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.

The Next Generation Scholarship Fund receives a substantial contribution from Chipotle Mexican Grill and additional contributions from Whole Foods Market and many members of Niman Ranch’s distributor network including: Boggeri Sales, Buedel Food Products, DeBragga & Spitler, E & B Natural Way, Old Town Foods, Premier Meat Co., Tri-City Meats and Wasatch Meats. Since 2006 more than $140,000 in scholarships has been awarded to 74 students. This year, Niman Ranch provided 18 deserving students scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each.

“Receiving this scholarship makes me realize that people honor what coming back to the farm means,” stated Kyle Larsen, a student from Clare, Iowa, who is currently studying Animal Science and Agriculture Studies at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. “This past spring I began farming for Niman Ranch with my own set of pigs. This scholarship will help me continue my education so I can eventually raise Niman Ranch pigs as a full-time job.”

This year’s other scholarship recipients are from Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, South Dakota and Wisconsin and will be attending colleges including: Iowa State, Minnesota State Univ., Northwest Missouri State, South Dakota State Univ., Univ. of Minnesota and Univ. of Missouri.

“We understand that the state of sustainable agriculture relies on the next generation of young farmers,” states Niman Ranch founding hog farmer Paul Willis. “The goal of this scholarship is to provide these students with the means to pursue a higher education and encourage them to apply their newfound knowledge to bettering their land management practices on their family farms.”

Also at the appreciation dinner, 11 farmers were honored for superior hog production, with Ron Moen from Decorah, Iowa, recognized for raising hogs with the highest pork quality, and Steve Heun from Fulton, Illinois, named Farmer of the Year. Additionally, 26 farmers celebrated 10 years raising hogs for Niman Ranch.

Source: Niman Ranch