Growing up around farming, Niman Ranch farmers Cody and Morgan Wickerham were inspired to work in agriculture at a young age.
“Morgan and I were around farming all our lives,” first-generation farmer Cody Wickerham tells Food Tank. Over the years, the Wickerhams have helped raise hogs, cows, and goats.
Today, the couple manages Wickerham Family Farm in Indiana with Morgan’s father, Jeff. Unlike many farms in the area, their farm, established in 2012, does not produce crops; instead the Wickerhams focus their energy on their hogs.
“I enjoy producing a quality product in the manner pigs should be raised,” Wickerham says.
Wickerham Family Farm allows its hogs pasture access throughout the year. The farm also utilizes year-round hoop barns, one of the ways they provide a healthy environment for the hogs.
In 2016, the Wickerhams joined Niman Ranch, drawn to the network’s commitment to sustainability. They believe that caring for land is important so future generations will have the opportunity to farm in the same way.
And at a time when the Wickerhams notice many farms around them getting bigger and less opportunity for small independent family farms, like theirs, to get started – a trend they struggle with – Niman Ranch allows the family to raise their hogs without compromising their personal values. “It means a lot to be a part of a group of like-minded individuals who raise hogs in a sustainable, humane way,” Wickerham tells Food Tank of the Niman Ranch community
The Wickerhams also value the opportunity to work alongside one another as they raise their newborn pigs. “We love watching the pigs grow and working on the farm as a family. We hope to one day pass [the farm] onto our children,” Wickerham says.
In addition to inspiring their own children to follow in their tracks, the Wickerhams hope to see other young people take up farming. They believe that it is possible to stimulate young people’s curiosity about food and agriculture by “bringing them out to the farm to show them how rewarding it is.”
Wickerham also encourages young farmers to join Niman Ranch to help them establish themselves in the agricultural sector and find stability in their work. Whenever he can, Wickerham tries to support these farmers who are developing new relationships with the network. “I enjoy helping people who just started in the program,” he says.
Wickerham hopes that young farmers will not be the only ones to get more involved in the food system. He also wants more consumers to learn about their food’s origins.
“Know how your food is made and produced,” Wickerham tells Food Tank, “and just be a good neighbor.”