Who are 5-Step farmers and ranchers? What was their a-ha! moment that led them to become so committed to improving the welfare of farm animals? Or did they embrace that responsibility as children?

For many of us, experiencing life on a farm or ranch is limited to watching movies or television.

We invite you to meet some of the farmers and ranchers who have joined our 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards program.

Read their stories, get a glimpse into their lives, and find out why farm animal welfare is such a part of who they are.

  • With life-long devotions to farming, Philip and Dee Horst-Landis both have an enduring affection for animals that is central to the way they raise their cattle, pigs, and sheep in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. Their Sweet Stem Farm sits on 60 acres of some of the country’s most productive land. Their Step 2 pigs live inside open-air hoop buildings with plenty of room to run and play, and forage and nest in the straw bedding. This husband-and-wife team work tirelessly to improve the welfare of the animals they raise. Meet Philip and Dee.
  • Nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills, Diestel Turkey Ranch has been the home to turkeys since 1949. Today, 6 farms have been certified to Step 3 and 1 has achieved the highest Step rating—Step 5+. For more than 60 years, the Diestel family tradition has embraced sustainable and high welfare farming, and that long-held commitment to responsible agriculture is being furthered under the leadership of Jason Diestel, a seasoned yet youthful farmer. Meet Jason.
  • Wellshire Farms is an acclaimed further processor of premium quality pork, beef, and poultry products that are free of any nitrates, nitrites, antibiotics, added hormones, preservatives, and artificial ingredients. President of Wellshire Farms, Louis B. Colameco, III, and his company embody the marriage of higher welfare farming and good-for-you food. Meet Lou.
  • In the Deep South of the United States, Will Harris gets his inspiration for providing the best care he can to his pastureland, the largest certified organic farm in Georgia, and to his cattle, sheep, goats, turkeys, geese, ducks, and chickens, from the natural way of the Serengeti Plains in Africa, his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather who ranched before him, and his daughter Jenni, the fifth-generation on White Oak Pastures. Will’s farming practices haven’t only allowed him to become certified to Step 5+ for cattle, chickens, turkeys, and pigs; he’s also been awarded Small Businessperson of the Year for the State of Georgia, among other much-deserved accolades. Meet Will.
  • In the early 1930s, the Thompson family began raising pigs in southern Georgia’s Brooks County. Today, Andrew Thompson and his father Raymond own and operate Thompson Farms Smokehouse. Originally certified to Step 4, Thompson Farms has since achieved the very highest Step rating and become the first-ever Step 5+ producer. Meet Andrew.
  • Third-generation farmer David Pitman learned from his father Rick, who learned from his father Don, about our responsibility to animals and how to treat them with respect. Pitman Family Farms in central California has put continuous improvement into practice. Sixteen of their chicken farms have been certified to our 5-Step program, 14 at Step 3, 1 at Step 4, and 1 at Step 5—the very first to achieve this esteemed rating. In fall 2011, 3 of their turkey farms became certified to our recently launched 5-Step turkey standards, 2 at Step 3 and 1 at Step 5. Meet David.
  • Jude Becker, despite his youth, has emerged as a shining star in higher welfare farming. In America’s Heartland, he raises pigs on his Step 3 Iowa farm. As Jude cares for his pigs at Becker Lane Organic Farm, he also aims to change our collective view to embrace that we should eat less—but better—meat. Meet Jude.
  • At the age of ten, Wayne Dufond started working on small California family farms, caring for sheep and cattle, and harvesting hay and potatoes. After more than 30 years in the poultry industry, Wayne with his wife Amy realized his life-long dream and started Field to Family Natural Foods, with Step 3 and Step 5 chicken farms. Meet Wayne.
  • In the heart of the rolling Pennsylvania Dutch countryside sits LenRose Poultry Farm, owned and managed by Leonard Hoover, FreeBird’s top producer. Leonard and his wife Rosanne raise their three young sons on this four-barn, family-run chicken farm. Meet Leonard.
  • Dan Probert wears many hats—owner of Probert Ranch, former Executive Director of Country Natural Beef, member of Global Animal Partnership’s Board of Directors, and Step-rated rancher. In the midst of his hectic schedule, Dan kindly sat with us to share his story. Meet Dan.
  • Manager of Niman Ranch Pork Company, former Peace Corps volunteer, father, grandfather, husband, community advocate, sustainability expert, owner and operator of Willis Free Range Pig Farm, Global Animal Partnership Board member, and Step-rated farmer, Paul Willis shares his story. Meet Paul.