For 20 years, farmers Penny and Dean Janousek have seen the Niman Ranch community as an extension of their family.
A fourth-generation farmer, Dean was inspired by his grandfather, father, and uncle, who all farmed before him. “It’s what he was raised to be,” Penny tells Food Tank.
Following the hog market crash of 1998, the Janouseks, who run their family farm, Janousek Pure Pork and Beef, were searching for options to help stabilize their livelihood.
When Dean saw a PBS program featuring Niman Ranch founder Paul Willis, they were drawn to the farmer who raised his hogs sustainably and humanely, just as they did. “This humble man stated he wasn’t sure if it was going to work or not,” they say. “We were so impressed with his honesty and vision.”
In August of 1999, the Janouseks met with Willis to learn more about his vision for Niman Ranch. By November, they sold their first hogs to the company.
Since that first sale, the Janouseks have watched consumer interest in sustainably produced food grow. “Twenty years ago, what we were doing wasn’t looked at as something necessarily respected. Now, Niman Ranch is a leading name in sustainable food,” the Janouseks tell Food Tank.
And while demand for products has grown and farming operations have evolved, their commitment to sustainability has not wavered.
“Agriculture continues to change with new technology and the opening of new niche markets, but what doesn’t change are people with strong values who take pride in their profession as farmers,” the Janouseks tell Food Tank.
Providing dirt lots and pasture access for their hogs, the Janouseks prioritize humane livestock practices and let their pigs exhibit their natural instincts. Using these techniques, they raise between 250-300 hogs for Niman Ranch each year. They also grow grains for livestock feed, using crop rotation and grassy waterways to keep their soil healthy. And they raise cattle they also market to Niman Ranch.
Although Penny and Dean are primarily responsible for the farm, their sons Grant and Reed pitch in whenever they can. Reed is also establishing an orchard on the farm to complement their existing operations and further diversify their family business.
The Janouseks believe that their sustainable practices are essential to preserve resources for future generations. And they say that the ability to carry out their work within the Niman Ranch community keeps them going.
Over the years, they say that they have met lifelong friends that they now consider a family. From staff and buyers to Niman Ranch customers and chefs, they feel an instant connection to those who appreciate what they do.
“We love telling our story, what we do, and what we believe in. We are proud to be Niman Ranch farmers.”
Photo courtesy of Penny and Dean Janousek