15th Anniversary Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa- Part One

August 30, 2013


This was the fifteenth year for the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner Weekend. The main event is a farm-to-table dinner held on Saturday evening at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines honoring the network of family farmers who supply pork to Niman Ranch. The event is free of charge for the farmers. Seven highly acclaimed chefs from across the country – all of whom are true culinary leaders and influencers in their regions and understand that good food starts at the farm – traveled to Iowa to tour a farm that is part of the network of farmers who supply Niman Ranch  and to cook this six course meal in celebration of these farmers.

The chefs who attended were:

Chef David Bull- Congress, Austin, TX

Chef Alex Yellan- Pok Pok, New York, NY

Chef Kevin Sbraga- Sbraga, Philadelphia, PA

Chef Jack Riebel- Butcher and the Boar, Minneapolis, MN

Chef Jodie Rogers & Chef Clark Norris- Deer Valley, Park City, UT

Chef Anne Quatrano- Bacchanalia, Atlanta, GA

Our featured chefs and former featured chef and Chef’s Collaborative chairman Michael Leviton came to town a few days early to tour Niman Ranch Farmers Paul and Andrea Brown’s Alderland Farm.  Here they saw first-hand what we mean when we say: Raised with Care®.  Pigs are raised naturally- running around on pasture with plenty of room to move, root and roam.  Everyone was thrilled to meet the Browns and visit their beautiful farm (featured in my last blog posting).


We couldn’t have asked for better weather in August either, with temperatures in the mid 70’s all week.   After the farm tour everyone came to visit my family at the Dream Farm, where we served an outdoor dinner on top of a hill overlooking 140 acres of our family’s tall grass prairie and wetlands. The dinner featured a roasted whole hog, Iowa sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and potato salad, topped off by my mother’s famous apple pies.

willis dream farm

On Friday evening, just after all of the guests had piled off the bus and people were taking pictures of the hog before we carved it for our meal, my daughter Sophia was inspired to say a prayer. In her prayer she thanked everyone for coming and for the pig for providing us with this delicious pork to eat and all of our customers, chefs and Niman Ranch employees for their continued support. It was one of my proudest moments as a parent.  She captured the overall feeling of appreciation of Niman Ranch in that moment.

sunset prar shot

Many farmers wouldn’t be raising pigs or farming any longer if it weren’t for Niman Ranch, a company that pays it’s farmers a premium price for raising their pigs traditionally, humanely and sustainably. And Niman Ranch wouldn’t be in business if our customers and chefs didn’t value the hard work of these farmers and understand the true importance of raising pigs the right way.

Thank you for your continued support. All of us here at Niman Ranch appreciate it!  Stay tuned for part two about the dinner.

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