Many of our Niman Ranch employees are active in the livestock industry outside of work- whether volunteering with the local FFA or raising livestock themselves. Kay Cornelius, Midwest and Southwest Business Director, is one of those employees. This summer she participated in the Colorado Versatility Ranch Horse shows and was the novice champion.
Versatility Ranch Horse is not just one event, but a series of five separate events, “I like to think of it as a decathlon for a ranch horse/rider team” she says.
- Working Ranch Horse (Reining and Boxing a Cow)
- Ranch Riding
Each of these events is designed to show off a certain skill – or set of skills – which would be necessary for a horse and rider to do their jobs on a working ranch. Kay competed in each event and the scores from all of the events are totaled to determine an overall Versatility Ranch Horse champion.
Recently, I was invited to speak at the Farmer Veteran Coalition’s Empowering Women Veterans Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The Farmer Veteran Coalition, founded by Michael O’Gorman, is a veteran outreach organization offering employment and farm education programs for veterans. Niman Ranch has been working with the organization to provide opportunities for veterans to join the Niman Ranch community of family farmers.
It’s an understatement to tell you how honored I was to speak at the Empowering Women Veteran’s Conference on Agriculture, Business and Well-being. I was so impressed with this group. Many of the attendees were actual veterans themselves, while others were spouses of veterans, including several who were married to persons who died in service to our country. All of the attendees continue their tradition of serving to make the world a better place, this time through farming.
I met a fellow Iowan named Sonia Kendrick. She served in Afghanistan and is now working to solve the issue of hunger here in Iowa. Kendrick told me she couldn’t believe the vast number of people going hungry here in the state of Iowa – over 340,000 people each night according to the USDA – with so much bounty around us. She pointed out that much of what is grown in our state is exported or not meant for human consumption.
We have a committed and dedicated group of lamb ranchers who raise animals for Niman Ranch. The article below was recently published in Sheep Industry News, it gives the history of our lamb program and they gave us permission to share with you.
Niman Ranch: Commitment to Quality
By AMY TRINIDAD, Sheep Industry News Editor
(Nov. 1, 2013) Niman Ranch may be most well-known for its pork products; however, it was in the 1990s that Niman Ranch started offering lamb to complement their beef line due in part to the dedicated work of Al Medvitz and Jeannie McCormack of California. Today, fewer than a dozen sheep ranching families from a variety of regions produce the lamb the company sells nationwide.
After many years of living in an urban setting, Medvitz and McCormack moved back to McCormack’s family ranch in Rio Vista, Calif., in 1987. Soon thereafter, the number of lamb buyers available to bid on the ranch’s lambs dwindled down to one and McCormack felt like she wasn’t getting a fair price, so she took matters into her own hands. With the help of her mother’s Christmas card list, she marketed boxed lamb and soon enough their direct market business took off.
Autumn is here and as I was trying a new recipe with my mother for apple cake, our conversation turned towards the changing landscape.
We are in the midst of harvest season. Much of the corn and soybeans which surrounds us is being combined (a large machine which harvests crops) out of the fields. No more “corn corners”- a term those of us in rural areas use to identify intersections in the country where the visibility has decreased significantly due to the height of the corn. The landscape has opened up again and we can see far and wide.
My mother pointed out that we didn’t have as many “corn corners” this year, because quite a bit of the farmland around Northern Iowa didn’t get planted. This was mainly due to the unusual snow and flooding we experienced in May- prime planting time. Many farmers were frustrated because they couldn’t get into the fields early enough to plant the traditional crops of corn and soybeans, because the soil was so wet.
But some farmers were able to plant a cover crop to prevent erosion, helping to sustain the health of the land and also to produce something off the land. For the most part, these are the farmers who own their land and have a vested interest in its sustainability over time.
As the U.S. family farm disappears, we are proud of our young independent family farmers who raise livestock for Niman Ranch. They are committed to raising hogs sustainably and humanely while continuing the traditional farming practices handed down by their parents and grandparents. Meet Scott, a young farmer following the family tradition.
Young Iowa Farmers: Scott Sibbel from Leave It Better on Vimeo.
The Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner is the highlight of the year for many of us! In appreciation for the hog farmers who raise hogs humanely and sustainably for Niman Ranch, a group of highly acclaimed chefs from across the country take time off to travel to Iowa to cook this special dinner for our farmers.
This year we were honored to have the most distinctive line-up yet, with:
- JBF Award Finalist; Jack Riebel- who brought his Butcher, Peter Botcher, with him from The Butcher & the Boar in Minneapolis;
- Top Chef Season 7 Winner-Kevin Sbraga who brought his sous chef, Colin Cook, from Sbraga in Philadelphia;
- Food & Wine’s Best New Chef 2003, David Bull- of Congress in Austin;
- Australian Salon Culinare Gold Medal Champion, Jodie Rogers of Deer Valley Ski Resort & executive chef, Clark Norris, of Mariposa- number one restaurant in Salt Lake City area;
- JBF Award Winner, Andy Ricker’s right hand- Alex Yellan of POK POK NYC.
Posted in Niman Ranch, Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate
Tagged Andrew Hunter, Chef Andrew Hunter, chefs collaborative, confinement free hogs, family farming, free range hogs, free range pork, gestation crate-free, humanely raised hogs, humanely raised pork, Next Generation Scholarship, sustainably raised pork, U.S. family farmers, U.S. farms, young farmers
This was the fifteenth year for the Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner Weekend. The main event is a farm-to-table dinner held on Saturday evening at the Embassy Suites in Des Moines honoring the network of family farmers who supply pork to Niman Ranch. The event is free of charge for the farmers. Seven highly acclaimed chefs from across the country – all of whom are true culinary leaders and influencers in their regions and understand that good food starts at the farm – traveled to Iowa to tour a farm that is part of the network of farmers who supply Niman Ranch and to cook this six course meal in celebration of these farmers.
The chefs who attended were:
Chef David Bull- Congress, Austin, TX
Chef Alex Yellan- Pok Pok, New York, NY
Chef Kevin Sbraga- Sbraga, Philadelphia, PA
Chef Jack Riebel- Butcher and the Boar, Minneapolis, MN
Chef Jodie Rogers & Chef Clark Norris- Deer Valley, Park City, UT
Chef Anne Quatrano- Bacchanalia, Atlanta, GA
Posted in Niman Ranch, Sarah Willis, Sustainable Farming Advocate
Tagged family farming, free range hogs, humanely raised hogs, humanely raised pork, Next Generation Scholarship, Sustainable farming, sustainable farms, sustainably raised pork, U.S. family farmers
Chef Alex Yellan traveled from Brooklyn, NY, to cook at our 15th Annual Niman Ranch Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. Meet Alex and, if in New York, stop by Pok Pok Ny.
Alex grew up in Phoenix, Arizona where he started his culinary career as a brunch cook at his parents’ business. He attended University of Oregon where he began traveling abroad and learning about different cuisines of Mexico and Spain.
Following his passion for food, after graduating from college, he began working at DF Mexican restaurant in Portland, OR. But, the desire to travel quickly returned and he spent nine months travelling in Mexico, Central, and South America. Returning to Portland, he returning to DF Mexican, and helped open Kenny and Zuke’s Delicatessen.
Alex’s next move was to Alex Ricker’s Pok Pok in Portland where he worked for over a year before moving to New York City. In New York City he cooked seasonal American food at Back Forty and then returned to Mexican cuisine at Empellon Taqueria where he was on the opening team and sous chef.
Alex rejoined Chef Ricker after being asked to open Pok Pok Wing and then Pok Pok Ny where he currently works as Kitchen Manager overseeing the daytime prep.
Chefs Jodie Rogers and Clark Norris joined us from Deer Valley Resorts to cook for our hog farmers at the 15th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. Meet them:
Jodie Rogers serves as the executive chef of Snow Park and Empire Canyon Lodges. Rogers’ job as executive chef entails operations of all Snow Park and Empire Canyon Lodges restaurants and food events, including banquets; breakfast and lunch cuisine at the day lodges; cuisine for the child care and ski school programs; après-ski appetizers in the Snow Park Lounge and the evening Seafood Buffet. In addition, she oversees all food and beverage operations at the Empire Canyon Grill including Fireside Dinning which is offered every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Rogers’ also spends her summers overseeing all banquets at the Resort.
Rogers, a native of Australia, has spent five winters as an employee of Deer Valley serving as the manager of the employee dining program as well as an assistant sous chef and then sous chef at Snow Park Lodge. She was promoted to Snow Park Executive Chef in December 2000 and the Empire Canyon Lodge was added to her responsibilities in 2002.