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 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.