Rutledge receives Lifetime Achievement award at convention
By: Roger Larsen of the Plainsman
HURON — One could call it a big Texas surprise for Ken Rutledge.
The president and chief executive officer of Dakota Provisions in Huron journeyed with his wife, Brenda, to San Antonio recently for the annual convention of the National Turkey Federation.
There, they joined Jeff Sveen of Aberdeen, chairman of the board of the national group as well as board chairman of Dakota Provisions, and others in the industry from South Dakota.
On the final night of the convention, it was time for Sveen to give his farewell address before handing the reins off to the incoming president, an individual from North Carolina.
It was also time to present the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Until Sveen began talking about Rutledge’s career highlights in the turkey industry — dating to 1973 and encompassing a number of key positions around the country – he had no idea his name would be called.
“I was presented the award, and it was very emotional, and it was totally unanticipated,” Rutledge said.
Adding to the surprise was the fact that his son, Scott, his wife, Linda, and their children, Gavin and Aubrey, were elsewhere in the convention hall, and stood when Sveen introduced them to the group.
Since its start-up in 2005, Dakota Provisions has become a major player in the turkey industry throughout the country and overseas.
Sveen’s speech to the hundreds of turkey industry officials from throughout the United States and overseas carried a theme of “Great Faces, Great Places” to promote South Dakota one more time before he left office as national chairman.
“It was really well received,” Rutledge said.
Sveen was the 72nd national chairman. Rutledge was chairman in 1995 when he was with a company in California. As chairmen, each presented turkeys to the president of the United States, Rutledge to Bill Clinton and Sveen to Donald Trump.
“So it was the second time somebody from Dakota Provisions presented a turkey to the president,” Rutledge said.
“We’re very well known in the turkey industry, we’re very well known around the industry with customers,” he said.
It’s unusual for a company such as Dakota Provisions to start from scratch.
But that’s what happened here, and over the years it has expanded from the basic plant and corporate office building on the east side of town, to two speculative buildings purchased on the north side of town, to a duplex built near the airport, to the Dakota Provisions West facility as well as Dakota Gobblers and the recently opened laboratory on Dakota Avenue South.