Niman Ranch
Spring Into Farming

IMG_7507On March 4, the high temperature in Iowa was 16 degrees with a low of -4, with snow along the roads and in the fields. Just two weeks later, we experienced some of the warmest weather this year with a high reaching 63 degrees. And technically it’s still winter.

As you can imagine the snow has been melting very quickly releasing moisture into the air in the form of fog. With most of the snow is gone as the sun shines brightly, nature is giving us a reminder of all of the work to be done in the coming weeks.

Niman Ranch hog farmers employ traditional farming practices including diversification, meaning that raising pigs is just one part of their entire operation. Pigs can be an integral part of a crop rotation system. Hogs may be raised on a plot of farmland one year, allowing them to exhibit their natural behaviors out on the pasture while their manure provides nitrogen, potassium and other valuable nutrients to the soil. This creates the perfect base for the following year’s crops: first niWillis-Niman-Ranch-21trogen loving corn, then soybeans, a legume that balances out the soil, followed by oats and hay which also restore nutrients to the soil and have the added benefit of establishing a rich base for the future when the pigs will be grazing once again on the pasture.

Posted in Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guest Blogger
Uncle Rich’s Favorite Ceviche

A wise man once said, “One cannot live on beef, pork and lamb alone,” so this post is my favorite fish dish in honor of one of my favorite people. A close friend is going to work for a seafood company next month, and this is my “good luck” send-off to her.

This is a great summertime lunch, appetizer or party time offering.


Uncle Rich's Favorite Ceviche.jpeg

Uncle Rich’s Favorite Ceviche, made fresh on a fishing boat in Alaska

My Ceviche Rocks

Active time: 15 minutes
Inactive time: 3-4 hours
Serves: 6 to 8

1 ½  to 2 lbs. of fresh fish like Halibut, rock cod or striped bass. Add some shrimp and scallops only if you have a great source.
3 or 4 lemons
3 limes if making 1 ½ lbs., 4 or 5 limes if you make 2 lbs.
¼ of one red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced thin
1 large avocado, diced
Kosher salt
Black pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro to taste
Tortilla chips and cerveza’s to wash it down.


To prep:

  1. Cut all the fish into cubes about the size of a dime and then put it into a glass or other non-reactive bowl.
Posted in Guest Bloggers, Niman Ranch | Leave a comment

Niman Ranch
2015 Culinary Trends

Culinary Trends to Look For in 2015

The National Restaurant Association releases its What’s Hot Culinary Forecast at the beginning of each year. This prominent report is a result of over 1,300 professional chefs’ responses to questions about everything from profit to pickles. Their responses have laid out their predictions on what people like you want to see on menus and grocery shelves for the next year. We’re thrilled to see that some of the top trends for 2015 fit with who we are and what we have to offer – let us know if you agree in the comments!


Culinary Themes          Top Food Trends

#1 – Environmental Sustainability
#2 – Natural Ingredients/minimally processed food
#5 – Gluten-free cuisine

When it comes to sustainable meat, Niman Ranch pioneered the industry. We’ve been farming livestock sustainably since 1972, and we’ve worked side by side with Dr. Temple Grandin and Global Animal Partnership to come up with the strictest protocols in use today. Our community of over 725 family farmers and ranchers practices sustainable agriculture and humane animal husbandry, resulting in the finest tasting meat on the market.

Posted in Niman Ranch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sarah Willis
National FFA Week

IMG_1710 blogNational Future Farmers of America week, observed from February 21 -28, celebrates our connection to agriculture and supports our next generation of farmers.  Various local FFA chapters have different ways of engaging with their communities, but one of the simplest is encouraging folks to grow some of their own food.

Many farmers, along with passionate gardeners, begin planning their gardens now. Planting seeds indoors is a great way to get a head start.   My father likes utilizing the simple seed-starter kits that you can find just about anywhere.  These starter kits can last for years if you use and store them properly.IMG_3707 blog

If you are a beginner, I find Organic Gardening to be an excellent resource.   Some seeds can be planted as early as February, including peppers, lettuce, leaks and onions, while it’s best to wait to plant others, like tomatoes.  Even if you live in a city, you can start seedlings indoors as long as you have a window with plenty of sunlight.  Don’t be afraid of getting dirty!  Starting your garden indoors now is a great activity to chase away your winter blues and a great reminder that spring is on the way.

Posted in Niman Ranch, Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Niman Ranch
Winter Harvest Omelet with Bacon

With this being the end of National Breakfast Month, we created a unique, winter-seasonal omelet that’s sure to satisfy in under 30 minutes.  Bacon was an obvious choice for meat, but you may never have seen an omelet with brussels sprouts. Kale, carrots and sweet potatoes help round out this winter vegetable recipe.

Brussels sprouts and kale belong to the genus Brassica, and Brassicas love colder weather. If you grow these at home, try harvesting after the first frost. This sweetens the flavor and makes them tender. Carrots and sweet potatoes can stay in the ground until the first hard frost, or can be harvested and put into cold storage. They also get a bit sweeter after the first few frosts, so don’t be afraid to leave them in your garden a little longer next year. You can store carrots for up to three months and sweet potatoes sometimes up to a year, if stored the right way.

Winter Harvest Omelet

Serves: 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

4 Niman Ranch cage-free eggs
3-5 strips Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Uncured bacon
1/2 medium sized red or yellow onion, chopped or sliced
1/2 cup quartered brussels sprouts
1/4 chopped carrot
1/4 cup  peeled and 1/4″ cubed sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons milk
3/4 cup shredded mild cheese, like muenster (shown) or cheddar
2 tablespoons bacon fat, butter or oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Posted in Niman Ranch | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Niman Ranch
Pew Charitable Trusts: Preserving Antibiotics for the Future

In the pre-antibiotic era, doctors were taught that they could not change the course of their patients’ illnesses. Their job, instead, was to make an accurate diagnosis so they could give an accurate prognosis to their patients. When antibiotics came along in the 1940’s, it totally revolutionized things. They are undoubtedly responsible for saving millions of human lives.

Unfortunately, inappropriate use of antibiotics could be threatening their ability to cure. As mentioned by Dr. Lance Price during his presentation at one of our conferences this past year, the conventional livestock industry’s low dose use of antibiotics is partially responsible for drug-resistant bacteria emerging on farms. This is thought to reach the general population through human or animal carriers, and through the food consumers eat.

Our animals are raised using traditional methods that respect their innate behaviors rather than in crowded, unsanitary or stressful settings. This makes the need for antibiotics to treat sick animals very minimal. If one of our animals does get sick and cannot get well without antibiotics, our animal welfare protocols allow for the animal to be treated.  If this happens, the animal is removed from our program and never sold as Niman Ranch meat.  Luckily, this rarely occurs.

Posted in Niman Ranch | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Niman Ranch
Football Food Favorites from Uncle Rich, Part 3

With Super Bowl XLIX just around the corner, Uncle Rich wants to share a recipe that can feed and fill the masses. Ever had pork nachos? Rich believes that when you mix pre-cooked pork and your favorite ingredients, it can be one of the easiest and flavorsome dishes to serve your friends.

Seeing how we just started making our Pulled Pork with Smoky Chipotle Barbecue Sauce just came out, this recipe features our new flavor with your classic favorites from the nacho world. Cheese, green onions, cilantro, avocado – anything you love could find it’s way to the top of this dish. He’s recommended what goes best with the spicy, smoky flavor of our pulled pork. Trust us – Uncle Rich knows best!

Want to keep things clean? Always put parchment paper underneath your tortilla chips. Love cheese? Add a second layer on top of the pulled pork. Want to really step up your game? Add crumbled, cooked bacon to the mix.


Perfect Pulled Pork with Smoky Chipotle Barbecue Sauce Nachos

Pulled pork nachos


Active time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes

Posted in Niman Ranch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Willis
Spring Catalogs

It’s been pretty quiet on the farm this January.  The land is covered in a blanket of snow and temperatures occasionally dip to -40 below zero with the wind chill. Our farmers keep pretty busy checking hog waters and ensuring they aren’t frozen, cleaning out farm buildings and adding bedding for farm animals to keep them warm and cozy.  Evenings are filled with after school activities like basketball, band and choir concerts, wrestling meets and the like. Playing Scrabble or card games is also popular this time of year. Anything you can do indoors to keep warm!

Jan 1

One favorite activity among farmers is perusing the latest seed catalogs. As they arrive in the mail, we begin preparing for spring planting.   Seed Savers, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds, puts out one of our favorite catalogs.   It’s fun to see what we can find – anything from purple carrots to purple potatoes. More importantly, planting and saving these heirloom varieties perpetuate diversity in our gardens as well as our diet.  Sophia has always loved finding unique vegetables for our garden; it’s a great way to get children interested in growing things and eating their vegetables.  Offering carrots that are purple, red or white is much more interesting than the expected orange.

Posted in Niman Ranch, Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah Willis
Holidays Growing Up on the Willis Family Farm

Growing up, we wrapped all of our Christmas presents in newspaper. My mother insisted for several reasons:Potato Stamp- Dec

  1. it was cheaper than buying wrapping paper
  2. it was an easy way to recycle the newspaper cutting down on waste
  3. it was fun

stamping paper- DecYou might think it wouldn’t be as beautiful but we took pride in decorating our newspaper to make it really special by stamping our own Christmas designs all over it. We created our own stamper by carving potatoes. I usually carved a Christmas tree or snowman. This is still a good idea- Sophia loves doing crafts like this.




wrapped presentInstead of purchasing decorations I like to continue the tradition of using things found around me to decorate our home for the holidays. Bringing the beauty found outdoors in nature inside for Christmas adds a special quality.

Decorations like pine cones are simply hung from our doorway or windowsills or even on the Christmas tree itself. As a family we have fun stringing together cranberries or popcorn to make garlands. And remember paper chains? These are still fun activities especially if you have little ones.

Posted in Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Niman Ranch
Leftover Split Pea and Ham Soup

Have a lot of leftover ham from the holiday? This Leftover Split Pea and Ham Soup is a one-pot recipe that’s sure to satisfy. If you’re tired of working in the kitchen, just freeze the ham and thaw it out the day you plan to cook. As with most soups, this one is best when reheated the day after cooking.


Ham Soup 3


Leftover Split Pea and Ham Soup

3 tbsp butter or oil
1 c finely chopped onions
1/2 c finely chopped celery and carrots
1 tbsp minced garlic

1 lb dried split peas or lentils
1 lb leftover Bone-In Half Uncured Spiral Sliced Ham with Glaze, diced
8 1/2 c water or *ham stock
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 pinch nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1/2 c chopped carrots
1/2 c chopped potatoes

*leftover ham bone

1. Cover peas with 2 inches of water in a medium sized bowl and soak 8 to 12 hours. Drain and set aside.

2. Melt butter over med-high heat in a large pot. Add the onions, celery and carrots and stir until soft, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until combined.

Posted in Niman Ranch | Leave a comment