Farm to Fork, (aka Farm to Table) is one of the hottest trends around. What makes this food movement so trés chic is its passionate attachment to community.
Rutgers defines Farm to Fork as a “community food system” in which: food production, processing, distribution and consumption are integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place.
One of the success leaders in Farm to Fork integration is the Niman Ranch. A network of over 700 independent farmers and ranchers, Niman members adhere to strict guidelines and quality standards set forth by their organized leadership and followed within each of their own communities.
The Niman Experience
Earlier this month, the Niman “Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner” was hosted by Paul Willis. Willis, who started the hog farming network in 1995 with Bill Niman, holds the annual event at his Iowa farm (Niman Ranch #1) to pay homage to hog farmers, promote industry awareness and raise money for agricultural education.
To date, more than $140,000 in scholarships has been awarded by the Niman “Next Generation Scholarship Fund” to rural students wishing to study sustainable and environmental practices.
Niman started the education fund in 2006 with the help of industry partners and supporters. Chipolte Mexican Grill, Whole Foods and Buedel Fine Meats, among other food vendors and purveyors, contributed to this year’s scholarship distributions.
Chefs from around the country also participate every year by donating their time and talents to creating incredible fresh harvest and pork rich meals throughout the weekend festivities.
Now in its 14th year, the annual event has become an industry poster child for Farm to Fork learning. Having personally attended the ‘Appreciation Dinner’ last year, I’ve seen firsthand how Niman Ranch farmers embody a Farm to Fork community. Several Buedel team members made the pilgrimage to Iowa this year and came back more than overwhelmed by the experience:
The dedication of the [farm] families was amazing – they all have the same ideology. We have never seen the type of passion these people have for what they do, from generation to generation. They told us, “We know we’re doing the right thing”. When you think about it, people want to do the right thing, and to be honest, factory farmers, just don’t express these types of sentiments simply because even if they wanted to, they can’t.
Farm to Fork is sustainability – ethical treatment of the land, animals and workers, profitability and community development. It is a working partnership of agricultural and food system practices.