Where do I start – the beautiful landscape of a family owned farm, the passionate discussion about sustainability, the amazing chef created meals, or the rocking 80′s band? This past weekend I got the privilege of attending the Niman Ranch retreat in Boise, ID along with several other members of our EVOL team. It was a great chance to get to know one of our key suppliers, and we liked what we found.
Niman Ranch is a co-op of over 700 family farms and they have high standards for their animals. The animals are never given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal by-products, but we also found that the cows spend most of their lives grazing on open pasture and they are truly treated in a humane way. My favorite part of the whole weekend was getting a chance to talk directly to the farmer. The family is made up of 4th, 5th, and 6th generation (some pretty cute kids) farmers who truly care for the land and their animals. An interesting moment came when they were asked how their farm was sustainable, and the crowd of city slickers were confused when the family only responded by talking about their economic ability to last 6 generations. The fact is that they have to care for the land and their animals to be able to survive 6 generations, however, they are more proud that they have been able to thrive during the ups and downs of the commodity beef market. They had always had a quality product, but partnering with Niman Ranch has allowed them to reap the rewards for the extra care and effort they put into raising their cows. Visiting the farm was a great insight into how choosing quality ingredient partners is better for everybody – the farmers, the land, and the taste of our products.
We also got to attend an insightful conference on Saturday where we passionately tried to define sustainability (not an easy task, but the definition I liked the most was, “sustainable means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. We were also treated to a lunch that was created by local chefs using Niman products, and ended the night rocking out to a memorable 80′s cover band.
The weekend made me proud to say we use Niman Ranch products, and gave me a deeper gratitude for the care and hard work that goes into our ingredients.