DES MOINES, Iowa (Aug. 29, 2011) — Niman Ranch celebrated its more than 550 U.S. family hog farmers and awarded 16 Next Generation Scholarships this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, at its 13th 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 contributions from sustainable food advocates including Chipotle Mexican Grill, Whole Foods Market and many members of Niman Ranch’s distributor network. Since 2006 more than $100,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 60 students. This year, Niman Ranch provided 16 deserving students scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $1,000 each.
“My family has been farming for five generations, and the $5,000 David Serfling Niman Ranch Memorial Scholarship makes me realize that people honor what coming back to the farm means,” stated Aaron Spenner, a student from West Point, Neb., who is currently studying diversified agriculture at North East Community College in North Fork, Neb. “My family has been raising hogs for 11 years for Niman Ranch, and this will help cover a college education that will help me return to the family business. I feel like I have a whole group of people supporting me.”
This year’s other Niman Ranch Next Generation scholarship recipients are from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minn., Mich., Missouri, and Neb. and will be attending colleges including: Univ. of Missouri, ISU and MSU.
We understand that the state of sustainable agriculture relies on the next generation of young farmers,” states Niman Ranch founding hog farmer Paul Willis of Thornton, Iowa. “The goal of this scholarship is to provide these students with the means to pursue a higher education and encourage them to apply their new found 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 Larry Kass from Summer, Iowa, named Farmer of the Year. Additionally, 13 farmers celebrated 10 years raising hogs for Niman Ranch.
High-resolution images of the recipients are available upon request.