Raeanna Crile and her family have been farming and raising livestock for three generations—a 72-year affair.
Crile Farms dates back to 1947, just two years after the end of World War II. After completing his military service, Raeanna’s grandfather decided to begin his own farming operation. Now, three generations later the Crile family continues to call Iowa home, cultivating the land, cattle, and hogs. Farming and ranching are integral to the family’s collective identity on both sides. “Generations previous, my grandfather emigrated from Germany. We have been farmers the whole time in America, just in various locations,” says Raeanna.
On the farm, Raeanna’s uncle, father, brother, and sister all help support daily operations. When Raeanna—a recipient of The Niman Ranch Next Generation Scholarship—is not occupied with her studies at college, she also makes sure to contribute to the everyday needs of the farm. And there is no shortage of tasks—Raeanna’s family raise anywhere from 300 to 450 calves each year and approximately 1,000 pigs annually.
The Crile family has sold to Niman Ranch for about seven years. Raeanna cites Niman Ranch’s focus on quality as the main reason that her family has maintained a long and agreeable relationship with the company that partners with a network of 740 independent family farmers in the United States to provide humanely raised livestock. The high quality of a Niman Ranch product demonstrates this beneficial relationship; and for family farmers like the Crile’s, having this reliable, fair, and sustainable market to sell their product ensures the success of future generations on the farm.
The landscape surrounding Crile Farms and Wayland has changed over the years. “There has been a decrease in the number of farms since 1969, while average farm size has increased. In 1969 there were 1,220 farms in Henry County. By 2002 this number was down to 857, a 30 percent drop in the number of farms in just three decades,” Raeanna tells Food Tank. As many farms consolidate, Crile Farms has remained independent. Sustainability, family, and the greater farm community go hand in hand. As Raeanna explains, “Farming is a unique self-employed business that is essential for the country and the world to embrace. It takes one person to have the passion to raise animals or crops, but it takes a family to maintain that passion for a successful business.”
Every year, the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation awards a group of young farmers who are committed to sustainability and helping rural communities thrive. Both Raeanna and her brother, Kallin, are two of these chosen young leaders; in 2018 and 2019 the pair were selected as David Serfling Memorial Scholarship recipients, presented to the top applicants every year. These awards go towards both Raeanna and Kallin’s college education, supporting their efforts to return as the next generation on their farm.
The sustainability of the farm is additionally bolstered by the Crile’s use of environmentally friendly practices. This includes rotating corn, beans, and alfalfa hay on the farm. Crile Farms has also implemented farming practices that support the health of the local ecosystem. They have built buffer strips, utilize grassy waterways, and are participants in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a land conservation program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that compensates farmers who remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production.
With young farmers like Raeanna and Kallin, the future looks bright for Crile Farms.
Farmer Friday is a monthly series featuring Niman Ranch family farmers and ranchers raising livestock in a traditional, humane, and sustainable way. With more than 40 years as an industry leader, Niman Ranch works with more than 70 independent family farmers and ranchers across the United States to encourage better food system practices. All Niman Ranch pork, beef, lamb, and prepared products are certified under the Certified Humane® program and available nationwide at both food service and retail locations.