Niman Ranch Farmer Ambassador Welcomes Spring and New Beginnings on her Family Farm

Once a Reluctant Farmer, Gina Gadient Reflects on the Joys of Life on the Farm

Hello, my name is Gina and I live in Eastern Iowa, on a farm I like to refer to as ‘God’s Country’. My husband, Randy, and I farm approximately 400 acres with the help of our children. Not only am I proud to be a farmer’s wife, I am proud to be a farmer! We have a farrow-to-finish operation with approximately 150 sows. That means we raise the pigs from birth to market. The market-ready pigs are sold to Niman Ranch. We also have 65 stock cows.

I was raised on a dairy farm down the road from where we now live. Being the youngest of nine children, we all had our share of work to do on the farm. We had a huge garden and sweet corn patch that could feed several families. Summertime was spent putting up close to 3,000 small square hay bales in the barn along with straw bales for livestock bedding in late July. We did not have the modern-day tractors or equipment that some farmers had. I told myself when I was young I was never going to marry a farmer because we didn’t have much time for life off the farm … Here I am almost 30 years later farming and enjoying life.

As spring is slowly showing her face, we are preparing for farrowing and calving season. This week, in fact, we should be seeing signs of baby life on our farm. Spring is a refreshing start of new beginnings. That also means long days and lots of concerns. My responsibility is to monitor the farrowing sows. They each have a wooden hut of their own, which my mother used to refer to as pig condos and I call birthing suites. I walk through the sows various times a day, ensuring they are positioned right for birthing, the piglets get their first milk, and the bedding is clean and fresh. Randy and I also keep a close eye on the cows at birthing time. Binoculars are a great investment for monitoring cows during calving season. I do enjoy this, especially when the weather is cooperating. There is no ‘fair weather farmer’ on our farm. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we are out with our pigs and cows.

As farmers, being able to be our own boss is a blessing. When we’re working on the farm, we know it is to benefit your livestock and livelihood. I believe Randy and I raised our children, now 23 and 18, to be hard workers. Growing up and just working on the farm can be fun and rewarding. From morning grunts from our pet sows to bottle-feeding baby calves, there is nothing better than a day on the farm. Being able to watch a beautiful sunrise and a spectacular sunset makes a hard day rewarding.

I sometimes wonder what people who live in town do all the time, they probably have super clean houses and cars, but I feel they miss out on the little things in life – the farm life.

Happy trails, Gina

Niman Ranch Announces Farmer-to-Farmer Grant Program

Guest post by Abby Larsen who farms with her husband Kyle for Niman Ranch in Iowa

My husband, Kyle Larsen, has been putting more gravel in his travel this winter. He is logging more miles not only because our farrow-to-finish hog farm has expanded to more sites, but also because he has eagerly attended as many Niman Ranch regional meetings as possible to tell other farmers about our “Pay It Forward” program. The new “Pay It Forward” program awards grants funded by Niman Ranch farmers for Niman Ranch farmers to support farm and breeding stock expansions and overall operation improvements.

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Continuing the Traditional Farming Family Legacy with April Wilson of Seven W Farm

April Wilson and her family have been raising hogs for Niman Ranch for more than 20 years on their diversified farm in Iowa. Established in 1959 by her grandfather, Ernest Wilson, Seven W Farm is a model for regenerative, earth-friendly farming practices. April works alongside her mother and father, Lorna and Dan, two brothers and their wives, together growing corn, soybeans, small grains and hay and raising chickens, sheep, cattle and an organic dairy herd.

Her Roots 

April is deeply connected to her family farm. After graduating, she briefly moved off the farm and spent a short stint living in the city. But that didn’t last too long, feeling a call to return to her roots. “Farming is a part of who I am and I missed it,” April recalled, and she was eager to get back on the land and continue as the next generation. “It means the world to me to know that I can carry on my family’s legacy working the land and taking care of the animals, something that my grandfather did his entire life.”

April takes immense satisfaction in sowing seeds, watching them grow and having her community enjoy the results. She takes pride in knowing that not only does she support her neighbors but also offers a choice for people across the country who want meat from animals raised humanely to create the best flavor and quality.

The Niman Ranch Community

The Wilson family have been raising hogs for Niman Ranch since the fall of 1998. They identified with Niman Ranch’s unwavering commitments to animal welfare, family farming and sustainability, all important values to the Wilsons. She credits Niman Ranch with understanding the hard work and creative thinking that goes into raising their hogs to the highest standards and how that directly impacts the quality of meat produced.

Over the past 20 years, April and her family have found camaraderie and community from the Niman Ranch network of other like-minded hog farmers, providing her with a sense of commonality. “These farmers know how hard we have to work to raise our livestock in a pasture-based system,” she explains, and this community has helped share knowledge, new innovations, and traditional farming practices that otherwise might have been lost with time.

In fact, April believes that the best way to get started farming is to look to your elders and get to know the older farmers.  “Build relationships with farmers who are getting ready to pass on the farm and traditions,” she recommends. Farming is an extremely challenging way of life, especially when starting out, and identifying a support network is essential. Niman Ranch can help provide that support, community and guidance.

Preserving the Land

As a third-generation farmer, April is keenly aware of the importance of protecting farmland so it can be enjoyed by those who follow in her footsteps. The Wilson family incorporates countless practices on their farm to preserve their lands and waterways. They plant cover crops to build soil health, practice rotational grazing for their livestock, have tree buffer strips to reduce runoff, and use organic practices to reduce the use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers.

A core pillar to their sustainability commitment is diversifying what they grow and raise on the farm. This tenet supports biodiversity, soil health and farm resiliency. April notes that the industrialization of agriculture is the biggest change she has encountered in her years of farming. “Independent family farms are rare,” she observers. “There are fewer farmers and the farms are bigger.” This hollowing out of rural America is a troubling trend, with fewer farm families resulting in fewer schools, grocery stores, shops and doctors. In fact, Iowa lost 24,600 farms from 1982 to 1997 and, since then, the state has lost another 8,000 farms.

Looking Forward

With an eye towards the future, the Wilsons want to help more farmers stay independent, support their local communities and preserve the environment. April feels that her role in the community is to encourage others to farm sustainably using traditional methods. She wants to help them follow their dreams, as she has been able to do and what she hopes for future generations.

To support small and mid-size farms like Seven W Farm, people need to learn more about where their food comes from and vote with their dollars. April appreciates that Niman Ranch focuses on educating consumers about the food system and regularly brings people out to farms to see first-hand how the animals are raised.  April believes that when people can touch, feel and truly experience the farm, they will develop a connection to their food and will make educated choices at grocery stores and restaurants.

April recommends that all eaters “take the extra time to learn where your food comes from and put their money toward good, quality, healthy food sourced from farmers who take extra care in raising their livestock humanely and sustainably.”

Niman Ranch Gets to Know Executive Chef and Owner Jeff Smedstad of Elote Café

Elote Cafe Chef Jeff We were so excited to get the chance to sit down with executive chef and owner, Jeff Smedstad of Elote Café in Sedona, Arizona. We asked Chef Jeff everything from what inspired him to become a chef to what his last meal on earth would be…Trust us, we were not expecting it.

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Niman Ranch Family Farmer Q&A: Brad and Kirsten of Quit Yer Belly Achin’ Acres

Niman Ranch Family Farmer
Brad and Kirsten of Quit Yer Belly Achin’ Acres

Meet Niman Ranch family farmers, Brad and Kirsten Eckerman of Quit Yer Belly Achin’ Acres, a family-owned and operated farm located in Southern, Wisconsin. These two hard-working farmers raise hogs humanely and sustainably for Niman Ranch. Without these two and the help of their two kids, Brad’s dad and grandfather, Niman Ranch wouldn’t be the same.

We love sharing Q&A’s with Niman Ranch family farmers, and lucky for us, Brad and Kirsten took some time to come inside from their daily chores and a full-time job to answer a few questions about sustainable farming and what it’s like to be a Niman Ranch family farmer.
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Niman Ranch and West Coast Prime Host Good Food Celebration at APL Restaurant

By: Wendy Meadley, good food evangelist and communications leader collaborating with the James Beard Foundation, Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Chefs Collaborative and other leading organizations in the culinary arena.

Last week, I was honored to attend a special dinner event co-hosted by one of Niman Ranch’s independent distributors, West Coast Prime Meats and Chef Adam Perry Lang.

The event took place at APL, in Hollywood. More than 150 industry notables oversold the event spilling into every space including the kitchen, which became part of the theater of the evening. These chefs, industry professionals and food system thought leaders truly care about how food is produced. I left the event convinced that the Good Food Movement is alive and well in Hollywood and throughout Southern California.

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Niman Ranch Q&A with Pinch Chinese

 

Pinch Chinese - Chef Hua Zhang

Located in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City, Pinch Chinese, is making headlines for their delicious dishes and are being featured on websites like The New York Times, Eater, and Chowhound. Of course, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to interview, Chef Hua Zhang and learn more about his passion for cooking and why he uses Niman Ranch at Pinch Chinese.

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Niman Ranch Scholarship Recipients Attend the National Young Farmers Coalition Convergence

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. on behalf of Niman Ranch to attend the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) Convergence. This was their fourth annual event, bringing in about 100 farmers from all around the country. When attending something like this that’s so far from home, it’s always nice to see some familiar faces. Fortunately for me, I was not the only Niman Ranch attendee. Raeanna Crile, a Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation Scholarship recipient whose father raises hogs for Niman Ranch, flew in from Dordt College for the convergence. Kerri McClimen, who leads Communications for Niman was also there to support the partners and provide guidance.

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Our Favorite Media Moments of 2018

Can you believe 2018 is almost over? We can’t! As we look back, we wanted to reflect on Niman in the News and recognize our farmers and ranchers. They often do not have time to take stock of the national news they make from producing the finest tasting meat.

From a January feature on Dr. Oz about bacon that led to another invitation to come on again to talk about beef, we were thrilled to share vital information on the importance of sustainable, antibiotic-free meats that captured the attention of millions.

This year we were also featured in The New York Times for having one of the best bratwursts, Real Simple for hot dogs, and Southern Living for bacon, among many more.

Let’s take a moment to look back at our top 10 favorite media moments of 2018 and thank our farmers and ranchers who helped make it possible.

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Chef Q&A: Chef Bradley Herron of Genuine Hospitality Group

Chef Bradley Herron is the Director of Culinary for the Genuine Hospitality Group. He started his journey at the Genuine Hospitality Group at the flagship restaurant, Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink as the Chef de Cuisine. He now works out of the corporate office and oversees over ten restaurants including the newest restaurant in Cleveland that’s set to open in April 2019.

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