On Mineral Valley Farms, three generations of Niman Ranch farmers are raising livestock for a more sustainable future.
Brenden Kleiboeker’s family has farmed in Lawrence County, Missouri since they moved from Germany to the United States in the late 1800s. In 1965 his grandfather established Mineral Valley Farms, where Kleiboeker lives today.
A 6th generation farmer, Kleiboeker was inspired by his father and grandfather, certain that a career in farming was right for him. He now helps run Mineral Valley Farms with his grandparents, Don and Carole, his parents, Philip and Margaret and two siblings, Kaitlin and Keenan.
“Knowing that this career and lifestyle we love has been passed down through every generation of my family, and knowing that I want this lifestyle for myself and my future children…keep me on the land today and for years to come,” Kleiboeker tells Food Tank.
Roughly 15 years ago, Mineral Valley Farms joined the Niman Ranch network. Before then, they sold their hogs to the commodity market. But when the hog market crashed in the 1990s and Mineral Valley Farms was looking for a more stable market, they turned to Niman Ranch.
“Raising hogs for Niman Ranch, we get more money for our pork, with less overhead expenses.”
Niman Ranch’s commitment to sustainability also aligns with Kleiboeker and his family’s values.
No till farming allows the farm to conserve both soil and water while waterways help to improve water quality on the farm.
“Knowing that through your decisions you can improve the world for the better is a very satisfying lifestyle,” Kleiboeker tells Food Tank.
Despite his commitment to a career in farming, Kleiboeker acknowledges that young farmers face many challenges as the industry evolves. As a child, Kleiboeker recalls seeing one dairy farm after another near his home. But today, they are disappearing. He also knows that hog farmers witnessed a similar trend decades earlier.
But Kleiboeker remains confident in farmers’ ability to persist. “Times change, as do industries,” Kleiboeker tells Food Tank, “but I believe in the future of agriculture and know that agriculture will always remain.”
With help from organizations like the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation, young farmers like Kleiboeker are receiving the support they need to pursue careers in agriculture. Launched in 2006, the scholarship aims to help develop the next generation of farmers by offsetting the costs of higher education.
At a time when he notices fewer young people pursuing careers in farming, he says that the scholarship has been a great help. “I can now focus on the things that truly matter rather than worrying how I am going to pay for school.”
Kleiboeker explains that the National FFA Organization also offers great opportunities for young farmers. “Not only do you make countless connections with industry professionals, but the leadership skills that you gain are priceless.”
Kleiboeker believes that these skills will prove useful as he continues to advocate for his community and fellow farmers. He also hopes that he can inspire more people to engage with the food system.
“With all that goes on in the world, none of it matters without food.”
Photo courtesy of Brendan Kleiboeker
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