Niman Ranch farmers, Brice and Melanie Hundling of Hundling Family Farms, are raising their family to act as stewards of the land and be responsible caretakers of the animals.
Based out of Breda, Iowa, Brice and Melanie Hundling believe there are benefits to raising their children on the farm. “It always keeps you humble because you have to think of something besides yourself most of the time,” the Hundlings tell Food Tank.
Brice’s great-great-grandfather began farming in 1905 and his family has remained dedicated to farming over the last century. His grandfather raised dairy cows and his father began farming in the 1970s. Brice and Melanie established their farm in 2004.
On their farm, the Hundlings grow corn, soybean, alfalfa, oats, and pasture. They also raise a variety of livestock, including cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, peacocks, and guineas.
The Hundlings use sustainable farming practices, including crop rotation, grassy waterways, terraces, no-till agriculture, and a combination of crop farming, rotational grazing, and residue grazing. They also use manure from their farm as fertilizer to help build healthy soils and minimize nutrient runoff into waterways.
But the Hundlings don’t just farm sustainably, they live sustainably as well. “We try to be as self-sufficient as possible. Melanie has a garden, we butcher all our own animals, raise our own broiler chickens, milk our own dairy cows, and pick our own fruit. I’ve always believed in eating seasonally,” Brice tells Food Tank.
For 15 years, they have sold their hogs to Niman Ranch, a network of over 750 family farms raising their livestock to meet the highest animal welfare standards. To the Hundlings, the biggest benefit of being part of the Niman Ranch family is stability.
This is especially true during the current economic crisis. The Hundlings say, “With all that’s going on, knowing there is always someone you can sell to” provides them with a true sense of security.
The Hundlings see what their family does as proof that raising pigs humanely and sustainably can work. The Hundlings encourage anyone interested in getting into sustainable farming to get out there and do it. Brice encourages, “Have a summer job, do an internship, work on a farm… there are opportunities out there.”
The Hundlings speak from their own experience. “I studied abroad in college,” says Brice. In college he spent a summer in Denmark working on a dairy farm. And in high school he spent three weeks in Ukraine, as part of an exchange program. These experiences broadened his understanding of the world. “It was interesting to see the world from [other people’s] perspectives,” Brice tells Food Tank.
The Hundlings admit that farm work is challenging, with no paid time off and it being very difficult to get away. But, “It’s a tradeoff, it’s a good life,” they say. Brice’s favorite part of the day is going out to milk the family’s dairy cows. “It’s relaxing, they are gentle. The dairy cows have a calming effect on me,” Brice tells Food Tank.
The Hundlings emphasize that to do good work you must enjoy what you do. And they have always enjoyed farming sustainably. With five children between the ages of three and 11, Brice and Melanie hope that at least one of them will want to farm. “Hopefully we’ve farmed in a way where the land will be better than we found it,” says Brice.
Photo Courtesy of Brice and Melanie Hundling