5 Questions with Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation Scholarship Recipient Abigail

Niman Ranch Scholarship Recipient - Abigail Hansen Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation Scholarship recipient, Abigail Hansen, is a proud farm kid. She grew up helping raise cattle and hogs and cultivating the land for alfalfa, corn and soybeans, alongside her parents, Niman Ranch farmers. Abigail credits her farm upbringing with teaching her the values of hard work and responsibility, which are proving useful as she pursues a degree in agronomy and environmental science.

Abigail is a recipient of the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation Scholarship to support her studies. The Foundation was started in started in 2006 with just one scholarship and over the past 11 years, thanks to our generous donors, has dispersed almost $500,000 to the children of Niman Ranch farmers and ranchers who are committed to furthering their education to support sustainable agriculture and rural communities.

Learn more about Abigail’s roots and aspirations in the five questions below:

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Panera Bread and Niman Ranch: Partners in the Good Food Movement

The following blog was written by Jaclynn Knutson, Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation scholarship recipient. Jaclynn’s family has been raising hogs for Niman Ranch her entire life. You can learn more about Jaclynn here.

Jaclynn of Niman Ranch at Panera Bread Conference

Last month, I traveled to Panera Bread’s annual corporate and franchisee conference in Orlando, FL. At this conference, Ashley DiBlasi, Niman Ranch’s Senior Marketing Director, and I spoke with Panera Bread employees about what makes Niman Ranch so special and provided a face to our brand.read more

Shake Shack Leadership Retreat

Last month, Shake Shack held its annual Leadership Retreat for their employees near Albany, New York at Lake George.  Niman Ranch was invited to attend to present a workshop to promote awareness about humane animal care and traditional farming methods. With Shake Shack using only Niman Ranch bacon, it was important for them to share where it is coming from with their employees.

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South Dakota Meets Sarasota

I traveled to Sarasota, Florida a couple of months ago to assist in promoting the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Fund at Mattison’s Scholarship Dinner. During this visit, I enjoyed speaking to all those that attended the wonderful dinner held at Mattison’s. I enjoyed entertaining questions about Niman Ranch and my family’s seventh-generation farm during the social hour. Questions ranged from why my family supports Niman Ranch to how the scholarship fund has impacted my life to the process of raising our pigs.

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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.

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What It Means To Be An Honorary Farmer: Marczyk Fine Foods

Marczyk's Fine Foods
Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver, CO; their location at 5100 E Colfax Avenue during their annual Burger Night Fundraiser.

 

At our annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, we present the Honorary Farmer of the Year award. This recognition is given to a Niman Ranch customer – whether it be a meat distributor, grocer or restaurant – that shows outstanding commitment to the Niman Ranch farming community. They go above and beyond being a customer to embody the true meaning of partnership in their actions towards promoting sustainable, humane agriculture.

This year, we honored a long-time friend of ours, Marczyk Fine Foods in Denver, Colorado. Owners Pete, Barbara and Paul Marczyk have increased their commitment to our Next Generation Scholarship Fund through private dinners at their home, having customers “round up” at the register, selling special items at their deli, and our favorite event of the year: Marczyk’s Burger Night. The Fund is set up to give our farmers’ children a better chance of returning to the land by curbing school loan debt. This ultimately preserves traditional farming practices and promotes the advancement of the next generation of farmers.

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The 2016 Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Awards

Next Generation Scholarship Winners
The 2016 Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship winners.

For the last eight years, our grocer and meat distributor customers across the country have raised money for the Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship Fund. Awards are given at our annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner, which celebrates our family farmers with a delicious meal prepared by top chefs from across the country.

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8 Chefs 1 Cause: The Next Generation Scholarship Fundraiser at Nico Heirloom Kitchen

Fundraising Dinner Menu

It all started eight years ago at the 9th annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner. The first Next Generation Scholarship was given to a few children of our farmers with the intent of helping them pay for college so they could return to the farm. In its first year, the scholarship totaled $6,000.

Today, the Next Generation Scholarship has grown to support 23 students with over $85,000 in funds for college – an amount that wouldn’t be possible without the support of chefs who work hard to raise money across the country. This includes chefs like Gio Osso of Nico Heirloom Kitchen and Virtu Honest Craft in the greater Phoenix area.

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National Young Farmers Coalition: Building a Future for Young Farmers Across America

According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, farmers over the age of 65 outnumber farmers under the age of 35 by a ratio of 6-to-1. While the average age of a Niman Ranch farmer is 48 years old, the average age in America sits at 58 years. What opportunities exist to grow the number of young farmers nationally?

Because of a host of barriers not faced by previous generations, many young farmers are unable to start their own farm or take over the family business. We’ve seen issues range from skyrocketing land prices and student loan debt to difficulty taking out reasonable loans or finding reliable work. Inheriting land isn’t enough to allow for a farm to thrive financially these days, and with more than one child in many farm families, most of those who vie to take over have to find their own land regardless.

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The Next Generation of Farmers

Scholarship Winners
The 2015 Next Generation Scholarship Winners in attendance at the Farmer Appreciation Dinner with Jim Wallace, Director of the Niman Ranch Live Team

Over the last 30 years, the average age of farmers has steadily increased to 58-years old, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that half of all current farmers are likely to retire in the next decade, leaving a large gap for the next generation to fill. This makes it incredibly important that we work to persuade our children and grandchildren not to leave the family farm. This is why we created the Next Generation Scholarship Fund, which awards over 20 students from farm families every year with funds to help pay for college.

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