Neighbors to the World
Rural Success Stories:
Summer Honors Program
Everything (and everyone) is awesome at SHP
by Scott Rager
Every summer a group of talented youth from across southern Nebraska meets in Holdrege for the annual Summer Honors Program. The program was first started in 1978 to give students an outlet and place to encourage creativity, excellence and empowerment. It has grown from 40 students to 126 students.
“Not only is it an opportunity for students to identify an area in which they excel, but it also allows a rural region to support and showcase a level of young talent that often goes unappreciated in most public school systems,” writes Scott Rager. Rager knows firsthand the benefits of SHP as he is an alum of the program.
The program has been recognized as one of the top gifted programs for rural students in the nation, and rural Nebraska should celebrate the talent this program encourages. Writer Scott Rager gets the inside scoop on what makes SHP awesome in this month’s Rural Success Story.
Scratchtown Brewing Co.
Entrepreneurial itch drives buddies to open Scratchtown Brewing
Three buddies from Ord have turned a weekend hobby into a thriving brewing company. Their story started when Jade Stunkle, Mike Klimek and Caleb Pollard found themselves in a garage most weekends discussing all sorts of issues. What they agreed on was this. Klimek's homemade brew was good.
"The world deserves to taste Mike Klimek's beer," Pollard told writer Scott Rager when he sat down to talk with them. The friends started Scratchtown Brewing Company and have been bringing that brew to the public, one mug at a time.
Now people are driving from hundreds of mile away to try Scratchtown Brewing's offerings. And along the way, the friends have developed a place where the brews are generating conversation and connecting people in this small rural community. Read this month's rural success story to learn how starting Scratchtown Brewing beat the odds to build a company that is gathering attention across the state and beyond.
Kaufman trailers carry precious cargo...hope
by Scott Rager
Trailers are an essential part of the agricultural and rural economy, but in Beaver City, trailers built by Kaufman Trailers carry more than livestock and ag supplies, they carry hope. When a friend of Rob Kaufman’s, and a champion of Beaver City, mentioned that Nebraska would be a great place to expand his business, Kaufman was intrigued.
As writer Scott Rager learns, Kaufman found in Beaver City the labor, land and economic development incentives he needed to build a 26,000-square-foot facility there. Now Kaufman Trailers employs 40 full-time employees in the town of approximately 600.
Kaufman Trailers provides a steady paycheck, an opportunity to grow in the company and benefits that rural Nebraska needs to keep its residents while bringing new residents in. Kaufman trailers are a quality product built by people who are excited to come to work every day. Learn more in our February Rural Success Story.
Magic started it all
We head into the fantastical world of gaming for this month’s Rural Success Story. There writer Scott Rager finds two young men who found their love of the game Magic: The Gathering could make the perfect business opportunity.
As friends Cody Dame and Tanner Lytle of McCook organized a business plan, they applied for the Hormel Family Foundation Business Competition and were selected as the winners. With $25,000 cash investment, plus additional consulting and advertising, their idea became Game On, a place that sells games and gaming systems but also creates a community gathering place.
Game On now has two locations, and they still offer a place for nightly organized play where gamers can connect with each other. “Gaming is great practice for life,” Lytle said. “The skills you use when playing Magic or any other strategic game translates into being the best you can be in any situation.”
Articles & Essays:
Writing rural decades ago
by Jennifer Chick
While Nebraska Rural Living celebrates rural living today, there are writers who have been building good will about rural living for decades, even centuries before us. Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of those writers and Jennifer Chick talks about her fascination with Laura in this month’s essay.
Chick was first introduced to Laura when she was 10, living on a farm in western Kansas. Something about Laura clicked with her. Maybe it was the setting since Laura also lived in Kansas at one time. Maybe it was Laura’s uncanny ability to get in trouble no matter how hard she tried to be good. Maybe it was Laura’s brown hair. How they both longed to trade their drab brown locks for golden blond hair.
Whatever the connection, Chick has been enamored with her ever since. She’s travelled to several of Laura’s home sites and read the books until they’ve fallen apart. Take a pilgrimage to those sites in this month’s essay.
Emery Blagdon Art
A vision realized
It was almost a decade ago when Kelly Rush was introduced to the complicated and intriguing art of Emery Blagdon. Through his art, Blagdon wanted to produce an environment that would make people feel better, and Rush was fascinated.
Rush is an NET Television producer and she found a fellow co-worker, NET Radio announcer and reporter Jerry Johnston, who shared her fascination. They had many hallway conversations about Blagdon and decided they wanted to tell his story.
It took six years, but the two finally created an NET documentary, Emery Blagdon and His Healing Machine, to highlight Blagdon's life and his work. Rush writes about the process and the end result in this month's essay.
Nebraska's world link: from Europe to Nebraska
Angela Davis’ essay in Nebraska Rural Living has been a long time in the making. Davis, a world traveler and friend of NRL founder Betty Sayers, has often talked of exploring the links between other parts of the world and Nebraska. And finally, in this month’s essay, she explores the similarities between the Netherlands and Nebraska as demonstrated by something both areas have in common, windmills.
Davis, a native New Orleanian, is married to a Dutch farmer, and she was excited to find that a windmill she insisted be in her wedding photo is the same windmill that resides near the village of Wissenkerke, where the couple bought a home. “Windmills are an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, and a visit to one is a must for visitors to the Netherlands,” Davis writes.
But windmills have also played a central role when pioneers settled the plains of Nebraska. Davis found that Erwin Hinckley Barbour described the Platte Valley region as a windmill center in his essay written in 1899. Though these two areas are more than an ocean apart, Davis brings them side by side in her essay and shows that you can find common ground wherever you might find yourself in the world today.
Night Sky Photos - Photo Essay
Clear skies over Nebraska
We asked readers and fans to submit their night sky photos for our photo essay this month. The array of colors visible in the night sky is stunning.
And reader Ron Korngiebel takes us inside the process of photographing the night sky in his essay. We find out what it takes to capture those stunning photos and where to turn for more information.
Join us for a trip through the stars in February’s photo essay.
Deer Canyon Coffee
Expect a story with your coffee
by Scott Rager
Writer Scott Rager loves how in rural Nebraska, the unexpected is never far off the beaten path. And when he pushed open the door at Deer Canyon Coffee in Sargent, that’s exactly what he found in this month’s Rural Foodie feature.
“With its walls filled with hunting trophies and mementos of world travel and local days of yore, Deer Canyon Coffee could easily have been the setting of an epic Hemmingway novel,” Rager writes. Owners Dick and Di Cowell have created a space for creating conversation, sharing stories and finding friends.
But it’s not only the setting and feel of the place that are drawing people to Deer Canyon Coffee. Rager said their coffee is the real deal, roasted on location in a roaster made from old Harley Davidson parts. Beans are imported directly from growers around the world in an effort to support sustainability. Start your morning with this month’s Rural Foodies find and you’re sure to have a great day ahead.
Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics
Lettuce with a story to tell
by Scott Rager
When Rural Foodies tracked down the source of the crisp green lettuce they were finding in local supermarkets, they found Ryan David of Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics in Ord, who is changing the way we grow our food and feed our communities. Farms like Oak Ridge are creating interesting conversations across the country about how and what we eat.
The story behind Oak Ridge Farms is as intriguing as the bright green heads of lettuce which stand out in a sea of colorless ice berg and wilted Romaine on a dreary winter day. “Ryan David is a self-taught hydroponic grower who entered the business because of his mother Barb's interest in alternative agriculture,” Scott Rager writes.
Barb’s interest led to the start of Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics in 2013. Now friends and family members drive the delivery truck to public schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants across the region. With tenacity and perseverance, Oak Ridge Farms is making a name for itself while providing locally grown lettuce we can be proud to say came from mere miles away. Learn the whole story in this month’s Rural Foodies feature.
Beaver Bar & Grill
Angry Beaver tops the food chain in Beaver City
At an age when most people find themselves thinking of retirement, Doris Wentling found herself settling into the restaurant business. And though it may not have been where she first imagined herself, she has thrown herself into it wholeheartedly, not once, but twice. Most recently at the helm of the Beaver Bar and Grill in Beaver City.
Wentling was first at the Branding Iron, a steakhouse in Beaver City which she owned and operated with her son Randy. But after she sold it, a fire demolished the restaurant. Wentling saw a town without a restaurant and she couldn’t stand idly by. “After the fire there was no place to eat in Beaver City,” she told write Scott Rager. “Everyone in town felt the loss.”
So Wentling and her family started Beaver Bar and Grill to fill the void. The Rural Foodies ventured down to Beaver Bar and Grill in search of comfort food and what they found will make your mouth water. An Angry Beaver burger, a fast disappearing Runza Casserole and the perfect steak are just a few of the many choices on Beaver Bar and Grill’s menu. Explore all the restaurant has to offer in this month’s Rural Foodies.
Itís easy to be well fed at Cunninghamís Feed
In the heart of the Republican River Valley, you will find Cunningham’s Feed, a restaurant with thoughtfully sourced ingredients, unique menu options and the perfect setting for a Valentine’s date. When Rural Foodies were looking for something more than blue plate specials and bar fare, they headed to Cunningham’s Feed, a place that never disappoints.
There they found a buzzing crowd, a warm welcome, and tasty surprises served with a friendly smile. Owners Kevin and Mitzi Urbom know what it takes to keep a restaurant up and running in rural Nebraska, and they deliver with consistency.
None of the menu options disappoint, but at Cunningham’s Feed, they know that quality beef is what makes frequent patrons in Nebraska. “Quality steaks that are perfectly prepared are what keep restaurateurs in business and Cunningham’s Feed knows that well,” Scott Rager writes.
Keep in Touch
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Dynamic Towns & Cities:
Holdrege is poster town for mid-western values
If you were looking for someplace that embodied the kind of values America was built on – hard work, education, common sense, care for others – you wouldn’t have to look farther than Holdrege, Nebraska.
Located near the geographic midpoint of the country, Holdrege is one of those towns where all the downtown intersections are paved in brick. The churches near downtown – and there are many – are venerable and substantial, with traditional steeples and stained glass windows, many referencing having been founded in the 1880s or 90s. The trees are old and big – ash and maple and oak and elm – and the houses have spacious, well-kept lawns and generous, shady porches.
Village of Oxford Proves Good Things Come In Small Packages
Cruise into the small (pop. 900) Village of Oxford in south-central Nebraska, and you’re greeted by a main street broad enough to park cars in the middle as well as at the curbs. The first Oxford citizens designed a spacious community with room to expand. Clean, wide streets and sidewalks with big, shady trees welcome customers and visitors. Twenty-two businesses comprise the business district, first laid out and built in 1880 when the Republican Valley Railway Company (later to become the Chicago, Burlington and Quincey) crossed Harlan County and into the fledgling town. more...
Indomitable spirit keeps Bertrand vibrant and dynamic
“To make a small community thrive, you work together.”
Bertrand is thriving in great part because this solidarity message is spoken in many different ways and by people of all ages and occupations in Bertrand. The town is bustling with committees planning the Bertrand Rodeo, the famous Bertrand craft show, a talent show, theater, music and sports activities, and fund raising events for families in need. Businesses also thrive in Bertrand. Over 72 businesses handle most wants and needs in the community, including a medical clinic and a weekly newspaper, the Bertrand Herald, which was recently sold to new owners.
Benkelman is a town with a view...and a view of the future
About as far south and west as you can go and still be in Nebraska, Benkelman is a town with a view, built on spectacular terrain featuring lookouts and ledges. Only three hours from Denver International Airport, you’ll find the hectic, high-priced urban lifestyle evolves into wholesome, affordable, rural living in Benkelman and Dundy County.
The lifestyle of the almost-mythical American rancher and cowboy come alive in Benkelman. There are more veterinarians than doctors in Dundy County, and no wonder: an estimated 70,000 cattle range on land that is all privately owned, with not a single commercial feedlot.
Also Featured This Month
Chef‘s influence evident at Broken Bow‘s Bonfire Grill
The Rural Foodies have come at the recommendation – indeed invitation – of long-time Broken Bow residents Mary and Roger Pirnie to visit the Bonfire Grill inside the historic Arrow Hotel, right on the town square.
Holdrege Air Show underscores day-to-day benefits of rural airports
For most of us, the experience of flying is being crammed into the window seat on a jumbo jet for a couple of hours. But for thousands of general aviation pilots, it’s an entirely different event.
Cozad trainer proves a well-trained retriever is a beautiful thing
True communication between man and animals is a rare and wonderful thing to watch. Most of us are satisfied if we can teach Fido to come when called, fetch a ball and not pee in the house, but some people have a much deeper sense of what really communicating with another species means.