Paul Willis of Niman Ranch Honored at Fancy Food Show

At this year’s Fancy Food Show, Paul Willis, the founding hog farmer of Niman Ranch, was honored with the prestigious Specialty Food Association Leadership Award for Sustainability. Paul’s journey began on a single family farm and has since expanded into a network of over 600 Certified Humane® independent family farmers and ranchers, dedicated to raising pork, beef, and lamb sustainably without antibiotics, hormones, or crates. Niman Ranch meats are now featured in top restaurants, values-driven fast casual chains, and specialty grocers across the country.

Phil Robinson, SVP of Member Development at the Specialty Food Association, emphasized Paul’s role in driving change within the specialty food industry, stating, “Thanks to Paul’s vision and tenacity—and the support of Niman Ranch customers looking for the best-tasting pork—hundreds of family farmers can make a living raising pigs humanely and sustainably. These qualities are what earned Paul SFA’s 2024 Leadership Award for Sustainability.”

Paul’s commitment to sustainable agriculture was sparked during his time with the Peace Corps in Nigeria, where he organized the Young Farmers Club. Returning to the U.S. in 1975, he established his farm in Thornton, Iowa, continuing his family’s farming legacy. As demand for his pork grew, initially in the California Bay Area and then nationwide, Paul expanded by adding like-minded farmers to his network.

For over thirty years, Paul has championed animal welfare and supported small farmers through various organizations, co-founding Food Democracy Now and helping establish the nation’s first pork animal welfare certification standards. His work spans collaborations with international bodies like the United Nations and local institutions such as Drake University, focusing on improving animal welfare and the economic viability of family farmers globally.

Paul’s impact extends beyond agriculture; many farmers credit him with preserving their family legacies through Niman Ranch. Today, second and third-generation family farms thrive under his mentorship and leadership.

In his current role as Niman Ranch’s Farmer #1, Paul remains a prominent advocate for sustainable production methods, spending his leisure time birdwatching on his 160-acre native tall-grass prairie and nurturing his garden, particularly his cherished heirloom tomatoes. He continues to inspire and guide others striving to build a more sustainable food system, emphasizing his ongoing commitment to advocacy.

Paul Willis embodies the spirit of innovation and sustainability within the food industry, demonstrating how a singular vision can transform farming practices and promote a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

Source link