Niman Ranch’s 13th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner

Niman Ranch merguez sausage pizza with harissa, preserved Meyer lemon, kalamata olive, manchego, scallions & mint tops, by sous chef Matt Hinckley. A special treat for staff, maybe coming soon to the menu.

Irene’s feeder bands aside, Chef is heading to Iowa this morning as one of seven chefs invited to put out a course at Saturday night’s Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner. The event is produced by Niman Ranch to celebrate the family farmers who raise its livestock “traditionally, humanely and sustainably.”

Michael has been using Niman Ranch lamb for as long as he can remember, and this is a great opportunity for him to see the operation and meet the people behind it. It’s also no secret we love having lamb on the menu here at MGFD.  A quick scan of changes over the past month reveal just how much: Niman Ranch Lamb Flatbread with preserved meyer lemon, hummus, harissa, pine nuts, golden raisins, and French feta; Niman Ranch Lamb Meatballs with local heirloom tomato, yogurt, and flat bread; Niman Ranch Lamb Stuffed Eggplant wood roasted and topped with local heirloom tomato, greek yogurt, and pistachios; Penne Bolognese with Niman Ranch Lamb, housemade organic ricotta, and basil; Wood Oven Baked Shepherd’s Pie with Niman Ranch Lamb and potato gratin (has been a Miami Spice course); Niman Ranch Lamb Tartare with harissa, fried capers, and crostini; and of course the mainstay also in Michael’s cookbook, Chargrilled Leg of Lamb with Greek farro salad and salsa verde…  For Slow Food Miami’s October 27 Ark of Taste dinner fashioned around the to-be-inducted Seminole Pumpkin, he’ll prepare a course of spaetzel and braised Niman Ranch lamb shank. At our Grand Cayman outpost, we feature its beef in our burgers and other dishes, like Grilled Niman Ranch beef cheek with Anson Mills polenta, grilled green onions, local radish and roasted corn salad, a recent verbal medium.

We will honor Niman Ranch’s desire to keep this Saturday’s menu a surprise for the farmers, but will say Michael’s dish is going to be crisp, bright, and creamy.  For a taste of what’s in store for the chefs this weekend, here’s a look at the 11th annual gathering and see below for their itinerary.


Thursday, August 25, 2011: – Chefs Welcome Dinner-

Dress: Casual Dress

5:00 p.m. Walk -Through of Marriott Kitchen

6:45 p.m. meet in Hotel Lobby at Marriott Downtown.

Thursday evening we hold a special welcome dinner for the chefs and special guests where we can introduce ourselves and get to know one another. This year we will be taking you to Django, a local brasserie-style restaurant where Chef George Formaro serves everything you love about French cuisine without the attitude. He has been and continues to be a strong supporter of Niman Ranch and he was one of our featured chefs at last year’s dinner. If you have any specific dietary requirements please let me know.

Friday, August 26, 2011: – Willis Farm Tour and Outdoor Dinner –

Dress: country casual… When packing bring a jacket and pack some shoes or boots that can get dirty shuffling around the farm, and touring native Iowa prairie You will be served a Niman Ranch box lunch prepared with fresh local and sustainable ingredients at thet Gateway Market and Café.

1:30 p.m Sharp.: Farm Tour Bus departs for the Willis Family Farm from the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines. Arrive at Willis Family Farm at 3:30 p.m. (We give a tour of our farm to the chefs, customers and special guests in order to provide an up-close understanding of what sustainable farming means to us at Niman Ranch. Immediately following the tour we have supper in the Willis’ three-sided shed overlooking our native Iowa prairie and you will be served our best home grown food and cold beverages).
9:00 p.m.: Depart Willis Family Farm on the Farm Tour Bus for the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines.

Saturday, August 27, 2011: Farmers Market, in the Kitchen, Farmer Appreciation Dinner

Dress: Casual dress for hitting the Farmers Market. Here you will meet up with Larry Cleverley a produce farmer and Niman Ranch meat purveyor also known as the, “garlic guy”. Grab a bite to eat and inspiration for the dinner. Des Moines Farmers Market is located within walking distance of the hotel at 300 Court Avenue.

8:00 a.m. Chefs begin working on menu items and can go to the Des Moines Farmer’s Market for last minute inspiration. Grab a bite for breakfast.

12:00 p.m. – Niman Ranch specially prepared lunch boxes for the chefs will be delivered to the hotel. Again, let me know if you have any dietary restrictions.

5:00-6:00 p.m. Reception. There will be all kinds of people from Slow Food Foodies, writers, and as well as numerous Niman Ranch farmers and friends. Saturday Evening: for those of you not wearing your chef gear, suits or jackets and slacks for gentlemen (with tie optional) and nice slacks/skirts/dresses for ladies.

6:00 p.m. The Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner begins. Over the years this dinner has grown from just around 100 guests 13 years ago to approximately 350 guests last year to the expected 400 guests this year. It is so exciting to see how we have grown and have been able to bring more and more farmers into our network. It’s feels like a big Niman Ranch family reunion.

During the dinner we recognize our outstanding farmers of the year as well as present the Next Generation Scholarship Award winners. We address our farmers and let them know that their continued commitment to traditional farming practices is vitally important. We have two guest speakers, Tracy Ryder of Edible Magazines and Fred Kirschenmann, an Iowa Treasure and leader in the sustainable agriculture and food movement.

9:00 p.m.: At the end of the dinner, I will introduce each of you to the guests in the front of the room and ask you to say a few words. This is a great time to tell Niman Ranch Farmers who raise our livestock according to the strictest standards in the industry just what that means to you as a chef.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Thanks for all of your continued support of Niman Ranch and our network of farmers. The Niman Ranch Farmer Appreciation Dinner means so much to the farmers and their families! It is the biggest event of the year! We look forward to seeing you in Iowa next week. If you need anything or have any questions please feel free to call me.


Sarah Willis
Sustainable Agriculture & Family Farming Advocate
Niman Ranch
3342 Eagle Avenue
Thornton, Iowa 50479

Niman Ranch is supplied by family farmers who raise livestock traditionally, humanely and sustainably to deliver the best tasting meat in the world.

More about our family farmers on my blog at

2 thoughts on “Niman Ranch’s 13th Annual Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner

    • I WISH! Matt made it up for us to taste and now we all want it on the Harry’s Pizzeria menu this fall… I will let you know if it ever ends up on MGFD’s menu beforehand!

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