas off of, whether they are for AAMP or for our business.”
Tom says that Eickman's has benefited tremendously from being an AAMP member, so joining the association's leadership was a way to give back. AAMP spoke to Tom to talk a little about his upcoming year leading the association.
What are your goals or areas of focus for the next year?
Membership has always been a focus of mine. I love when people ask me, ‘How many members does AAMP have?', and we're able to say we have 1700 members. That is 1,700 different businesses, different facilities, that each have families involved, and they have employees who have households. Our reach can be great with all that. I love to see the membership numbers be nice and strong.
I'm always working on trying to get people to realize the value that AAMP has as an organization. Outreach specialists are an underutilized aspect of our organization. Abbey [Davidson] and Nelson [Gaydos] are two individuals with a lot of brain power. When you have questions, when you have problems, they're huge resources to be able to tap into, and they're simply just a phone call away. I'm trying to get members to know that they're there, or they can connect with other members. When you have a problem, you're not in this alone; there are other people who have been there, had issues, done that.
What are some of the challenges that AAMP and its members are facing?
Regulation is always going to be the hardest part. We're a highly regulated industry in all aspects, whether it's coming from USDA, OSHA or EPA. Hopefully, we can have our voices heard beforehand by having some individuals on committees with the different organizations. We need to be able to provide a strong voice for our membership so that we can cut off any issues that might be facing us. I hate hearing that a plant is going to close up because they're tired of working with this issue, or they can't comply with this regulation. We try to use as many of our resources to get our voice out there, to show that we're important community members, and that each and every one of us is important in where we're from and what we do. We're not all just big, bad business. We're a lot of local individuals. In a lot of the communities that you see as you drive across America, we're part of that fabric that holds it all together.
On the other side, what do you see as some of the biggest opportunities for AAMP members and companies such as yours?
We make a lot of great specialty products. It's amazing the thought process that goes into it, the different flavor profiles that we can come up. We may not necessarily do the best marketing on them, but each of us makes these really high-quality products, and we love to sell them to our neighbors or friends. More and more of us are finding ways to sell them across state lines, and to the other side of the country; some are even looking at the export side of it and sharing what great products we can produce here.
We're all part of this large chain, and we all need each other, too. We need the large manufacturers, we need all the plants that can slaughter a large volume of animals in a day to help supply some of the guys that don't slaughter, to bring in raw materials. We saw that during COVID extensively, when all of a sudden, if you throw one part of the system out, it all starts to crumble. Whether we are big or small, we need to all come together and form this unified grouping and keep the whole system moving forward, which is where we want to go.