Our 10 Best Stories and Recipes of 2015

We think 2015 was a great year. Some of the coldest days on record were experienced in Iowa, we gave more money than ever before to winners of the Next Generation Scholarship, and the best recipes yet were found to help make your time in the kitchen a little easier.

Here’s a look back at your top favorite stories – and recipes – from 2015.

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The Next Generation of Farmers

Scholarship Winners
The 2015 Next Generation Scholarship Winners in attendance at the Farmer Appreciation Dinner with Jim Wallace, Director of the Niman Ranch Live Team

Over the last 30 years, the average age of farmers has steadily increased to 58-years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that half of all current farmers are likely to retire in the next decade, leaving a large gap for the next generation to fill. This makes it incredibly important that we work to persuade our children and grandchildren not to leave the family farm. This is why we created the Next Generation Scholarship Fund, which awards over 20 students from farm families every year with funds to help pay for college.

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Niman Ranch Lamb Chili by Cody Hiemke

Few things are more satisfying on a cold Wisconsin day than a tasty chili and some homemade bread. I’m not sure I’ve ever made a chili the same from one time to the next, but the one consistent ingredient is lamb!  I tried to document this version, made for sampling at the Outpost Natural Foods in Milwaukee .

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Niman Ranch Joins the Perdue Family

It was announced today that Niman Ranch’s parent company, Natural Food Holdings, is being sold  to Perdue. This will not change the way we raise our animals, the quality of our products or our dedication to family farmers, ranchers and their local communities. It will allow us to grow our sustainable business and help our brand prosper into the future.

As many of you know, Niman Ranch began in the early 1970’s on an 11-acre ranch in a small coastal town north of San Francisco. The idea was to provide the community with the highest quality meat by practicing traditional, humane and sustainable animal husbandry. Fast forward 45 years later: Niman Ranch has grown to include a network of more than 700 independent family farmers and ranchers, spread across the country.

The growth of Niman Ranch is a direct result of your conscious eating. Like you, more and more people want to know where their meat comes from and how the animals are treated. By merging with Perdue, we’ll be better able to provide greater access to sustainable meat by growing the number of family farmers in our network and expanding our products into more cities to reach more consumers.

Perdue is an ideal partner to support Niman Ranch in this venture. Perdue is a US, family-owned company. In recent years, Perdue has become the leading producer of organic chicken, the leading producer of no-antibiotics-ever chicken and they also have no-antibiotics-ever turkey and pork. Niman Ranch matches Perdue’s leading position  as a trusted supplier of premium, branded proteins and aligns with Perdue’s belief in responsible food and agriculture. Together, Niman Ranch and Perdue will continue to raise the bar for raising and processing meat.

2015 Featured Chef: Oscar Acosta

Oscar Acosta Photo from RussIndian Creek Country Club
Executive Chef

Raised in a family where everyone cooked, Oscar Ascota’s love for great food was instilled early in life. He is Cuban-American, so pork to him is not just the “other white meat,” it’s the first meat of choice. At his restaurant, Indian Creek Country Club, he celebrates every occasion with a pig roast. His signature Cuban sandwich features pork on pork – slow roasted fresh ham marinated with mojo on boiled sweet ham.

He feels fortunate to lead the kitchens at a private country club that holds a rich tradition of culinary excellence. This allows him to source only the best products, which is what led him to Niman Ranch.  Oscar not only values the products for high quality, he is also a firm believer in the sustainability and family farming philosophies held by the company. He is truly honored to have the chance to give back to the families and individuals that work so hard to ensure that greatness translates to the center of his customers’ plates.