What began in 2006 as $2,500 in scholarships to support three young students has turned into a yearly fund of over $100,000 to support Niman Ranch farm families reduce college debt and help young people return to the farm. The Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship program has grown significantly. In 2019, Niman Ranch distributed $140,000 to 39 students involved in agriculture.
Jim Masselink was one of the first three recipients to earn the scholarship in 2006. At the time, Jim was studying animal science, general agriculture and agricultural business gaining experience and knowledge to take back to the farm. After graduation, Jim returned to his family farm and has since farmed alongside his father.
Q: As a child, what attracted you to and discouraged you from the idea of returning to the farm?
A: I planned to return to the farm as a child. I enjoyed growing up on the farm and like to work with my hands. When I went to college, I knew I wanted to farm so I chose classes and majors that I thought would be the most beneficial and informative. I put an emphasis on animal agriculture because that was my preference. The hardest part of returning to the farm was finding opportunities in agriculture.
Q: What keeps you farming despite challenges?
A: I don’t have a backup plan. I am competitive and want to try to overcome the challenges I face. Although it can be hard work, it’s rewarding watching my son play outside like I did when I was a child.
Q: Why, from your experience, is scholarship assistance important for students planning to return to the farm?
A: The scholarship helps with the price of education. It helped with college tuition in a time when I didn’t have much. I was able to invest the money I saved from receiving the scholarship into getting started farming. A college education is very useful and, if a person wishes to return to the farm, any money that is saved while getting your education can be returned into the farm and help you get started.
Q: What were the best parts about growing up on a farm?
A: The best parts were being able to spend time outside, building things in the shop, learning responsibility from chores and spending time with family.