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.
Spring has finally sprung, which is great because this year we weren’t sure spring would ever arrive. What a crazy month April was – from thunderstorms to thundersnow to blizzards. Our children are always happy to have a few days off from school due to snow, but farmers never get a day off.
My father, Paul Willis, was invited by Iowa State Representative Todd Prichard to talk to the Agricultural Committee in Des Moines at the state capitol on February 15th. Dad discussed sustainable, humane and traditional farming opportunities created by Niman Ranch for farmers in the state of Iowa, along with the rural economic development created through this niche market.
In January, we joined PFI at the Scheman Building in Ames, Iowa for their annual conference.
Practical Farmers of Iowa’s mission is to strengthen farms and communities, which is right up our alley at Niman Ranch. This nonprofit group was founded in 1985 as an organization for farmers. They use farmer-led investigation and information sharing to help farmers practice an agriculture that benefits both the land and people. As a matter of fact, many Niman Ranch farmers are members and even deeply involved hosting on-farm educational tours for the new and seasoned farmer interested in learning more.
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.
John 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 Farmer 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.
It’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.
This year’s 14th annual Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner was a unique farm-to-table event which celebrated the hard work and independent spirit of the farmers who supply humanely and sustainably raised pork for Niman Ranch.
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.
Niman Ranch celebrated its more than 550 U.S. family hog farmers and awarded 18 Next Generation Scholarships last weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, at its 14th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. Niman Ranch established the Next Generation Scholarship Fund in 2006 to preserve the integrity of U.S. family farms by supporting the children of rural communities who wish to attend college and pursue an education focusing on sustainable or environmental practices and who intend to return to the family farm upon graduation.