CANBY - An 18-year-old Canby native with a passion for culinary arts and sustainable farming was awarded $2,500 by Niman Ranch, a national network of family farmers that promotes sustainable farming and ranching.
Jessica Kruse was awarded the scholarship, called the Next Generation Scholarship, during Niman Ranch's 12th annual Farmer Appreciation Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa. Niman Ranch awarded 13 students with scholarships during the event.
The scholarships were given based on the applicants' accomplishments in agriculture and commitment to sustainable farming.
Jessica Kruse of Canby was awarded a $2,500 scholarship from Niman Ranch for her commitment to sustainable agriculture.
Kruse is no stranger to agriculture and has helped raise hogs, the sustainable way, on her family farm for 10 years.
"My family and I have raised animals the quality way my whole life," Kruse said. "It's for the sake of having food that helps people be healthy."
According to Kruse, raising hogs humanely not only is good for the animal, but improves taste as well.
But helping out on the farm wasn't enough and, in 2007, Kruse dug her heels into agriculture further and accompanied her farther to Washington, D.C. While there she joined with other agricultural leaders to lobby for a farm bill. It was that commitment to agriculture, she said, that most likely won her the scholarship.
After high school Kruse entered the culinary program at the Mitchell Technical Institute (MTI) in Mitchell, S.D. She hopes to someday open a restaurant that would use meats and ingredients from farms committed to sustainable agricultural practices.
"Since I was little I wanted to own my own restaurant," Kruse said. "It has been something I've carried with me my whole life."
Kruse credits her grandmother for giving her a love of cooking. While growing up her grandmother owned a restaurant and passed her love for culinary arts onto her grandchildren.
Her grandmother's restaurant is now closed, but Kruse said she envisions opening her own western-themed restaurant once she graduates. She has a few ideas already, such as developing a two-room restaurant that features a section for families and a second section for upscale dining and couples. But first, Kruse said she has to get through the two-year program at MTI. The campus features a restaurant that each culinary arts student must work in before graduating.
"The thing that is the hardest about it is learning the food science and learning how everything works together," Kruse said. "It's a lot harder than I thought it would be, but it's really great."
Niman Ranch established the next generation scholarship fund in 2006 to support children of rural communities who wish to attend college in order to pursue an education with a focus on sustainable practices and who plan to return to the family farm after graduation.
"As this generation's farmers and ranchers near retirement, we are desperately struggling to persuade our children and grandchildren not to sell their family farm," Niman Ranch's founding hog farmer Paul Willis said. "We hope this scholarship will help keep these family farms in the family."