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.
Meet the Wright Family – A Niman Ranch Family Farmer
Kennley’s father, Duane, had raised hogs in the past. However, he got out of the pork business when the commodity market bottomed out. Kennley was 14 when he became interested in hog farming when a scrawny homeless pig wandered onto their farm.
Kennley first heard of Niman Ranch while he was in college at South Dakota State University. That is where he attended a regional Niman Ranch farmer meeting. There he heard from, Paul Willis, speak about the benefits of continuing to raise hogs in a humane and more traditional, pasture-based system and the rewards of marketing them to Niman Ranch. He had previously lost interest in raising pigs due to a large number of confinement barns in his area. He knew he did not want to work in those conditions. Niman Ranch captured his attention because they were willing to pay a premium price. While raising the animals outdoors on pasture and in deeply bedded pens.
Today the Wright family farm operation includes Kennley, his father, and all his four children. His wife, Melissa, has her own business called My Sweet Pickles. She sells naturally-based children’s items such as wooden toys and other sustainable and healthy products. She started with a line of cloth diapers and it took off from there.
Kennley’s seven-year-old son, Mason, discovered a market for duck’s eggs after learning about a neighbor’s allergies to chicken eggs. Duck eggs proved to be a good substitute. The Wright’s older son, Jackson, raises typical barnyard chickens as laying hens. These chickens live freely, foraging for bugs and eating the silt waste from the hog feeders. He sells their eggs locally for some extra money.
Sustainable Agricultural Practices for Niman Ranch Family Farmer
The Wright’s diversified farm operation produces corn, soybeans, alfalfa, and grass hay. They utilize as many environmentally sustainable practices as possible including no-till corn and no-till beans. Currently, they are experimenting with strip tilling. This allows them to work by protecting much of the land from erosion while reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.
The Wrights recently constructed a few hoop buildings to add shelter for their expanding herd of hogs. He has hired a few folks as farm hands to help with the family farm which consists of chores and raising the livestock.
What it Means to be a Niman Ranch Family Farmer for the Wright Family
The Wrights have been farming with Niman Ranch for over 10 years now. Kennley said he loves farm life and is grateful that he and his family connected with Niman Ranch. In his words: “If it wasn’t for Niman I wouldn’t be farming. Niman has provided us with the opportunity to be paid a fair price which affords our whole family the ability to continue to farm.”