DES MOINES, Iowa, Aug. 29, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Niman Ranch celebrated its more than 550 U.S. family hog farmers and awarded 23 Next Generation Scholarships last weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, at its 15th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. Niman Ranch established the Next Generation Scholarship Fund in 2006 to preserve the integrity of small independent family farms by supporting the children of rural communities who wish to attend college and pursue an education focusing on sustainable agriculture or veterinary science and who intend to return to the family farm upon graduation.
The Next Generation Scholarship Fund receives contributions from Niman Ranch customers including Burgerville, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Marczyk Fine Foods and Whole Foods Market; and many members of its distributor network including: Buedel Food Products, DeBragga & Spitler, E & B's Natural Way, Lone Star Food Service, Old Town Foods, Oxford Trading Co., Premier Meat Co., Sterling Food Service, Tonail's Meats and Wasatch Meats. Since 2006 more than $175,000 in scholarships has been awarded to 90 students. This year, Niman Ranch provided 23 deserving students scholarships ranging from $4000 to $500 each.
"This scholarship will be extremely helpful as I follow my dreams and enter sustainable agriculture," stated Noah Taylor, a student from Bouton, Iowa, who is currently studying Animal Science and Agriculture Studies at Northwest Missouri State Univ. in Maryville, Mo. "The support I have received from Niman Ranch has been so helpful and I thank everyone involved for supporting youth in agriculture."
This year's other Niman Ranch Next Generation scholarship recipients are from Iowa, Minn., Missouri, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin and will be attending colleges including: Iowa State Univ., Northwest Missouri State, Univ. of Wisconsin, Univ. of Minnesota and Univ. of Missouri.
"We understand that sustainable agriculture relies on the next generation of young farmers," states Niman Ranch founding hog farmer Paul Willis of Thornton, Iowa. "The goal of this scholarship is to provide these students with the means to pursue a higher education and encourage them to apply their new found knowledge to bettering their land management practices on their family farms."
Also at the appreciation dinner, 11 farmers were honored for superior hog production, with Steve Scheer from Lowden, Iowa, recognized for raising hogs with the highest pork quality, and Crowe Farms from Monroe City, Mo., named Farmers of the Year. Additionally, 17 farmers celebrated 10 years raising hogs for Niman Ranch.
The chairman of Chefs Collaborative, Michael Leviton, addressed the dinner attendees and spoke about the important role Niman Ranch has played in creating a market for meat raised sustainably and humanely while helping to revitalize family farms and their local communities.
High-resolution images are available upon request.
Niman Ranch is a community of more than 700 small independent U.S. family farmers and ranchers who raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably to deliver the finest-tasting proteins. Niman Ranch's independent family farmers practice the highest standards of animal husbandry and environmental stewardship. Niman Ranch's fresh, smoked and prepared meats are available at fine restaurants and select grocery stores nationwide.
Media Contact: Drew Calvert, Niman Ranch 720-249-1868