The Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation: Why we do what we do

By Drew Calvert, Executive Director of the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation and Vice President at Niman Ranch
Niman Ranch Next Gen Foundation

The numbers are sobering.

  • 52 farmers lose their farms each day in America.
  • 56% of farms lost money in 2017.
  • For every farmer under the age of 35 years of age, there are six over the age of 65.
  • 4 out of 5 Iowa pig farms that operated 3 decades ago are out of business today.
  • We lose 175 acres of U.S. farmland every hour to development.

The numbers tell us we need to help – in any and every way that we can.

Niman Ranch, the pioneering leader in sustainable and humane meat, saw its network of small, independent family farmers and ranchers struggle to bring the next generation back to the farm. One of the most significant hurdles was student loan debt. We knew we could help.

Niman Ranch made a commitment more than 10 years ago to help this next generation of farmers through a scholarship program. This program helps in several ways:

  • It keeps farms in the family and not lost to development.
  • It ensures traditional and sustainable farming practices are passed down and not lost as agriculture becomes more industrialized.
  • It helps future farmers and agriculture leaders gain new skills and expertise, without crippling debt.

And the benefits of the Next Generation Foundation scholarship program go beyond the individual farmer and farm family, creating a positive ripple effect in rural communities. Small, family farms support many local businesses, organizations and institutions like their local veterinarian, the church, hospital, and school system. For every small farm that is able to be passed down to the next generation, a rural community shares in those positive effects.

Since 2006, together with the companies who sell our products, the chefs who feature Niman Ranch meats on their menus, the grocery stores who put the items on their shelves and the consumers who serve Niman Ranch to their families, we, collectively, have helped more than 200 young people who are committed to family farming and ranching. Many of these scholarship recipients have returned to the farm and their rural communities.

Every year we have expanded this program, raising and distributing more money than the year prior. In 2019, we raised more than $188,000; awarding 39 scholarships valued at $140,700 while establishing a reserve fund thanks to a $50,000 endowment from the AW Perdue Foundation.

With our donors’ continued generous contributions, we will be able to continue to help the children of farmers who are committed to humane and sustainable practices and help family farms and rural communities thrive into the future.