Five generations have worked the plots of land along County Road 4 in Alexandria, Minnesota. Once home to Holstein dairy cattle, the Engelbrecht Family Farm is now a diversified hog, cattle and crop farm. Like many others, the family farm has evolved since its start in 1902, but there is one constant—family first.
“Although I have had many amazing experiences, the most meaningful part of growing up on a farm is doing it with my family,” Kodi Bundermann, a fifth generation farmer who works with livestock on the farm, tells Food Tank. “I have always looked up to my grandpa and the way he raises his livestock and grows crops.”
Bundermann gained off-farm agriculture experience from an early age as a member of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA), and she showed livestock at regional and state competitions. “As I grew older and learned more about the industry, I knew I wanted to farm or work in the agriculture sector for the rest of my life,” Bundermann says.
By the time she reached high school, Bundermann began raising her own cattle herd on the family’s farm. But leading up to her first day of undergraduate education at North Dakota State University, she worried about the heavy financial burden of buying and raising cattle while being a full-time student. Thankfully, receiving the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation David Serfling Scholarship allowed Bundermann to continue on and off-field practices in animal science and agribusiness.
Engelbrecht Family Farm is one of more than 750 small farms who are part of Niman Ranch’s mission to produce great-tasting meat using humane and sustainable practices, strict animal welfare protocols, and no antibiotics or hormones. They have been Niman Ranch partners for 16 years, recently selling about 900 pigs per year to the company. For Bundermann, the Niman Ranch model is entwined with her farm’s family-oriented principles.
“I believe in giving my livestock the best care and treating them in the most humane way possible, and Niman Ranch embodies that,” explains Bundermann. “I am proud to be part of a Niman Ranch family because we put our family and livestock first.”
According to Bundermann, raising livestock and crops is a way of life; a necessity not just to make a wage, but one that defines a person. “I can’t imagine a more honorable way to live,” she says.
For young farmers like herself, Bundermann feels it’s important to take advantage of opportunities to gain knowledge from connections within the industry.
Bundermann tells Food Tank that maintaining viable resources for future generations is a key factor in the family’s own goal to farm sustainably. They use buffer strips and crop rotations, for example, to capture potential nutrient loss from the soil and prevent runoff from entering waterways. To Bundermann, these efforts—tied with compassionate, ethical livestock raising practices—are a duty to the future, more than a conscious choice.
“My role as a Niman Ranch farmer is to produce livestock that are raised with care and to farm sustainably to ensure the land is usable for generations after myself,” she says.