Women and the Land

I kicked off the new year of 2018 participating in a panel discussion at the Clear Lake, IA Public Library for a recently released book, Women and the Land, written by Barbara Hall and featuring photographs by Kathryn Gamble.  I like it because it challenges the visual stereotype that all farmers are men, showcasing a variety of women here in Iowa working and tending to their land and animals.  I am so happy to be included in this book with photographs of my daughter and my father along with the many other women here in Iowa featured for their work in agriculture.  Jan Libbey, another farmer, and local and sustainable food advocate working with Healthy Harvest of North Iowa & North Iowa Fresh, a local wholesale food hub, participated in the discussion last Saturday along with Charles City, IA farmers, Wendy Johnson, who is featured on the cover of the book.

We had a wonderful turnout, it was a great event supported by so many people who joined us to learn more.  I shared my experiences of growing up on our family’s farm in Thornton, Iowa and the work I now do as a sustainable agriculture and family farm advocate for Niman Ranch, where my father founded the pork division.  We have a lot of good news to report.  Since our family began supplying Niman Ranch all of its pork in the mid 1990’s (not quite 30 hogs per week), that through a growing consumer demand we  slowly created a network of farmers that has grown to over 720 independent family farmers and ranchers that are paid a premium price for raising their animals in a more humane and sustainable way.  All of our products are available in select markets nationwide. It is exciting to see the continued growth. And, for the first time in a few years, we’re actively looking for new independent family farmers.

It was heartwarming to see so many people interested to learn more about what our farmers are doing and I received a lot of questions about where they could purchase our products locally.  Since we live in a small town in Iowa, we don’t have a lot of choices – but we do have a few, including an independently owned and operated grocery store here in Clear Lake called, Simply Nourished. Ashley and her husband Shea Coleman have so many great products at their store including our recently released ready-to-go snack packs.  I stopped to visit with Ashley yesterday and grab a few things while I was there.

I encourage everyone to give these snack packs a try, they taste great and are a good value, and you are supporting traditional family farmers and ranchers who live and work in their rural communities.

Ringing in the New Year is always a reminder to me of the importance of friends and neighbors, especially in our changing economy. Starting the year talking about Women and the Land gives me hope that our rural communities will not only survive but thrive, as more families seek opportunities to grow their family businesses and farms.


Family Farmers: The Wright Family

Family Farmer: Meet the Wright Family

Kennley and Melissa Wright are family farmers who live and work on their farm outside of Colman, South Dakota (population 400) with their four young children.  

Kennley Wright is a fifth generation family farmer. His family emigrated here from Scotland and laid claim to the family farm in 1877.  Recently an elderly family member pointed out a section on their property as the site of their original farm settlement. Out of curiosity, Kennley explored the area using a metal detector and discovered remnants from that first settlement.

read more Family Farmers: The Wright Family

Niman Ranch 2017 Farmer of the Year

Niman Ranch Farmer of the YearJohn Gilbert named 2017 Farmer of the Year
Each year, one farmer is honored as Niman Ranch’s Farmer of the Year.This exclusive recognition goes to a person who has stood out over the year for both the excellence with which they raise their hogs or manage their farm and the contributions they have made to Niman Ranch’s success. John Gilbert of Gibralter Farms was honored as the 2017 Farmers of the Year. The Gilberts, recipients of numerous awards and honors, operate a 770-acre diversified farm raising traditional pasture-farrowed pigs. John has served on the Niman Ranch Pork Company Advisory Board and is active with other groups such as Practical Farmers of Iowa. Gibralter Farms is a family operation with John and Beverly’s son and daughter in law and one of John’s five brothers and his wife working on the farm.


2017 Fall Harvest and Reflections By Sarah Willis

Fall HarvestIt’s the start of the 2017 fall harvest. 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.

read more 2017 Fall Harvest and Reflections By Sarah Willis

Our Top 10 Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

With Thanksgiving just ten days away, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten favorite recipes to help make your holiday planning a little easier. We’ve covered everything from potatoes to stuffing, ham to turkey, and even bacon bourbon pecan pie!

If you choose to bake a ham for your guests (which we strongly suggest), be sure to find out which local grocer carries our holiday hams by clicking here.


Cornbread Dressing


read more Our Top 10 Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

Niman Ranch Expands Nationwide with Online Distribution

October 10, 2017 Niman Ranch, a national leader in sustainable agriculture and humane livestock practices, today announced their products will be available on AmazonFresh and ButcherBox to significantly increase nationwide availability of their popular sustainable and Certified Humane® meats raised by small independent U.S. family farmers.

Niman Ranch Expands Nationwide with Online Distribution

Amazon, the #1 Internet retailer in 2016* and ButcherBox, the #1 meat subscription service, continue to raise the bar on convenience and choice for online options, including sustainably raised meats. Niman Ranch meat is third-party certified under the Certified Humane® program from a community of small, independent U.S. family farmers who adhere to some of the strictest animal welfare protocols in the industry. All beef, pork, and lamb is raised on pasture or deeply bedded pens, fed a 100% vegetarian diet without the use of antibiotics or hormones (never ever).

More than 51 percent of shoppers buy online according to Forrester Research. An annual survey by comScore and UPS found consumers are buying more things online than in stores for the first time ever. Sustainable, healthy and great tasting food products are now driving the trends for online grocery sales that amounted to nearly $7 billion dollars in 2016.

“Savvy online consumers do their homework and want to know where their meat comes from. They want transparent information that is available and reliable. Niman Ranch offers meats Raised With Care,” said Jeff Tripician, general manager of Niman Ranch. “AmazonFresh and ButcherBox are committed to providing customers with the highest quality products that also support a family farming network stabilizing Rural America. Amazon and ButcherBox are showcasing the family farmer network to online shoppers around the globe. At the end of the day, AmazonFresh, ButcherBox and Niman Ranch appeal to an enlightened culinary enthusiast, and that makes this a great partnership.”

ButcherBox has continued to create a niche by sourcing meats raised without antibiotics or hormones that also support family farms across the country. Their partnership with Niman Ranch has created consistent sustainable meat options with heritage breeds that are all Certified Humane® to keep up with the demand of their well-educated and conscientious customers.

“We are a food-loving group that focuses on sourcing the best possible products, delivering an exceptional customer experience every day. Niman Ranch helps make that possible,” said ButcherBox founder Mike Salguero. “We want to make a difference in the world around us and are able to do that by offering top quality proteins that are raised humanely by independent family farmers.”

Niman Ranch’s independent family farmer network has grown to more than 729 farmers to meet the significant demand for sustainable and humane pork, beef and lamb. “To expand the reach of progressive customers across the country we’ve partnered with some of the best distributors in the industry to carry the Niman products. We’re pleased we can maintain the relationships while maximizing the online opportunities,” said Tripician.

Popular Niman Ranch products offered by AmazonFresh and ButcherBox include baby back ribs, bacon, pork chops, tenderloin, charcuterie and snack packs, among others.

Niman Ranch awards $106,000 in scholarships to 32 students

NORTHGLENN, CO (September 28, 2017) — Niman Ranch, a national leader in sustainable agriculture and humane livestock practices, awarded 32 scholarships totaling $106,000 through its annual Next Generation Scholarship Fund. Scholarships were presented to students from Niman Ranch’s network of independent farm families during its 19th annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, IA. with more than 600 people in attendance. The scholarships are designed to raise awareness around the loss of traditional farming and ranching practices, and to ultimately help maintain agriculture opportunities by providing funding for college. The money raised for the fund far exceeded all other years.

Niman Ranch Founding Hog Farmer, Paul Willis, noted that 21 of the 32 award recipients were young women and that the applications from females were significantly higher than past years. The scholarships are a part of Niman Ranch’s Young Farmer 2.0 that was announced this summer to provide an open and transparent plan to grow the next generation of farmers. With student loan debt affecting two thirds of college graduates today, paying for college is a substantial barrier for young farmers and ranchers who face continually rising land costs. The number of beginning farmers in America fell by 20 percent between 2007 and 2012 alone. “Niman Ranch recognizes that combatting the burden of student loan debt is crucial to helping new farmers stay on the land,” said Willis.

Ten years ago, Niman Ranch farmers were four years older than the national average. Through a series of initiatives, the Niman Ranch network of more than 729 independent family farmers now averages 47 years old, 11 years younger than the national average. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the average age of farmers has steadily increased to 58-years old over the last 30 years, contrary to the Niman Ranch experience.

“Initiatives like the Next Generation Scholarship Fund within the Niman Ranch farm community are part of our overall commitment to the hard-working family farmers,” said Niman Ranch general manager, Jeff Tripician. “We’re proud to support the next generation of farmers with the funds needed to get a higher education and give agriculture the prominence it deserves.”

A new award was created this year to honor recently deceased Phyllis Willis of Fertile, IA. She was co-founder of the Niman Ranch Pork Company and enjoyed hosting farm tours for many guests from all over the country and sharing her knowledge of animal husbandry and sustainable agriculture. The well-known environmental activist hosted the first decade of Niman Ranch Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinners at their farm in Thornton, IA.  Willis was a champion of clean air and water causes as well as animal rights. Niman Ranch farmer advocate, Sarah Willis said, “We’re honored to have this scholarship every year to remember my Mom as a kind, caring environmentalist and to continue her tradition of supporting sustainable family farms.”

The first Willis Scholarship was awarded to Elle Gadient of Cascade, IA. because her application focused on sustainability and the environment and her environmental science education.

“Through sustainable agriculture, family farms can be supported and young farmers generations from now will have the opportunity to raise outdoor pork with the pride we are able to today. This will only be possible if we continue to prioritize sustainability and quality meat rather than quantity,” said Gadient. “Along with my environmental science education, involvement with the campus sustainability department, and experience raising animals on the farm, I am a proud advocate for sustainable agriculture and supporting family farms.”

Applicants receive awards regardless of their major, but those in an agricultural-focused degree program are eligible for the Serfling Memorial Scholarship, one of the highest awards available to students. This year’s recipient was Caleb Schnoor of Mount Ayr, Iowa. Caleb is currently seeking an Agriculture Studies major at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.

Other Next Generation Scholarship recipients are from Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and California. All will have a greater chance of returning to the farm after college with the funds awarded to help pay for their education.

The Next Generation Scholarship is made possible by donations from Niman Ranch’s business partners, which includes chefs and family-owned food distributors in America and the Cayman Islands. Businesses raise funds through a wide range of events, sales from special menu items and private contributions. Donors include:

Cheney Brothers

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Daniel Smith

DeBragga, New York’s Butcher

Evans Meats

Mary Ann’s/Korleski Family

Paul Mattison

Lone Star Foodservice

Lone Start Meats

Del Monte

Marczyk Fine Foods

Fra’ Mani




Chef Alice V. Gonzalez

Perdue Farms

Progressive Distributors

Purely Meat Company

Results Sales & Marketing

Sterling Food Service

Tonali’s Meats

Turtle Beach Food Service

Trevor Ortman & Sharen Hauri

Wasatch Meats

Ed Ryan



Niman Ranch and Harry’s Pizzeria Double Down on Ingredients Raised with Care

August 28, 2017 – Miami-based Harry’s Pizzeria, recognized nationally for its genuine brand of thoughtfully-made, better pizza by James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Schwartz, is committing to meat raised sustainably and humanely in partnership with industry-leader Niman Ranch. Beginning this summer, the pizza chain’s three current locations in South Florida will exclusively feature responsibly-sourced beef and pork products from Niman Ranch on its menu in pizza toppings including hot soppressata, shredded pulled pork shoulder, braised short rib, meatballs and bacon, as well as beef sirloin as an entrée.

“Harry’s is about much more than pizza,” Chef Schwartz said. “We are committed to building community and a genuine experience for our guests, and this is a perfect way for us to check all those boxes. It feels good to support independent American family farmers who raise their livestock without antibiotics or added hormones. Not only can we stand behind a product that is top quality and tastes amazing, but we’re able to work with a supplier that shares our passion for doing the right thing.”

To celebrate the introduction, Niman Ranch’s family farmer advocate, Sarah Willis, will co-host a family-style dinner with Chef Schwartz at the original Harry’s Pizzeria in the Miami Design District on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 pm, the restaurant’s 6th anniversary. Tickets are available here for $89 all-inclusive for a welcome cocktail, 3-course menu, and beverage including unlimited tap beer and two wines poured by the bottle all night. A special snack, Short Rib Bomba with fontina and arugula, will be available at all locations for $7 from Monday, September 5 until Saturday, September 30.

Named one of the top 25 pizzerias in America by Food & Wine Magazine, Chef Schwartz’s Neighborhood American Pizzeria will add restaurants in Miami Beach, Aventura and Sunrise, FL as well as its first out of state locations in Cleveland and Atlanta as part of its expansion to 20 restaurants by 2020. Chef Schwartz built his reputation around the idea of “knowing where
your food comes from” at flagship restaurant Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink where he first became introduced to Niman Ranch beef and pork.

“We are proud to have Niman Ranch showcased on Harry’s delicious pizza,” Niman Ranch general manager Jeff Tripician said. “The folks at Harry’s, under the vision of Chef Schwartz, serve up terrific dishes that are a perfect pairing for our meat, not to mention our company values. We’re proud to be associated and a part of such a progressive chef-centered enterprise that cares deeply about where their food comes from.”

For more information on the partnership, locations and menus, please visit harryspizzeria.com and follow on social media @nimanranch and @harryspizzeria.

Homegrown Food for All at Upcoming Benefit Concert and other Live Nation Events

NORTHGLENN, COLO. (September 14, 2017) -Niman Ranch and Legends Hospitality announced sustainable and Certified Humane® meats will be served at 34 Live Nation events across the country, including this weekend’s star-studded sold-out Farm Aid concert in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania on September 16, 2017. Farm Aid’s “Homegrown, Food for All! Direct from the Family Farm” set the stage for the partnership, benefiting Niman Ranch’s more than 720 independent farms across the country.

“Legends Hospitality serves food in the most famous venues in sports and concert halls. The result is the highest quality and best tasting food to match the talent of the biggest stars,” said Kay Cornelius, vice president of retail sales for Niman Ranch. “There isn’t a better company to elevate the farming experience and honor our farmers than Legends. We are proud to partner to offer the best food possible to sports fans and concert goers across the country, including Farm Aid.” The award-winning Legends Hospitality, founded by the families who own the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, is known for quality products and acclaimed hospitality.

At Farm Aid, the Legends and Niman Ranch partnership includes a first of a kind Topped Links Stand to serve four unique flavors of specially curated and signature gourmet sausages: bourbon, apple gouda, chipotle cheddar and kielbasa, topped with stout braised onions, green apple slaw, local pico de gallo, and house made local green apple and caraway seed kraut.  Other entrees will include a sliced charcuterie board with local cheeses at the fresh stands and wine locations. Legends is hosting a VIP event for Farmers before Farm Aid to honor their craft by serving Niman Ranch product.

Farm Aid, the iconic concert led by Willie Nelson to benefit independent U.S. farmers, will be serving Niman Ranch as part of the “Homegrown Concessions” program. Under the leadership of Legends Hospitality, the menu will feature food sourced from family farms committed to sustainability, offering a fair price to the growers.

“Event attendees expect top-notch performers, a seamless experience from ticket purchase to the last encore, and delicious food options in between. That’s why we are thrilled to offer a menu featuring Niman Ranch, a nationwide network of farmers who raise certified humane great tasting all-natural meat for Live Aid,” said Bill Wilson, Vice President at Legends Hospitality. “It is especially fitting for Farm Aid and we enjoy showcasing the food direct from family farmers.”

“We are honored to have Niman Ranch served at Farm Aid,” said Paul Willis, founding hog farmer for Niman Ranch. “We do what we do to support rural America through our network of more than 720 independent family farmers who raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably. Farm Aid’s work lifts up the stories of these hardworking folks and raises critically needed funds for farmers who care for the land.”