For most people, the month of October consists of picking pumpkins, drinking hot apple cider, and trick-or-treating. However, for those of us on the farm, it’s the peak of harvest and a constant struggle between finishing the fall harvest, predicting what the weather will do along with other daily challenges.
In the morning, the combine waits in the field to continue harvest. Often times a mechanical problem arises and someone has to run to town for parts. A farmer has many different responsibilities and must be resourceful, sometimes, being a mechanic is just part of the job.
Fall harvest also demands participation from the whole family to keep the farm running. From holding down the fort and making field meals to taking care of the livestock and sorting pigs for market while selecting those to keep for breeding.
As I look over the landscape surrounding Clear Lake where I grew up, I notice undeniable changes, disappearing farmsteads that once stood as landmarks scattered every quarter mile, are now replaced by newer larger operations. For every one new operation, ten traditional farms have vanished.
Despite this, I am hopeful that family farms will be passed on to
future generations. After all, the company my father helped found and the company I work for now supports over 720 independent diversified, humane and sustainable family farms across the country. As the average age of the American farmer grows older, the Niman Ranch network attracts younger farmers reducing that average by more than 11 years.
This year during our 19th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner, Niman Ranch awarded $106,000 in scholarships to 32 students from Niman Ranch’s network of independent farm families.
A new award was also created this year in honor of my late mother, Phyllis Willis, and her dedication to humane animal treatment along with her passion to protect our natural resources.
We have so many young and talented people joining our network of family farmers that share that passion and commitment for humane and sustainable farming. Watching students receive scholarships and return to the farm to continue fall harvest makes me more hopeful than ever.
Here’s to a healthy and happy harvest for all our farmers.
By: Sarah Willis