David and Christy Borrowman of Pastvina Acres in Smithville, Missouri, have been named the 2023 Sustainable Farm of the Year by Niman Ranch, a leading natural meat brand.
The award recognizes the Borrowmans for their ongoing commitment to the principles of regenerative agriculture and sustainability.
In addition to raising their hogs outdoors and in deeply bedded hoop barns, the Borrowmans use many sustainable practices on their farm, including cover crops, no-till and diverse plantings, to build healthy soil.
Through the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program, the Borrowmans have converted 52 acres of hilly, eroded row crop land into a wonderland of native prairie wildflowers and pollinator habitat, home to a wide variety of insect life including Monarch butterflies and honeybees.
“When you’re out in the pollinator habitat, it literally buzzes with energy, and it’s not just the honeybees,” David Borrowman said. “It’s all the other pollinators and birds. It’s a big part of our farm.”
The Conservation Stewardship Program was first drafted by the late Dave Serfling, an early Niman Ranch hog farmer, a fact that Borrowman feels further enhances his farm’s special connection to the brand.
The Borrowmans have also reduced their reliance on synthetic fertilizers by one-third since they started farming. They credit this reduction to several factors, including nutrient-rich composted manure provided by their Niman Ranch hogs, as well as new technology to replace synthetic nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers that prevents run-off, a leading contributor to water pollution and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
Both Borrowmans were raised in multigenerational farm families but pursued other careers after college. Following a three-year stint in Prague, Czech Republic, they returned home and began raising hogs and row crops in 2015.
In 2018, Pastvina Acres joined the Niman Ranch network, which has given them the financial security to expand their operation. In addition to raising 500 hogs every year, they also grow heirloom corn that goes to local bakeries, including Yoli Tortilleria in Kansas City, winner of the 2023 James Beard Award for Outstanding Bakery.
To David Borrowman, sustainability is also an economic concept. He cited the Niman Ranch Next Generation Foundation, a nonprofit that provides grants, scholarships and mentorships for young farmers.
“This is part of the conversation we don’t have very often,” he said. “If you don’t have farmers able to make a living economically, you won’t have sustainable farms. You have to have people.” In June, the Borrowmans held a 5K run through their wildflower meadows to raise money for the foundation.
“Niman Ranch couldn’t be more supportive of our sustainability practices, both economic and agriculture based. They’ve helped us take our sustainability goals up to the next level,” he said.
The Borrowmans were selected from Niman Ranch’s network of more than 500 hog farm partners. The award was presented Aug. 26 at the annual Niman Ranch Hog Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa.
Chris Oliviero, Niman Ranch’s general manager, hailed the Borrowmans as “a young family committed to building a sustainable farm future not only for themselves but for others. The family shows the immense potential of combining traditional practices with cutting edge technologies to build a resilient and regenerative farm.”
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