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Producer Spotlight: Free Happy Farm and Niman Ranch

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We sat down with farmer Joel Gindo of Free Happy Farm to learn about him and his approach to farming. He’s a member of Niman Ranch, a community of independent family farmers, whose products you can get from Imperfect Foods.

Joel Gindo’s Free Happy Farm 

Raising pigs is what Joel Gindo’s father would have considered risky business. They take a long time to raise and they’re a little unpredictable. So instead, cows, chickens, and ducks foraged freely about his father’s farm outside Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But, while cows would have been a safer choice, Joel thinks they’re high-maintenance. Like clockwork, cows have to be milked twice a day. That’s why Joel appreciates pigs. They’re independent. And they fit right in with the care-free chickens that trot about his farm near Brookings, South Dakota. 

On Free Happy Farm, the pigs and chickens that Joel raises are just that: free and happy. These pigs have it all: grassy and wide-open space, fresh food and water, and a farmer who cares. And Joel really cares— as in, he tends to his pigs before, after, and on top of a day job and a family.

As you can imagine, it’s not easy being this busy. Joel honestly wishes he had more time to fish. But he loves what he does, and so he goes above and beyond to take care of his animals. 

Joel Gindo of Free Happy Farm and Niman Ranch

Joel describes his farm as “not so high-tech,” but while he may not be using the latest in farming technology, his practices are advanced in another way. Joel rotates the open range of his pigs and chickens continuously, a practice that improves the health of the animals and the land. First, he lets the pigs roam a plot of land, and then he lets the chickens come in and do their thing. Once hoofs and hens have trodden down the plot of land, he moves them to a new pasture to let the grass regrow. All the animal activity helps aerate and fertilize the soil, while giving the animals the free-roaming lifestyle and varied diet they enjoy best. This “mimicry of nature,” as Joel calls it, keeps the soil healthy, allows the animals to act as they naturally want to, and makes Free Happy Farm a regenerative farm

Not everyone sees the value in what Joel does. But Niman Ranch, a farmer network committed to animal welfare and sustainable farming practices, does. He joined them back in 2018 because, unlike the well-meaning patrons at the farmers market he once sold at, Niman Ranch buys the whole animal at a premium. This ensures nothing is wasted and lets Joel focus on caring for his animals instead of worrying about finding a buyer for all of the different cuts of meat. Niman’s partnership ensures that Joel’s care and dedication get fully appreciated and financially valued. 

There are farmers like Joel out there— farmers who treat animals with respect, farming like a craft, and who can inspire others to rethink where our food should come from. By sharing his story and partnering with farmer networks like Niman Ranch, we can build a better, more equitable food system and bring you the highest quality groceries. Watch for Niman Ranch products the next time you shop with us.

11 Comments

  • Cheryl Gafner
    February 10, 2021 at 9:23 pm

    That’s a really neat process.
    Also, I would like to participate in the Imperfect flower program as well.

    Reply
    • Imperfect
      February 16, 2021 at 8:22 pm

      🌼🌼🌼

      Reply
  • Ann
    February 11, 2021 at 12:42 am

    What a beautiful thing. I am so grateful for those farmers that are doing the right thing for the animals and for those of us that still eat meat. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Barbara Fineberg
    February 11, 2021 at 12:49 am

    I really enjoyed and appreciated my first order. The selection was excellent; I am so glad I let you pick. I’ll participate next time. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Imperfect
      February 16, 2021 at 8:21 pm

      Appreciate and love you! Thank you for being in our wonky family! 💚

      Reply
  • Leigh
    February 24, 2021 at 5:51 pm

    I am curious about Niman. Are they the buyer/ processor?

    Reply
    • Imperfect
      March 2, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      We buy directly from them! They are the farm and do all of the work themselves and then sell their products out! Keep an eye out for their products in your upcoming customization windows 💚

      Reply
  • E
    March 5, 2021 at 5:44 am

    The Niman andouille sausages are delicious! I add them to lentil soup and have lunch for days. Very happy to have found them.

    Reply
    • Imperfect
      March 5, 2021 at 7:28 pm

      Yummy! Thanks so much for #cookingimperfect with us! 💚

      Reply
  • Rita Wiggin
    March 5, 2021 at 3:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story! I’m always hesitant to purchase meat unless I have an understanding of how the animals are treated. It’s so important to support these farmers who are working so hard to do the right thing for the animals and the land.

    Reply
    • Imperfect
      March 5, 2021 at 7:34 pm

      We totally agree!

      Reply

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