DENVER — Niman Ranch announced on Sept. 17 that it awarded $169,000 in scholarships to 48 students from seven states. Recipients of the funds will use it for higher education and support of rural farms and agriculture.

The scholarships were presented during the company’s Hog Farmer Appreciation Award Ceremony. Other awards included recognizing hog family farms who partnered with Niman Ranch for 10 to 20 years.

“We are so grateful for the generosity of the many people and companies that stepped up and donated to our scholarship program during a challenging year to support this important cause,” said Drew Calvert, executive director of the Niman Ranch’s Next Generation Foundation. “We had more applicants than ever before for our scholarships and thankfully our community stepped up with our largest donations in the Foundation’s history to help these hard-working young people.”

For the first time, Niman Ranch announced a Sustainable Farmer of the Year award to recognize outstanding efforts to protect the environment.

The inaugural recipient of this honor is the Nuessmeier Family Farm located in southern Minnesota. The Nuessmeiers, who are 19-year hog suppliers to the company, raise pigs outdoors and grow organic crops. The family uses sustainable practices, including crop rotation and buffer strips, and have developed a dedicated pollinator habitat among many other environmentally friendly practices on their farm.

With the difficulties in the foodservice industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Niman Ranch also announced a $50,000 independent restaurant relief fund at the award ceremony. Throughout pandemic, Niman Ranch has donated more than 50,000 meals to restaurants around the United States.

“2020 has made it abundantly clear that community and trusted partnerships are crucial,” said Chris Oliviero, Niman Ranch general manager. “At Niman Ranch, we know that our community of farmers, customers and partners are all dependent on each other’s success for their own. I am so thankful that each of us has stepped up to help one another and the next generation of farmers during an incredibly difficult time.”