As independent family farmers in the Niman Ranch network, fourth-generation farmers Chad and Tammy Ingels not only support their fellow farmers but also give back to their local community and the planet.
Chad Ingels’ great-grandparents first established their farm in Fayette County, Iowa, after moving from central Iowa. “I actually have the receipt from the first milk sale in the spring of 1929,” Ingels tells Food Tank.
After studying horticulture at Iowa State University, Ingels returned to farming in 1991. Ingels tells Food Tank, “The 1980s were a difficult time, and somehow my parents made it through, but just barely.” When a nearby farm became available during his senior year of college, he secured a lease and started farming independently.
Following the hog market crash in 1998, the mission of Niman Ranch resonated with Ingels. He explains to Food Tank, “Working with the Niman Ranch allowed me to rebuild my herd slowly and access a market with a small number of pigs.”
Today, the Ingels family raises and sells around 400 hogs each year. They also grow corn, soybeans, oats, and hay on their family farm.
As one of their many sustainable practices, the Ingels family also plants cover crops like rye, which replenish nutrients in the soil. And over the summer, they seeded native prairie strips. The strips, they hope, will not only provide habitat for local wildlife but also reduce soil and nutrient loss.
The Ingels family are also active members of their community. They support the Niman Ranch network by acting as a liaison for other farmers in the area, telling Food Tank “[We] are open to answering questions from other farmers who might be interested in the system.” They also volunteer on the school board, coach youth sports, and are active in their local church.
The Ingels family hopes to continue giving back for years to come. To preserve the long-term health of agricultural land, they assigned several acres with the Conservation Reserve Program, and they participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
“The most important reasons to farm sustainably are to protect the productivity of the family farm far into the future and reduce the environmental impact of the farm today.”