The Pathfinder Sustainability Award

Paul Willis, Niman Ranch Pork Company founder and manager, was honored at the 2012 Chefs Collaborate Summit with the Pathfinder Sustainability Award. The award recognizes a visionary working in the greater food community who has been a catalyst for positive change within the food system through efforts that go beyond the kitchen.

Julia Stambules, Analon Corporation, Paul Willis and Michael Leviton, board chariman, Chefs Collaborative

Willis, fourth generation hog farmer, was raising free-range hogs the way his family had for generations. He knew raising pigs traditionally resulted in higher quality and tastier pork but did not know how to get the pigs to market. In 1995, he was introduced to Niman Ranch and shipped 30 pigs to the Bay Area. A number of chefs in San Francisco tasted the pork and were impressed with the quality. With this chef interest, Willis realized there was a market for hogs raised using traditional farming methods and hoped this need would help revitalize sustainable hog farming methods in the Midwest.

In 1996, Willis started building a community of family hog farmers to raise hogs traditionally and humanely for Niman Ranch. Today, the network has grown to over 500 farmers raising hogs to the strictest protocols in the industry:

  • Raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens
  • Never given antibiotics or hormones-ever
  • No gestation crates or farrowing crates- ever

“I’m truly honored to receive this award and proud to accept on behalf of all the family farmers raising hogs to the highest animal welfare standards for Niman Ranch,” said Paul Willis when he accepted his award.

Other Sustainability Award winners

Foodshed Champion: Lora Lea and Rick Misterly, Quillisascut Farm
Sustainer: Kären Jurgensen, Seattle Culinary Academy

In addition, chefs John Ash, Tom Douglas and Jimmy Schmidt were inducted into the Pioneers Table – the Chefs Collaborative equivalent of the hall of fame.

2 thoughts on “The Pathfinder Sustainability Award”

  1. Farmer Paul, My famous friend- you do almost everything well that you become engaged in, and stay connected to your roots and to your many friends and fans. We are among them. Congratulations, Lynne and Todd

    1. Every time you buy food you are voting. When you buy prdoucts that come from animals that are treated inhumanely, you vote in favor of it. There are alternatives and ones that do not effect your budget or the supply chain. Please think before you cast your vote just as you would if you were going to the poles. There can be a better world for all of us including the animals that we share the planet with.

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