Earth Fest at Wellesley College

Taylor, Missouri high school senior Ruthie Carpenter, who is also a Niman Ranch hog farmer and student vice president of her local FFA chapter, traveled with her mother Carolyn to speak at Wellesley College on April 15, at the request of their director of food service, Executive Chef Keith Tyger.  He heard her speak at our annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner in 2015 and was greatly impacted by her words.  He wanted the students at Wellesley to hear from her first hand about the humane practices she employs as a Niman Ranch hog farmer and the sustainable attributes of farming this way.

Ruthie with her mother Carolyn at Wellesley for Earth Fest.
Ruthie with her mother Carolyn at Wellesley for Earth Fest.

Wellesley College is one of the top institutions of higher education in the country and widely acknowledged as the nation’s top women-only college. It is located in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, just west of Boston. In 2015, Wellesley was ranked fourth among four-year liberal arts colleges in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

Over the past few years, Chef Tyger established a relationship with Niman Ranch in order to offer the students at Wellesley College sustainable and humanely-raised all natural pork and beef from animals that are never treated with antibiotics or added growth hormones. Because of him, Wellesley uses 100% Niman Ranch meats in their dining services.

Chef Keith Tyger, far right, with other guests during the 2015 Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner farm tour.
Chef Keith Tyger, far right, with other guests during the 2015 Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner farm tour.

Wellesley Fresh Earth Day has become an anticipated event on campus.  Sustainable farmers and ranchers who supply the school are invited to provide tastings and information sessions. Students are encouraged to interact with guest farmers, ranchers and fishermen. In 2014, I attended this wonderful event and was proud to help facilitate Ruthie’s involvement this year.  Thank you to Wellesley College and Chef Tyger for creating this exceptional opportunity for Ruthie to speak directly to your students, providing them with a deeper understanding about our practices and the importance of supporting our network of family farmers.

Farrowing Season 2016

This time in Iowa is the beginning of farrowing season.  For those of you unfamiliar with farm terminology, it’s the time of year when sows give birth.  Many farmers have been working diligently in preparation for pasture farrowing.  They’ve been busy moving hog houses from last year’s plot to the next field.  It might seem like a lot of work, but pasture farrowing is not new.  It’s a traditional farming practice that has been passed down for centuries.

moving huts 2016

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Eating in New Orleans

New Orleans is widely known for its music and festivals, but there is so much more to this vibrant city. Beyond the beads and nightlife is a cultural and historically-rich mecca that has been rebuilt with vigor since Katrina hit ten years ago. The restaurant scene has blossomed, in particular, with the addition of concepts that answer to both cultural expectations and national trends.

We visited recently and built a list of restaurants to help you skip all the Yelp reviews and enjoy your stay. Our favorites follow some or all of the following criteria:

  • Are small or locally-owned
  • Serve up sustainable meat and produce
  • Offer a creative menu

While we have some of the most talked about restaurants on this list, we chose to highlight some of the hidden gems this city has to offer as well. From burgers to live music and fine dining, this food adventure blog is the perfect guide to eating in New Orleans!

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National FFA Week by Ruthie Carpenter

National FFA Week is the (second) most wonderful time of the year for me as an FFA Member and Niman Ranch Farmer!  I serve as our FFA chapter’s Vice President, and help to plan many of the events that go on throughout this celebratory week. Our activities align with their motto: “Learning to do, doing to learn, earning to live, living to serve”.

Ruthie Carpenter and Father, Mark Carpenter, on FFA Sunday.
Ruthie Carpenter and Father, Mark Carpenter, on FFA Sunday.

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On the Upswing

During winter, the Iowa prairie covered in snow blends seamlessly into the stark white sky, which can make it very difficult to see at times.  I have resorted to wearing my sunglasses so I don’t go snow blind!  It’s fun to observe the beauty that can be found during the winter months, while understanding the unique challenges that accompany it.  Winter brings about unpredictable weather.  Yesterday it was 40 degrees and today it’s 16.  Thanks to the most recent winter weather, the ground is covered in a blanket of snow scattered with animal tracks.

White on White

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Valentine’s Date Ideas (and Recipes) for The Food Lover

Instead of making reservations at an expensive restaurant this Valentine’s Day, impress your date with a memorable, private dining experience at home.

Feel free to follow the age-old tradition of preparing a four course meal – no one’s stopping you! But we suggest you think outside the candlelight and try one of these four unique ideas with that special food lover in your life.

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Snowy Days

In preparation for the Super Bowl, I hit the grocery store and spent some time preparing snacks.  Despite not being a big football fan, I enjoy getting together with friends and family or just hanging out with my daughter to watch the big game.

This year, we experienced a blizzard warning during the game, which gave me another reason to head to the grocery store.  Blizzard shopping is a tradition on the prairie.  Of course, I live in town now, so there’s was not as much reason for me to make an emergency trip to the grocery store anymore.  But I still did it out of habit.  I’ll always be a farm girl no matter where I live.

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Reflections and Resolutions

Growing up, I remember almost everyone raised hogs in the same way: outdoor on pasture or deeply bedded pens. This was an integral part of the overall farming operation. Eventually, things began to change and many hog farmers implemented the latest technology and constructed Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO). These were indoor hog production facilities designed to substantially increase the number of pigs farmers could raise in a limited amount of space.

Original Homestead Thornton Iowa
The original Willis Family Farm homestead on Thornton, Iowa.

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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.

read more Our 10 Best Stories and Recipes of 2015