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AGRICULTURE AND YOU • State’s top industry impacting your daily life •

Local Appeal

Connect with farmers for fresh, homegrown produce

Generations of Growing

Spend a day in the life of a modern farm family Sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture // // 2013


7 Governor’s Welcome 9 Director’s Welcome 10 Farming Roots

State’s top industry impacts all Nebraskans

14 Get to Know a

Nebraska Farm Family


NEBRASKA AGRICULTURE AND YOU • State’s top industry impacting your daily life •

Maricle family raises kids, crops and cattle on their Albion farm

22 A Lesson in Agriculture

Contact these groups to learn about farming and ranching in Nebraska

Nebraska Crops 24 Soy Success

Nebraska ranks high in soybean production

32 Farming in the Digital Age

Technology helps Nebraska farmers produce more, while being good stewards of the land

40 Bountiful Beans

Nebraska remains a leading grower of dry edible beans

49 From Seed to Can

Learn how dry edible beans are grown, harvested and processed





nebraska Agriculture and you 2013 Livestock & Animals

NDA At Work For You

50 Champions of Care

82 Scaled for a Square Deal

Nebraska farmers ensure safety, health of their swine

58 Steering the Way

Beef cattle sectors work together to make the state a leader

67 Foreign Intrigue

Nebraska beef exports boost state economy

68 From Cow to Table

Dairy farmers produce milk that’s fresh and very local

Local Food 76 Local Appeal

Increase in fresh, locally grown produce connects farmers and consumers

81 Tunnel Vision

High tunnels lengthen season for produce growers

Nebraska Department of Agriculture Consumer Protection Division enforces retail rules

87 Plant Life

Nursery stock inspectors monitor for diseases, pests

Opportunities In Agriculture 88 Cultivating the Job Market

Agriculture careers are booming both on and off the farm

93 Educating the Future

Youth program teaches students about agriculture

95 A Rural View of Education

Agriculture college marks a century of training students, broadens its focus

On the Cover Two Nebraska farm children play on hay bales. Their parents, Brian and Hilary Maricle, operate a corn, soybean, beef and swine farm in Albion, Neb. PHOTO BY TODD BENNETT





Governor’s welcome

AGRICULTURE AND YOU 2013 Edition, Volume 1 journal communications inc. Content Director Jessy Yancey Proofreading Manager Raven Petty Content Coordinator Rachel Bertone Contributing Writers Sally Barber, Rick Jost, kevin Litwin, John McBryde, Jessica Mozo Senior Graphic Designers stacey allis, Laura Gallagher, Jake shores, Kris Sexton, Vikki Williams Graphic Designers erica lampley, kara leiby, kacey passmore Senior Photographers Jeff Adkins, Brian McCord Staff Photographers Martin B.cherry, Michael Conti Color Imaging Technician Alison Hunter Integrated Media Manager Deborah Lewis Ad Production Manager Katie Middendorf Ad Traffic Assistants Krystin Lemmon, Patricia Moisan Sales Support Project Manager Sara Quint Sales Support Coordinator christina morgan Chairman Greg Thurman President/Publisher Bob Schwartzman Executive Vice President Ray Langen Senior V.P./Operations Casey Hester Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing KIm Newsom Holmberg V.P./External Communications Teree Caruthers V.P./Agribusiness Sales Rhonda Graham V.P./Sales Herb Harper Controller Chris Dudley Accounts Receivable Coordinator Diana Guzman IT Director Daniel Cantrell Web Creative Director Allison Davis Photography Director Jeffrey S. Otto Creative Services Director Christina Carden Creative Technology Analyst Becca Ary Distribution Director Gary Smith

Nebraska Agriculture and You is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at

Nebraska department of agriculture: Director Greg ibach Assistant Director bobbie kriz-wickham Special thanks to all Department staff for their support. For more information about the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, contact: Christin Kamm P.O. Box 94947, Lincoln, NE 68509-4947 (402) 471-2341 or by email at No public funds were used in the publishing of this magazine. © Copyright 2013 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member

The Association of Magazine Media

Welcome to


Welcome to the first edition of the Nebraska

Agriculture and You magazine. We hope the information throughout these pages will help you discover more about Nebraska’s No. 1 industry – agriculture. From Omaha to Valentine and Scottsbluff to Alma, agriculture is important. Our cities and towns, no matter how large or small, no matter how urban or rural, are tied to the farms, ranches and agribusinesses that power our economy. As you’ll learn in stories on these pages, over a quarter of our economic activity comes from the production of food, fuel and fiber. One of every four jobs is somehow related to agriculture, including jobs in sectors that you might not think to be agriculturally related, such as transportation, warehousing and logistics, banking, tourism, research/development and biosciences. This interconnectedness is why a successful agriculture industry should matter to all of us. In fact, Nebraska’s agricultural strength and position as a national and international leader in agriculture is one of the key reasons our state has been financially stronger than many other areas of the country over the past several years. We have a rich base of natural resources that make agriculture a natural fit for our state. After years of traveling Nebraska and meeting hundreds of farmers and ranchers, I can tell you our success is about our people. It’s their stories that can be found in this magazine, and I hope you’ll join me in learning more about what they do on a dayto-day basis – 365 days a year – to benefit all of us. Enjoy Nebraska Agriculture and You. Sincerely,

Dave Heineman Governor of Nebraska

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The special tablet edition is designed especially for use on iPads and other tablet devices.

Welcome to Nebraska Agriculture and You! It is my pleasure to welcome you to this issue of the Nebraska Agriculture and You magazine. This publication is designed to showcase Nebraska’s agriculture industry – our state’s No. 1 economic driver. As the Director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, I have the extreme privilege of working with farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses across the state. I can tell you we as Nebraskans are fortunate to have such dedicated and innovative people raising the food, fuel and fiber that we all use in our everyday lives. Our agricultural industry is diverse, probably more so than many Nebraskans realize. For example, we lead the nation in the production of red meat, Great Northern beans and popcorn. We also rank near the top in the production of corn, soybeans, wheat, pinto beans, alfalfa hay, grain sorghum, millet, cattle, hogs, eggs, and ethanol and have a thriving specialty crop sector that grows seasonal fruits and vegetables. Why does this matter to you? That’s what this magazine is about. It will help you, as a consumer, get to know more about how these products are raised, the people who are doing the work, and why it’s important to us all that agriculture in Nebraska is successful. While it’s my honor to serve as Director of Agriculture, I also am a farmer. With the help of my family, I raise corn, soybeans and cattle in the central part of the state. Those of us involved in agriculture understand that these days consumers are bombarded with information about farming and food production. With this magazine, we hope to remove some of the mystery, providing you with access to information about how food, fuel and fiber are produced right here in Nebraska. Enjoy this edition of Nebraska Agriculture and You.




Greg Ibach Nebraska Director of Agriculture

Visit us online at



Industry Overview

Farming Roots

State’s top industry impacts all Nebraskans

photo by Greg Latza



Nebraska Agriculture and You

A decade ago, many of Nebraska’s hard-

working citizens had little knowledge of how important the state’s agriculture industry is to its economy. But the economic recession that began in 2008 changed that. While nearly every state in the nation reported record high unemployment rates and had to make devastating budget cuts, Nebraska was one of only two states that maintained a low unemployment rate, thanks in large part to its strong agricultural backbone. Nebraska’s agriculture industry, by and large, carried the Cornhusker State through the recession. “The economic crisis pointed out how important agriculture is to Nebraska’s economy,” says Greg Ibach, director of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. “Aside from that, agriculture is the basis for who we believe we are as Nebraskans. We are hard workers with ethics and integrity, and those values all stem from our agricultural roots.” Roughly 93 percent of Nebraska’s land – a whopping 45.5 million acres – is used for agriculture. The state’s fertile valleys and expansive plains are home to 46,800 farms, making it a national leader in crop and livestock production. Nebraska ranks first in the nation for commercial red meat and Great Northern beans production; second in cattle and calves and pinto beans; third in corn for grain production; fifth in soybeans; and tenth in hay. Hogs, wheat, dairy, eggs and potatoes are also big business for Nebraska.

Agriculture Equals Jobs

But you don’t have to be a farmer or rancher to realize the benefits of agriculture. “Agriculture affects all of us, because it provides the food we eat, the fiber in the clothes we wear and the fuel we consume,” says Jason Henderson, vice president and Omaha Branch executive for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. “Agriculture benefitted Nebraska during the recession with stronger income gains and a strength in the industry that spurred jobs. Farmers bought more products, which spurred the manufacturing sector responsible for making tractors, combines, irrigation systems and buildings. Agriculture also supports the service sector, because farmers use accountants, lawyers and computer services.” In fact, a study released in 2012 from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) showed 25 percent of all jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture.

“Agriculture really is a core to our economy – it’s one of the central pillars, whether people know it or not,” says Eric Thompson, author of the UNL study, which covered statistics from 2010. “We rely on agriculture for our employment and incomes, and that’s not true in many states. A whole cluster of industries have grown up to support farmers and ranchers, including transportation, manufacturing, sales and a large co-op sector with co-op operations across the state.” The study also found that Nebraska’s “agricultural complex,” or the cluster of businesses that supply agriculture producers or process their goods (ethanol plants, grain processors, meat processing facilities and the like), contributed $68.88 billion, or 41 percent of the state’s total economy, in 2010.

The Changing Face of Agriculture

Advances in science and technology have been some of the biggest changes on farms and ranches across Nebraska in recent years. Gone are the images of overall-clad farmers holding pitchforks – today’s technology savvy farmers are more likely to be seen wearing Bluetooth earpieces and using GPS systems. “Agriculture is one industry that has tapped global markets and evolved over time,” Henderson says. “The industry is not providing just food, but also alternative products. Corn is being used to make carpets, biodegradable plastics and ethanol.” Nebraska ranks second in the nation for ethanol production, with 25 operating ethanol plants having production capacity of 2.25 billion gallons each year. One of the biggest challenges farmers face is helping urban consumers realize they have a lot in common and depend on one another for their livelihood. “People living in urban areas don’t always understand our way of life, but we’re really just like you,” Ibach says. “We work hard to meet consumers’ preferences and their expectations for healthy, affordable foods to feed our families. Our farmers and ranchers spend long hours in the fields to raise the food, fuel and fiber we all need. They care about and are involved in their local communities, but I also think they truly feel a responsibility to all citizens of the state.”



industry overview

Nebraska’s $6.9 billion in agricultural exports translate into $9.3 billion in additional economic activity. The top three agricultural exports in value are soybeans, feed grains, and live animals and meat.

In 2011, Nebraska agriculture contributed

$21 billion

to the state’s economy through farm cash receipts.

There are

23 million


acres of rangeland and pastureland in the state half of which are in the Sandhills.

Livestock or poultry are found on 50 percent of Nebraska farms.


of nebraska’s land is used for farming and ranching. What’s Online Access more agriculture facts at

1 out of 4 jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture.



Industry Overview



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Get to Know a


Farm Family Maricle family raises kids, crops and cattle on their Albion farm

Hilary and Brian Maricle (center) raise their five children, (clockwise from top left) Carson, Cody, Cassidy, Kate and Austin, on a family-owned and operated farm in Albion, Neb. The Maricles farm corn and soybeans, as well as beef cattle and hogs.



Daily farm chores are a family affair for the Maricles. The children learn about farm animal care at an early age, by helping fill water buckets for the cattle.

photography by todd bennett

For Hilary M aricle and

Carson Maricle feeds calves on his family’s farm.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

her husband Brian, farming isn’t just an occupation. It’s a lifestyle they wouldn’t trade for the world. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” says Hilary, who also teaches agribusiness to future farmers at Northeast Community College in Norfolk. “We’re the sixth generation on our farm. It’s been in Brian’s family since 1871. Our five kids love to help, and farming teaches them ethics, responsibility and hard work. Good morals aren’t an option.” Located just south of Albion, Maricle Family Farms encompasses 1,000 acres, where the family raises beef cattle, corn and soybeans and “finish” hogs. “Finishing hogs means we feed them from the time they are 45 pounds on up to when they’re ready to be harvested, or butchered,” Hilary says. “They grow really fast and are ready in about four and a half months.”

Brian farms full-time with his father, Keith. His mother, Mary Ann, is a high school English teacher, and Hilary’s parents, Bob and Patty Esch, have owned Esch’s Grocery in Spalding for more than 30 years. The Maricles’ five children are 15-year-old Austin, 9-year-old twins Carson and Cody, 6-year-old Cassidy, and 3-year-old Kate. “All three boys help with the hogs, and Cassidy is old enough to help us with the smaller hogs when they first come in,” Hilary says. “All the kids help feed calves and horses, and the boys help sort cattle. They each have their chores. The bucket calves are their responsibility, and the kids know they don’t get supper until all the animals are fed.” Life can get a little hectic for the Maricles with the demands of farming, school and extracurricular activities. There is no typical day. “School days, I’m gone to work by 6:30 a.m., so Brian gets the kids up

Hilary Maricle sits her daughter Kate on one of their horses.



and off to school and our youngest to daycare,” Hilary says. “Then he starts his work day with chores, whether it’s fixing equipment, preparing the fields, planting, checking the cows or doing paperwork. The older kids ride the bus home, check in with Brian, and then they have to do either their homework or chores right away – it’s their choice what they do first, as long as their chores are done by dark.” By the time Hilary wraps up at her job and picks up Kate from daycare, it’s usually after 6 p.m. “If we remembered to thaw meat that morning, we’ll fix dinner,” she says with a laugh. “Or we’ll pull out leftovers.” Many evenings, there are meetings to attend for organizations the Maricles are part of. “Brian’s our county Farm Bureau president, and I’m on the Zoning Board,” Hilary says. “Weekends are crazy too, because we try to do things that take a larger workforce, like moving cattle so my dad and I can help while the grandmas watch the younger kids if it’s not safe for them to tag along. But we always try to do something together on weekends, whether it’s working on a project or all going out to feed together.” One of the challenges the Maricles face, like farmers across the nation, is helping consumers understand where their food comes from and how it’s produced. “Consumers want to be more knowledgeable and are asking more questions, but they are so far removed from farm life. Many still have that picturesque American Gothic image of farmers chewing on straw,” Hilary says. “Farmers today are biologists, chemists, computer technicians, accountants, nutritionists and marketers so we can increase efficiency as we raise more food on less land.” While farm life has its rewards, it often can be sacrificial, but the Maricles wouldn’t have it any other way. “If our electricity goes out in a blizzard, for example, our generator sends power to our climate-controlled hog barn before our house. Otherwise, the animals could die,” Hilary says.

Top: Carson Maricle attends a Stock Show University event in Norfolk, Neb., to help him learn more about grooming and preparing his cattle for a livestock show. Above: Cassidy Maricle helps feed hay to the horses on her family’s farm. The kids learn about hard work and responsibility through daily chores.



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There’s always time for a little fun on the farm. Hay bales being stored for winter feed can often become a playground for the Maricle children.

Hilary Maricle combines farm work with spending time with her youngest daughter, Kate. The Maricles include their children in all aspects of farm chores, to help them gain knowledge and experience.

“We can put on more layers of clothes. They can’t.” A farmer’s job is to make sure those animals are kept healthy and comfortable during their lifetime. “We always work with the animal rather than against it, and we keep them in a very calm atmosphere,” Hilary explains. “When we move cattle, I’ll drive the Jeep, and Kate will throw feed cubes out the back. The cows love their ‘candy,’ so they’ll just follow us.” Likewise, farmers strive to grow the healthiest crops possible, without overdoing it on the chemicals. “We don’t apply one ounce more of insecticides or herbicides than we need,” Hilary says. “Every inch of our fields is mapped, and we test to know exactly what that soil needs.” You might say farming is a labor of love. “Less than 2 percent of Americans are farmers, and I don’t know any farmer who doesn’t love what they do,” Hilary says. “We grow food. How many people can say that?” – Jessica Mozo



industry overview

A Lesson in Agriculture Contact these groups to learn about farming and ranching in Nebraska

Curious about how farmers produce the food you feed your family? Several organizations exist in Nebraska to bridge the communication gap between consumers and producers, and they want to answer all your questions about agriculture. The Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska, or A-FAN, is a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower farmers and ranchers to share information about food production and to help every Nebraskan understand the connection between farms and their quality of life. The organization can be found online at “We’re trying to help consumers connect with farmers and ranchers to see what they do and how they do it, and realize we all have the same shared values,” says Willow Holoubek, executive director of A-FAN. “We want to raise awareness and support consumer trust in Nebraska agriculture.” A-FAN is a collaborative effort formed by representatives from Nebraska Beef Council, Nebraska Cattlemen, Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Corn Growers Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, Nebraska Pork Producers Association, Nebraska Poultry Industries, Nebraska Soybean Board, Nebraska Soybean Association, and Midwest Dairy Association. 22


Nebraska Agriculture and You

“We truly encompass all aspects of agriculture,” Holoubek says. “You can go to our website and ask any question about agriculture, and we can link you with our members who can answer your questions.” To get people excited about agriculture, A-FAN sponsors fun events such as their Farm Road Rally, which takes interested consumers, chefs, grocery store manage rs and dietitians on bus tours of area farms. A-FAN also co-sponsors an event at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln called the Husker Food Connection. “It’s a pretty cool event. Agriculture students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln host a day of educational events to share facts about agriculture with their fellow students and professors,” Holoubek says. “They give away prizes and T-shirts and serve 1,000 free meals.” A-FAN also has partnered on grocery giveaways, where consumers can go to the organization’s interactive website, watch a video about farming and food production, and apply to win a grocery gift card. Three $1,000 grocery gift cards have been awarded so far. “I feel it’s my purpose in life to help tell agriculture’s story,” Holoubek says. “Agriculture is our legacy as it’s the largest industry in Nebraska today and essential for the state’s future.”

Participants in the Alliance for the Future of Agriculture in Nebraska (A-FAN) learn about farm technology during a tour of Scott Wagner’s farm near Hooper, Neb.

Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) is another program that helps develop the understanding that agriculture is our source of food, clothing and other essentials. The Nebraska AITC program provides kindergarten through 12th grade teachers with resources and training on ways to incorporate agriculture into their existing curriculums. Students learn that agriculture includes the production, processing, distribution and marketing of food and products we use every day, and thereby become more informed consumers. Another organization, CommonGround, encourages conversation among women – both on farms and in cities – about where food comes from. More than 70 farm women in 16 states volunteer as resources for CommonGround to help women sort through the myths surrounding food. In Nebraska, there are 12 women volunteers, with even more farm women blogging at to share about life on the farm, how food is grown and to answer questions. “CommonGround gives agriculture a specific audience to reach – an audience who are the main food buyers in the home – women,” says Kelsey Pope, director of Advocacy & Outreach for the Nebraska Corn Board and co-coordinator of the CommonGround Nebraska program. “Consumer women across our state make food choices every day, and CommonGround gives farm women the tools and opportunities to reach these consumers to share about food and farming. It provides environments for them to answer consumers’ questions at consumer-oriented events.” – Jessica Mozo

College students studying to be teachers learn how to integrate agriculture into their curriculum through the Nebraska Agriculture in the Classroom program.



nebraska crops


Success Nebraska ranks high in soybean production

Soybeans play an important role in our daily lives, yet many Americans – and Nebraskans – have never seen them and couldn’t name two or three uses for this multipurpose crop. Did you know Nebraska ranks among the nation’s top five states for the production of soybeans, growing roughly 5 million acres of them each year? “A large percentage of food products you see on grocery store shelves have some amount of soybeans in them,” says Victor Bohuslavsky, executive director of the Nebraska Soybean Board, which oversees the state’s soy industry. “The biggest use is in vegetable oils, with several of those products actually



Nebraska Agriculture and You

containing nearly 100 percent soybean oil used for cooking.” Nebraska’s soybean industry ranks second only to corn in total crop production. “We have good soil, natural irrigation and an ideal climate for growing soybeans, with 5 million total acres and an average yield of 50 bushels per acre throughout the state,” Bohuslavsky says. “Farmers in Nebraska can make a good living just by growing soybeans.”

one bean, two products

When a soybean is picked and eventually processed, the bean gets crushed and becomes two

separate products – soybean oil and soybean meal. The oil is consumed by humans through various products, and the meal is mostly turned into feed for animals. “The oil portion makes up about 18 percent of the whole soybean, and meal comprises the other 82 percent,” Bohuslavsky says. Soybean oil can be found in everyday products such as margarine, mayonnaise, crackers, baked breads and cookies. Many foods are packaged with soybean oil, including tuna.

The Multipurpose Soybean

Gregg Fujan is a soybean producer and a Nebraska-based director with

In the fall, soybean leaves turn brown and fall off, exposing the matured pods. That’s when the soybeans are ready to be harvested. photo by Brian mccord



Photo by greg latza photo by todd bennett

Soybeans are harvested using a combine, which separates the soybeans from their pods and stems. The actual soybeans are collected into a tank at the back of the combine. When that tank is full, the combine operator empties the beans into a grain wagon.


Young soybean plants are especially susceptible to bugs, as well as weeds which can crowd out the soybean plants. The farmer keeps a close watch on his crop in this critical stage and applies pesticides only as needed.


Nebraska Agriculture and You

one acre of soybeans can produce

82,368 crayons.

the United Soybean Board, which makes decisions on how to spend farmer-contributed dollars toward new uses for soybeans. The dollars go to production research as well as domestic marketing and international marketing. “Soybeans are now being used in products such as plastics, carpet backing and car seat foam. It is much more environmentally sound to use soybean oil rather than petroleum oil,” Fujan says. “The United Soybean Board is also funding research for improved genetics so soybeans can better combat human diseases.” Research shows that soy food consumption can reduce a person’s



– Gregg Fujan, Nebraska soybean producer

risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis, some cancers, prostate issues and Type 2 diabetes. As a result, scientists are studying how more soy protein can be somehow added to mainstream everyday foods to provide health benefits. “Research is also occurring to eventually produce better agronomic soybeans that can increasingly withstand pests and plant disease, Fujan says. “In addition, there are efforts underway to utilize soybeans in the development of new biofuels. Soybeans will always be a major crop commodity in Nebraska. Our goal is to make soybeans more in demand around the world – even more than they already are.”

Nebraska has about

5 million 50 total acres of soybeans and an average yield of

bushels per acre throughout the state.

photo by Jeffrey s. otto

Soybeans are now being used in products such as plastics, carpet backing and car seat foam. It is much more environmentally sound to use soybean oil rather than  petroleum oil.

About 50 percent of all soybeans grown in Nebraska are shipped to other countries as exports. China and Mexico are the two biggest foreign customers for Nebraska soybeans.



photo by greg latza



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Nebraska soybeans generate more than

nebraska annually ranks among the top


u.s. states in total soybean production.

$2 billion annually.

Most soybeans are produced in the eastern half of the state.

About 50 percent of all soybeans grown in Nebraska are shipped to other countries as exports. China and Mexico are the two biggest foreign customers for Nebraska soybeans, and Bohuslavsky says the state is poised to capture an even larger portion of the export market thanks to Nebraska’s strategic geographic location within the United States. “States that are west of us don’t produce soybeans, so we are the closest soybean-producing state to the Pacific Northwest and their ocean-shipping lanes to China, the Far East and the Pacific Rim,” he says. “China grows corn well, but their climate and soil aren’t suitable for large amounts of soybean growth, so they import soybeans from Nebraska. They mix the soybean meal with corn for animal feed for their large poultry and swine operations. China has the largest swine inventory in the world.” Bohuslavsky adds that the only way to keep growing the soybean industry in Nebraska is to increase exports. “In the United States, the human food population is only so large and our population can only consume so much, so exporting is a key way to expand,” he says. “That’s why we are pleased that the Far East market continues to grow, plus export sales to Mexico continue to increase.”

Photo by todd bennett

Exports to China and Mexico

Left: Soybeans are harvested using combines, large machines like the one shown here. The header attachment on the front of the combine cuts and collects the plants. Above: During the summer, soybean plants will grow larger and begin to bloom small flowers which grow into the soybean pods.



Nebraska Crops

Farming in the

Digital Technology helps Nebraska farmers produce more, while being good stewards of the land

Precision Farming, Defined: Precision farming is an approach that subdivides fields into smaller, relatively similar management zones, so that fertilizer, herbicide, seed, irrigation, drainage or tillage can be custom-managed. GPS data, soil samples, moisture content, crop yields and historical data are combined to help the farmer make targeted crop management decisions instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.



Nebraska Agriculture and You




photography by todd bennett

Today’s farmers like Mark Jagels of Davenport, Neb., utilize computer technology and field reports to make more economical and environmentally friendly decisions for their crops.

When south-central

Nebraska farmer Mark Jagels hops in the tractor to plant corn each spring, he does the same thing that most of us do at some point each and every day – he flips on his computer. The technological advances that help you find directions to a specific destination by using your smartphone or see a satellite picture of your house online have not been lost on the agriculture industry.

Technology Increases farmers’ Efficiency

A center-pivot irrigation system distributes water to a crop field.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

From planting, to irrigating, to applying fertilizer, equipment using Global Positioning System (GPS)

technology and other modern advancements help farmers do more with less. “I think every producer has been forced to become more efficient, with input (fuel, seed and fertilizer) costs continuing to rise and land prices rising,” says Jagels, who has three sons and is hoping one or more will keep the family farm producing in years to come. “We want to do a better job of growing that crop and still doing it in a responsible way for the environment.” Jagels, a farmer from Davenport, Neb., and Brandon Hunnicutt, a farmer from Giltner, Neb., both say they use the latest irrigation

Davenport, Neb., farmer Mark Jagels utilizes Global Positioning Systems and auto-steer to operate his tractors, with his trusty companion Roxie at his side.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

technology and auto-steer technology on their tractors and combines. Auto-steer equipment uses GPS technology to help farmers use more precision in each pass over the field, eliminating human error that can lead to under or over application of pesticides and fertilizers.

Focus on sustainability and water use

Both say they apply less fertilizer and other chemicals than the generation that farmed the ground before them. “We use as many tools as we can to really be good stewards of the ground,” Hunnicutt says. Both also use advanced irrigation technology. In Nebraska just under half of the crop acres are irrigated, and there are four major center pivot irrigation equipment manufacturing companies located in the state, including Valley Irrigation, T-L Irrigation Company, Lindsay Corporation, and Reinke Manufacturing. That means there are great opportunities for farmers and companies to work together for the benefit of both the farmer and the environment, says Rich Panowicz, vice president of North American sales for Valley Irrigation in Valley, Neb. Valley patented a relatively new technology called Variable Rate Irrigation (VRI), which allows growers to adjust the desired amount of water coming through their center pivot irrigation equipment in a particular section of a field. It is especially useful in fields with multiple soil types, and the result is

Tractor Technology Modern tractors and combines are equipped with technology that assists the farmer in making crop management decisions.

• Geographic information system (GIS): This computer-based tool is used by farmers to analyze data and create maps with soil type, pH, nutrient levels and land features.

• Global positioning system (GPS): This technology is used to pinpoint locations on Earth, just like on our cell phones or in our cars. Tractor-mounted GPS receivers are used to record locations and are an integral part of other technology-based tools which help determine how much fertilizer, weed control and water are needed in various parts of the field. GPS is also used in auto-steer systems.

• Variable rate technology (VRT): This technology allows site-specific application of fertilizer, chemicals and the planting of seed at various populations. Environmental impact is greatly reduced, along with the quantity of fertilizer or chemicals placed on the field, since the soil only receives what it needs, instead of too much or too little.

• Auto steer: Much like autopilot on an airplane; tractors, combines and sprayers can be programmed to drive themselves through the field through the use of GPS. At the end of the row, the farmer turns the tractor around for the next pass. During planting, for example, auto steer keeps rows straight and evenly spaced and allows the farmer to more closely watch the planter that’s being pulled behind the tractor and monitor gauges.

• Yield monitors: As a crop passes through the combine, the volume, moisture and weight is recorded, along with its specific location, using GPS technology. This information, once plotted on a map, helps farmers know what areas of the field are the highest-yielding versus the lower-performing areas. In conjunction with GIS, yield monitors can determine where fertility may have been lacking or how disease and pest pressure have affected yield in different fields.



Efficiency allows the family farmer to meet the increasing demands from consumers locally, across the nation and around the world – from the demands of an increasing fuel supply and ethanol to more meat protein for developing countries. 

– Kelly Brunkhorst, Nebraska Corn Board

more efficient use of water on farm fields across the state. “They’re getting more crop for the drop, which helps the farmer and the environment at the same time,” Panowicz says. “We realize water is becoming more scarce every day, and we develop our products and technology with that in mind.”

Farming With Mobile Technology

Panowicz is seeing more producers practicing remote-farming by using their laptops, tablets and smartphones. Valley and other Nebraska-based irrigation equipment companies sell web-based monitoring devices that save farmers time and money, and those savings eventually get passed on to consumers, Panowicz says. Kelly Brunkhorst, director of research for the Nebraska Corn Board, agrees.

Brunkhorst says new technology allows more corn to be produced and yield a more versatile crop on the same amount of land, or even fewer acres than what was used in the past. “Farmers’ adoption of technology and the efficiency that has been gained affects consumers in many ways,” Brunkhorst says. “Efficiency allows the family farmer to meet the increasing demands from consumers locally, across the nation and around the world – from the demands of an increasing fuel supply and ethanol to more meat protein for developing countries.” This efficiency lowers costs for everyone. “When the raw materials cost less,” Brunkhorst says, “the savings can be passed along to the consumer, thus allowing a more affordable food supply.”

GPS receivers like this John Deere StarFire model track the location of the tractor in the field for use in yield maps and auto-steer operation.



photo by martin b. cherry

nebraska crops



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Bountiful Beans Nebraska remains leading grower of dry edible beans

chicken chili with Great Northern beans or classic beef chili with pinto and kidney beans, you should thank a Nebraska farmer. The state leads the nation in production of Great Northern beans and is the second-leading state for pinto bean production. In fact, Nebraska ranks third nationally for all dry bean production. Kidney, pinto, Great Northern, navy, black and pink beans all fall under the umbrella of dry edible beans, or legumes grown to their mature stage, dried and harvested for the seed within their pods. In 2012, dry bean production in Nebraska exceeded 3 million hundredweights – that’s 300 million pounds.

Photo courtesy of Stateline Bean Producers Cooperative

Whether you prefer white

During plant growth, the blossoms appear then develop into the bean pods.



Dry bean production will return more than $115 million to Nebraska farmers in 2012. These dollars will be spent in your local communities.

Cool Beans! Eating beans is healthy, builds lean muscle, aids in blood sugar management and reduces the risk of certain cancers. Incorporate beans into breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert for a diet that will keep you going throughout the day.

One serving (1/2 cup) of cooked pinto beans: • Provides 32% recommended daily fiber • Supplies 8 grams of protein • Numerous vitamins and minerals – folate, thiamine, vitamin B6, manganese, iron, calcium, zinc and copper … just to name a few Dry beans are: • Cholesterol free • Sodium free • Gluten free • Virtually fat free

Serving the Nebraska dry bean industry since 1987 through research, education, publicity and promotion to increase the overall consumption of dry beans on a state, national and international basis. Visit for tasty recipes and detailed nutritional information. Nebraska Dry Bean Commission • 4502 Ave. I • Scottsbluff, NE 69361 • (308) 632-1258

Dry edible beans are typically harvested in August or September. Farmers know the fields, like this one in western Nebraska, are ready when most pods are yellow. Photo courtesy of Stateline Bean Producers Cooperative

Photo courtesy of Nebraska Dry Bean Commission

Climate and Conservation

As with any crop, weather plays a critical role in Nebraska’s status as an ideal locale for bean production, which requires low humidity and an arid climate. “Dry edible beans only grow well in western Nebraska, where the climate is different than eastern Nebraska,” explains Lynn Reuter with the Nebraska Dry Bean Commission. Many farmers choose to grow beans because they help conserve water. “Using little water for dry beans can allow water to be used for crops that need more,” Reuter says. Kevin Kelley, who owns seed distributor and processor Kelley Bean Co., agrees they’re perfect rotation crops for farmers who also grow corn, sugar beets, wheat and alfalfa.

“Dry beans produce nitrogen to naturally fix the soil, plus beans are the last crops to be planted and the first to be harvested – they have a short growing season,” he says. No beans about it, Kelley certainly knows his legumes. His Scottsbluffbased company, which employs 225 people, sells seeds to farmers and then purchases the harvested beans to sell to supermarkets and distributors. But before they end up on grocery store shelves, the beans have to be processed. When Kelley Bean acquired KBC Trading and Processing (a former ConAgra division) in 2005, it became the canning industry’s top supplier. Brands such as Bush’s, Hormel and many more use beans from seeds developed by the researchers at Kelley Bean for their specific canning characteristics.



Nebraska’s top foreign export markets for great northern and pinto beans:


Great Northern Beans


Pinto Beans


Great Northern Beans

Dominican Republic Pinto Beans


Pinto Beans


Great Northern Beans

Nebraska is the no. 1 producer of great northern beans and No. 2 producer of pinto beans. Beans can reduce heart disease along with certain cancers, including colon cancer. They are low-fat and loaded with protein, antioxidants, fiber, complex carbohydrates and vitamins such as folate B. In 2012, dry bean production in Nebraska totaled more than

The dry edible bean industry includes kidney, pinto, great northern, navy, black and pink beans. 44


Nebraska Agriculture and You

300 million pounds, which is about 10 percent of U.S. production, and equals 2.5 billion servings of beans.

photo by michael conti

And Kelley Bean is not alone. Other dry bean companies in Nebraska, mostly located in the western part of the state, near where the crop is grown, include Nebraska Bean, Stateline Producers Cooperative, Trinidad Bean, New Alliance Bean, and AK Acres Popcorn Co. Doug and Cindi Allen are two of the growers that work with Kelley Bean. “We buy the seeds from Kelley Bean, grow the crop, then sell the grown beans back to Kelley,” Cindi Allen says. The couple raises beans along with corn, wheat and sunflowers on their farm in Ogallala. “We grow corn for two years and then beans during the third year to get maximum use of our soil,” Allen explains. She says this ensures the best possible yields for the farm, which grows kidney, black and pinto beans. She enjoys growing a true field-tofork crop. “I can pick a bucket from the field,” she says, “soak the beans overnight, and serve them the next day in chili or a main meal.”

Packed With Protein

No matter how they’re consumed, dry beans are an inexpensive, healthy option, Reuter says. “They are a nutrition powerhouse and an excellent low-fat source of protein, plus beans can reduce heart disease along with certain cancers,” she says. “They are loaded with antioxidants, fiber, complex carbohydrates and vitamins such as folate B. Actually, the folate found in beans helps diminish many birth defects, so



Banking on Nebraska

Supporting Agriculture Nebraska banks loan nearly $8.9 billion annually to finance ag production and farm real estate. Producers have always been able to depend on their Nebraska banker.

Strengthening Our Communities On Main Street Nebraska, your strong, local bank stands ready to serve your financial needs. Our local customer focus continues – for today and for the tomorrows that lie ahead.

Serving Our State Nebraska banks are making a positive impact on our state’s economy, with access to capital, a safe place to save, and numerous community contributions.

Before you make any major financial decision, visit with your local banker. Our financial strength gives us the ability to ride out tough economic times, and we’re committed to your future!

staff photo

grow, cook, eat, learn

beans are an excellent food source for pregnant women.” Reuter adds that beans are not only low in calories but also a good source of energy. “If you were stuck on a deserted island and had to pick one food for your ultimate survival, it should be beans,” she says. “In fact, new energy bars have been recently introduced that are packed with pinto bean flour and navy bean flour.” With all of the associated health benefits, it comes as no surprise that consumers throughout the country eat beans grown in Nebraska. “In the United States, Nebraska pinto beans are becoming especially popular in restaurant sectors that serve Mexican, Cal-Mex and Tex-Mex dishes,” Reuter says. “Black beans from Nebraska are gaining more recognition in restaurants along both the East and West Coasts.” The leading export markets for Nebraskagrown pinto beans are Mexico, Dominican Republic and Angola, Reuter says. France, Malaysia and Turkey top the list of foreign markets for great northern beans. “Dry beans are a vital part of the state’s agricultural economy,” Kelley says, “and Nebraska’s dry edible beans are some of the best – if not the absolute best – in the entire world.”

Maple Apple Baked Beans This sweet and savory side dish combines Nebraska-grown Great Northern beans with tart apples, maple syrup and bacon.

Ingredients 5 cans (15 ounces each) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained 2 ¼ cups Granny Smith apples (2 very large apples), peeled and chopped 1 cup sweet onion, chopped 1 cup cooked bacon, coarsely chopped 1 ½ cups hickory barbecue sauce 1 cup pure maple syrup ¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed ¼ cup stone-ground mustard 2 teaspoons dry mustard ½ teaspoon ground ancho chile pepper Instructions 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well. 3. Pour into a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish or cast iron Dutch oven coated with vegetable cooking spray. 4. Bake 45 minutes, or until bubbly and heated throughout.

What’s Online Go online to for dry bean recipes.

For more recipes, visit





Nebraska Agriculture and You

nebraska crops

From Seed to Can Most dry edible beans, including the Great Northern, pinto and light red kidney, are planted in late May to midJune. These plants grow well in warm weather and are more drought-tolerant than many other crops.

It typically takes 80-100 days for the plant to mature, and harvesting usually begins in August or September. Dry beans are harvested when some pods are dry and most pods are yellow. Cutting in the evening or morning (after the dew) is a good practice to reduce shattering of dry pods.

After harvesting and drying the beans, they are either stored in grain bins or trucked to a processing station, where the beans are cleaned, sorted for size and graded. Then, some bags are packaged to be sold as dry beans, while others are further processed into other foods.

Canning is the most popular processing method for beans, and it’s especially convenient for consumers. Even in canned beans, the initial bean quality is of the utmost importance. The dried beans are washed and soaked, then sorted again, and eventually cooked and canned.

Light Red

Kidney Beans

Garbanzo Beans


Pinto Beans

ck Bean s Bla

Great Northern Beans

Pink Beans

Navy Beans



livestock & animals

Champions of Care Nebraska farmers ensure safety, health of their swine

For the owners and

operators of the 2,700 farms where pigs are raised in Nebraska, there are no weekends. No matter the day of the week, the size of the farm, or the type of housing the pigs are kept in, Nebraska’s pork producers have to be available to ensure their animals are adequately cared for. And it’s a job they take very seriously, according to Larry Sitzman, executive director of the Nebraska Pork Producers Association. “We support equally a variety of production systems for pigs in Nebraska, from outdoor pens to climate-controlled buildings,” Sitzman says. “But as different as those are, they all have something in common – to produce a quality product, the animals must receive quality care.”



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Swine Health and Comfort

Bart Beattie, of Hamlot, Inc. in Sumner, agrees. Hamlot is a fifthgeneration wean-to-finish family farm in central Nebraska that markets 30,000 hogs annually. Wean-to-finish means the Beatties receive piglets from other farmers and care for those piglets until they reach about 250 pounds, big enough to go to market for processing. Beattie says the health and comfort of his animals are of prime concern, and the farm practices he uses call for high levels of attention and progressive technology. “All of our buildings are climatecontrolled,” Beattie says. “We focus on optimal temperatures for pig comfort. We start at 78 degrees (necessary for smaller pigs) and by the time they reach market weight it’s down to 64 degrees.” The piglets

even have zone heating, an area of the pens that have a warmer where the piglets can go into and out of at their own comfort. Air quality systems and facility layout also promote a healthy environment. “Our barns are designed so the animals have maximum square footage to move around, feed, interact with other pigs and get water,” Beattie says. Pork producers also care about “biosecurity,” a cornerstone of raising healthy pigs. Shane Meyer, sow herd production supervisor for Plymouth Ag Group, says biosecurity includes isolation and sanitation practices that protect the pigs from the introduction of potential disease. This is especially important at sow herd farms like Meyers’, where piglets are born and get their first

Shane Meyer supervises the sow herd for Plymouth Ag Group in Diller, Neb., which weans 1,250 pigs weekly. Weaned pigs like the one pictured here are transported to nurseries and finishing operations.



photo by Todd Bennett

Above: Swine houses like these employ “biosecurity” practices to help keep pigs healthy. All workers shower and dress in sanitized clothing before entering the building. Right: Pigs are often raised indoors to ensure consistent temperatures.

Nebraska pork producers generate $660 million annually and support 11,200 jobs.

hogs are raised on 2,700 farms across the state.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

start. Meyer oversees Plymouth’s Diller location, which weans 1,250 piglets weekly. Once the piglets are weaned, they are transported to nurseries and finishing operations (where they are fed to market weight) all across the state. Meyer and his team must shower and dress in sanitized clothing before entering animal areas. “New pigs brought into the herd have to be in isolation for two months,” Meyer says. “They come in on trucks that have been completely disinfected to limit any disease potential from outside hogs.” Beattie, whose Hamlot Inc., receives piglets from sow farms like Meyers’, appreciates the biosecurity effort and carries the same practices through at his operation. Hamlot, like most other Nebraska pork farms, utilizes intensive record-keeping practices to maintain animal health and deliver a quality product for the meat-consuming public.

“We can trace everything from back to the farm, all the way through to the processing plant, to the day the meat was processed,” says Beattie. “We can even trace it back to the specific truck it was loaded on and tell you who loaded the pig on that day.”

Open Pen System

While good record keeping is critical at any farm operation, those records may be kept differently depending on the type of farm. While Meyer and Beattie each handle pigs on their farms for only a part of those pigs’ life cycle, Karen and Bruce Grant of Meadow Grove have a pork farm that involves the entire production cycle, from breeding and gestation, to birthing, weaning (removing the piglets from their mothers), and growing the animals to market weight. The Grants’ family farm markets 1,300 animals annually, raises their own crops for feed and use an open





Nebraska Agriculture and You

pen system, incorporating two naturally ventilated hoop structures. A hoop structure provides animals protection from the elements, while allowing them freedom to move between indoor and outdoor environments. Like the Grants, Belden farmers Jan and Jim Miller also use a hoop barn for their farrow (birth)-tofinish operation. They market 2,200 hogs annually. “Like other types of production systems, we have to manage our herd for diseases, animal comfort and care,” Jan Miller says. “Our hoop barn provides our animals with an environment that leaves them very content, whether there’s a raging blizzard or it’s a hot Nebraska day. “Our type of housing isn’t necessarily better than any other swine housing. It’s just that different types of housing require different types of management practices to keep the pigs safe and comfortable, a

A farm worker moves pigs between barns.

Fifth-generation pig farmer Bart Beattie operates a wean-to-finish operation, which means they receive young pigs and raise them to market weight.



Bart Beattie raises up to 30,000 hogs each year on his family’s farm near Sumner, Neb. Beattie is the fifth-generation farmer in his family, an honor that he says he takes very seriously.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Six Nebraska counties rank in the top 100 U.S. pork counties. holt

“Seeing is deceiving. It is eating that’s believing.”

antelope boone

cuming platte clay


Modern technology, advances in animal genetics and improved management practices allow today’s farmers to provide a pork product that is 16 percent leaner and has 27 percent less saturated fat than 20 years ago.


goal I think all Nebraska producers strive for regardless of what type of building their pigs are in.” Sitzman, with the Nebraska Pork Producers Association, says most Nebraska pig farmers, regardless of size or type of operation, voluntarily participate in education programs called “Pork Quality Assurance” and “Transport Quality Assurance.” These training programs outline the ethical principles producers should follow. Sitzman adds that 6,689 Nebraska pig farmers or employees have taken this training.

Job Creation and Economic Impact

Nebraska is the sixth-largest hog producing state in the nation and has three major pork processing plants, located in Fremont, Crete and Madison. The industry generates

$660 million annually and supports 11,200 jobs. Most of the hog farms, and all three processors, sit primarily within the state’s eastern third, and at any given time, more than 7.5 million hogs are raised at 2,700 sites. “Nebraska is the best place on the planet to raise pigs,” says Jim Pillen of Pillen Family Farms. “We have the advantage of land, water and people. It allows us to compete with anyone in the world.” One of the largest hog farms in the state, Pillen Family Farms near Platte Center serves as a major employer, supporting 600 families. “Pigs need us every single day. They don’t care if it’s Saturday or Sunday,” Pillen says. “Those in the pork industry have to be committed to being the best every single day of the year.”

PORK CHOPS/ PORK LOINS SPECIALTY FOOD ITEMS and WE SHIP! Local Delivery Available 5030 S. 108th St. Omaha, NE 68137 (402) 331-1910 T (402) 596-0662 F



Livestock & Animals


the Way

Beef cattle sectors work together to make the state a leader 58


Nebraska Agriculture and You



photography by Todd bennett

Homer Buell says that the Nebraska Sandhills are a great place to raise cattle. He operates a cow-calf operation near Bassett, Neb.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Cattle outnumber people by about four to one in Nebraska, so it should be no surprise to learn that the production of beef is big business in the state. Every step of the process is located here, from the farm gate to the dinner plate, and that makes the sector a leading contributor to the Nebraska economy, as well as a critical piece of Nebraska’s agricultural heritage. This results in the best beef you can get, according to Michael Kelsey, executive vice president of Nebraska Cattlemen. “Our state’s history is tied to cattle production,” Kelsey says. “And the factors that made raising cattle here attractive in the mid-1800s are still relevant today. We have the natural resources, the cattle genetics, the central location and the people that come together to support our state’s economy, from the ranches to the feedlots to the processors.”

location, location, location

The process all starts on the farms and ranches where the cattle are born, and the state’s ideal geographic landscape provides the perfect backdrop. Cattle are raised in each of the state’s 93 counties, but the north central part of the state is an especially good location, Kelsey says. “I’m not sure there’s a better place in the world to raise a cow than in Nebraska’s Sandhills. And it’s great because the cows don’t have to travel far for processing,” he says. Homer Buell, who runs a cow-calf operation in the Sandhills near Bassett, agrees. “The state’s topography is ideal for the entire beef production system,” explains Buell. “The eastern part of Nebraska has good cropland for corn that is primary for fattening cows, while the rest of the state has great grasslands. If you go to farming states like Iowa and Illinois, they have the

photo by greg latza

“Nebraska doesn’t have oceans or palm trees – we have agriculture that includes a strong beef industry.

– Angelo Fili



Homer Buell lives on a cattle ranch near Bassett, Neb., that’s been in his family since 1883. He operates a cow-calf operation, which means that he keeps mature females to raise calves that will be sold for meat production or as replacement females in other ranchers’ herds.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Nebraska has the top three beef cow counties in the U.S., including the nation’s No. 1 cow county – Cherry County.

Cherry County

corn but not the grasslands. Nebraska has all the ingredients that allow us to have a profitable beef industry.” There are 23 million acres of range and pasture lands in Nebraska, including Buell’s Shovel Dot Ranch, which has been in the family since 1883. Today, his Angus ranch raises and sells steers (male cattle raised for beef) once they reach weights of about 900 pounds, while heifers (female cattle that haven’t borne a calf) are sold at 850 pounds. “Cows graze in our pastures throughout the year, plus we grow enough crops where we don’t have to feed a lot of hay,” Buell says. It is evident that Nebraska thrives in cow-calf production when it is compared to such production in other states. Three Nebraska counties – Cherry, Custer and Holt – rank as the top three cow counties in the nation, home to a combined 365,000 head of cattle. The state’s 20,000 cattle ranches average about 94 head per herd, more than twice the national average. Kelsey points out that despite the vast number of cattle, more than 99 percent of these operations are family-owned and operated.

raising the steaks

While some cattle remain on pastures until processing, many calves, once they get to weaning weight, are sold from the farm or ranch where they were born to a finishing feedlot. Nebraska has about 4,500 feedlots, where calves eat a mixture of corn, dried distillers



On Shovel Dot Ranch south of Bassett, Neb., cattle are fed in bunks during the winter months.

grains (a byproduct of ethanol), hay and other forages until they reach market weight. Market weight is generally about 1,300 pounds. J.D. Alexander, whose family started Alexander Cattle & Farms in Pilger during the 1940s, says he can’t imagine running his business anywhere else. “Nebraska is the perfect spot for the cattle industry in the United States,” says Alexander. “Farming, ranching, backgrounding, finishing feedlots and packing plants – we have it all, including the Ogallala aquifer, which is vital to our irrigation of crops.” Alexander’s family-owned operation, which includes a feedlot, is located in northeastern Nebraska. For the feedlot sector of the beef



Nebraska Agriculture and You

production industry, being in a state with strong grain and ethanol production is a great benefit, Alexander says. “The grain, ethanol and cattle production sectors all work together in a way that provides economic advantages for Nebraska that other states miss out on,” Alexander says.

meat the best

Once cattle get to market weight, they then go to local processors, which are scattered throughout the state in communities such as Omaha, Schuyler, Gibbon and Lexington. One of those processors, Greater Omaha Packing Co. Inc., was founded in 1920 and currently provides nearly 900 jobs in Omaha. All of its cattle arrive from within 150 miles of the city.

“The cattle we handle are either Angus or Hereford beef, with every animal corn-fed, well-marbled and deserving of some of the highest grades for choice meats,” says Angelo Fili, executive vice president of Greater Omaha Packing. “We work closely with the University of Nebraska to keep up with the latest trends for top muscle cuts, thereby supplying the most tender meat to customers,” Fili adds. There are seven federallyinspected beef processing facilities with over 500 employees each in Nebraska, and dozens of others of varying sizes handling beef or other meats. All must meet strict standards that are enforced by the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Our goal is to get the best quality cattle to produce the best quality beef for our customers here and abroad,” Fili says. “Nebraska beef is known nationally and internationally for quality. I think all sectors of the industry want to maintain that reputation.” “America is the international leader in agriculture, and Nebraska is a national leader in many areas,” says Fili. “Nebraska doesn’t have oceans or palm trees – we have agriculture that includes a strong beef industry.”

healthy economy

Beef helps keep the state’s economy healthy by securing jobs for Nebraskans. Kelsey points out that one out of every four jobs in Nebraska are in or

related to agriculture, and the beef industry is a major contributor. “It’s not just about the jobs directly provided by the rancher, the feedlot owner and the beef processor,” Kelsey says. “All these sectors utilize veterinary care, trucking companies, bankers and accountants. This keeps the economy healthy and provides a tremendous amount of employment in Nebraska.” As for the future of Nebraska beef, Kelsey says it is very promising. “With the abundance of raw materials that we have, I think consumers can continue to be assured that beef will stay in Nebraska and will keep supporting our economy with jobs and a healthy product.”

Nebraska is


in the nation in commercial red meat production.

Nebraska produces more beef per square mile than any other state.



livestock & animals

Foreign Intrigue

Nebraska beef exports boost state economy


s the No. 1 beef producer in the nation, Nebraskans have the opportunity to enjoy an abundance of delicious hamburgers, sizzling steaks and other fresh beef products raised in their backyard. And increasingly, folks from around the world are asking for that same opportunity. Nebraska beef is marketed and sold in countries near and far, and the list of those vying for the product is steadily growing. Currently, the state’s top four export markets include Canada, Korea, Japan and Mexico, with Nebraska beef even making an appearance at Hong Kong Disneyland. Chile and the United Arab Emirates have recently become part of the mix, and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture says they are always working to develop new foreign markets. Beef exports account for more than $740 million in annual sales for the state, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that Nebraska will soon pass $1 billion in annual beef exports. The state is generally ranked fifth in the nation in total agricultural exports and second in live animals and meat exports. But how do Nebraska beef exports to places like Japan affect consumers here in the state? The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that for every $1 in international exports, $1.34 is generated in economic activity. This includes things such as warehousing, transportation and more. Thanks to those consumers overseas, more Nebraskans with off-farm jobs are supported economically.

Nebraska rancher Steve Hanson, center, and Agriculture Director Greg Ibach, right, display beef from Nebraska that is sold in a South Korean supermarket.

“Thirty percent of our company’s meat products are now exported,” says Angelo Fili, executive vice president of Greater Omaha Packing Co. “The direct support industries and all of the economic spin-off dollars, from pallet makers to women’s clothing boutiques, are a trickle down of the dollars drawn to the state from having a strong agricultural presence internationally,” he says. Fili also explains that Nebraska’s exports and strong agricultural backbone help insulate the state from the full effect of any downturn of the nation’s overall economy, due to the fact that food is not an optional life item. “Really, all service industries are equally covered under the same agriculture related umbrella in Nebraska,” he says.

For Every


in international exports,


is generated in economic activity.



livestock & animals



Nebraska Agriculture and You

From Cow



Dairy farmers produce milk that’s fresh and very local



photography by todd bennett

Prairieland Dairy in Firth, Neb., is a full-process dairy. The family-owned business has its own cows, does its own processing and distributes to retailers throughout Nebraska.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

How long do you think a gallon of milk takes to go from farm to processor to the dairy aisle of your local grocery store? A month? A week? “Fluid milk, the kind you buy in a jug to drink at home, usually goes from the farm to store shelf in 48 hours,” says Rod Johnson, senior manager of industry relations in Nebraska for the 10-state Midwest Dairy Association. This quick farm-to-table process is possible because the majority of local grocery store milk comes from one of Nebraska’s 200 dairy farms. “Most milk (on grocery shelves) is probably (from a dairy) within 100 miles,” says Lowell Mueller, who runs a fifth-generation, 200cow dairy farm in Hooper. “That is the big thing that consumers are interested in now – going local. And I think that’s a fair statement

the state’s 14 dairy processors prepare fluid milk, cheese and yogurt, among other items, for grocery store shelves and other outlets. The majority of dairy farms are located in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association Buy QUALITY Nebraska-grown products! Grown for Nebraska’s climate and conditions!

to say that most milk comes from local producers.” Its local impact also can be seen in the jobs provided by the industry. “A dairy employs a lot of people, and there are a lot of tax bases because of all the buildings, equipment, machinery and things like that,” says Mueller, who also chairs the Nebraska Division of the Midwest Dairy Association. “The economic impact is pretty significant.” In fact, the state’s dairy industry generates 138 million gallons of milk and $248 million in milk sales every year, according to Midwest Dairy Association statistics.

A family affair

Not only do milk and other dairy products have a local connection, but 100 percent of Nebraska dairies are family owned and operated.

Find a business that utilizes a Nebraska-certified nursery professional (NCN) for your next landscaping project. Go to: Nebraska has: 400+ nursery and tree growers and 900+ nursery dealers and landscapers Nebraska greenhouses, nurseries and floriculture production have a market value of $41.6 million To find local nurseries and/or landscape services close to you, click on the consumer tab at



Prairieland Dairy has started producing and selling its own compost, using cow manure, edible trash from a local school, popcorn from a nearby manufacturer and yard waste.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

“The size of the farm doesn’t make any difference,” Johnson says. “We have very large family farms and very small family farms.” One example of a larger family farm is Prairieland Dairy in Firth, which was formed by four relatively small dairy farm families. “That’s the main thing that makes us unique,” says Dan Rice, general manager. “We combined our cows in order to build a bigger dairy and to be able to have a future for our next generation. We’re not just a sole proprietor, but we’re four family farms working together.” The farm is located near Lincoln on the site of what was once Obbink Farms. Rice and his family came to Nebraska from Pennsylvania in 1998, bringing with them plenty of dairy experience and some 80 cows. They partnered with the Obbinks to open Prairieland. A few years later, in 2005, they were joined by the Goossen family and the Eickhoff brothers, bringing their milking cow total to 1,500 and becoming one of the largest dairies in the state.

focus on sustainability

Despite its size, sustainability is at the forefront of what they do, Rice says, whether socially, economically or environmentally. “We’re trying to address all three to keep the farm around for the next generation,” he says. On the environmental front, Prairieland has its own water filtration system to ensure its animals have the best water quality, and the dairy recycles water where applicable. It uses only natural fertilizers and engages in other environmentally friendly practices, such as an extensive compost system for manure. Its short distance for distributing its milk also provides significant conservation on fuel and, as a result, less pollution.

learning more about milk

Prairieland also offers tours of its facilities. Groups can schedule a visit to the dairy, and Rice says it receives 15,000 to 20,000 visitors a year.

The state’s dairy industry generates

138 million $248 million gallons of milk and

in milk sales every year.

Nebraska is home to more than 200 dairy farms and more than 58,000 dairy cows.



Prairieland Dairy milks 1,500 cows, making it one of the state’s largest dairies. The farm can milk 220 cows per hour, using 48 stalls. That equals 600 gallons of milk each hour.

How Is Milk Made?

From the cow to your store in only 48 hours

1. Milking A cow is ready to be milked when her udder is full. Most dairy cows are milked 2 to 3 times a day, using sophisticated milking machines that mimic the actions of a young calf. It typically takes about five minutes per cow to milk, depending on the type of machine and the amount of milk the cow is producing. Sanitized pipelines carry the milk from the cow to the milking machine, then to the cooler. Since milk comes out of the cow warm, it is cooled in tanks to stay fresh.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

2. Transport The farmer stores the cooled milk in his refrigerated tanks on the farm, until the tank trucks come to pick it up. For larger farms, the tank truck may come every single day, which helps get the milk to the processor even faster and keeps it fresher. The truck driver is an accredited milk grader, and he evaluates the milk before collecting it in his truck. He can reject the milk when necessary, based on temperature, sight and smell.

“We get everybody from preschool kids all the way up to groups from retirement homes,” he says. “You name it, they’ve been here. We educate them about modern agriculture and why we do what we do. It’s really important to educate consumers about how their food is being made, and how efficient and sustainable it is.” Most visitors on a field trip are familiar with how cows are milked, but few know what happens next.

milk processing

After it comes from the cow, the milk must quickly be cooled from the cow’s body temperature – about 100 degrees – down to about 40 degrees. “The milk is cooled as rapidly as possible,” explains Johnson, “and every day or other day, depending on size of the farm, the milk is picked up and taken to the processing plant.” Though a few farms process milk and dairy products on site, most send their product to regional processing

nutritional benefits

“If you look at a lot of foods, dairy ingredients are in them one way or another,” Mueller says. “Ingredients are pretty important nowadays because of the protein, calcium and lactose found (in dairy products).” In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report that milk and milk products are linked to improved bone health, especially in children and teens, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure in adults. Healthy, fresh and local – three great reasons to pour yourself a glass of milk.

3. Processing

4. Packaging

Once the milk has arrived at the plant and been tested and approved, it moves into pasteurization, homogenization, separation and further processing.

Milk to be used in other dairy products like ice cream or cheese is sent on to that process. But milk that will be sold in its original state is packaged in either paper cartons or plastic jugs. As the containers move through the assembly line, a date is printed on each of them to show how long the milk will stay fresh.

The milk is homogenized to break down the butterfat and distribute it evenly. Pasteurization involves heating the milk to a specific temperature, then cooling it rapidly. Pasteurization protects the purity of milk without affecting the nutrient value. The separation process removes the cream from the milk, then a percentage is added back based on the preferred fat content of the milk. For example, skim milk has a fat content of .05 percent.

plants, where it’s packaged and distributed to area grocery stores – all in about two days’ time. Of course, dairy products go far beyond a gallon of milk, so the 48-hour timeline doesn’t apply to cheese, yogurt and other products. However, the nutritional benefits certainly do.

Roberts Dairy employs about 225 people at its headquarters in Omaha, Neb. The plant processes approximately 120,000 gallons of milk per day, which equals about one full tanker truck of milk each hour.

le o h W


Once the packaging is complete, the milk is trucked to grocery stores and made available for sale. At no time in the process do human hands touch the actual milk. In all, the process takes less than 48 hours from the time it’s milked from the cow to when it’s placed in your grocery store cooler.



Local Food




Nebraska Agriculture and You

Appeal Increase in fresh, locally grown produce connects farmers and consumers

When it comes to eating

locally grown fruits and vegetables, there is at least one rule of thumb to remember: The shorter the shelf life, the better the taste. That’s one way Kelly Jackson of Daniels Produce assesses the foods her company sells through farmers’ markets, roadside stands, wholesalers and retailers. About 80 percent of the produce grown on the nearly 600-acre farm near Columbus is sold for distribution to grocery stores and large retailers like Wal-Mart, with sweet corn, cabbage and bell peppers being the primary vegetables. But of the 20 percent that is sold directly to customers looking for fresh and local produce, watermelons, cantaloupes and tomatoes rule the bins. “We’re planting varieties that aren’t going to last very long, but they taste

amazing,” says Jackson, daughter of Andy and Tannie Daniels, who own Daniels Produce. “Produce like heirloom tomatoes or Athena cantaloupes may only last four days, but they taste really good if you can get them to the market fast enough.” More and more people in Nebraska and throughout the country are embracing the idea of eating local produce, both for the fresh taste and the direct connection to the farmer growing the product. As a result, more farmers are looking at crops that are particularly suited for farmers’ markets and roadside stands. “There has been a large increase in the number of produce growers in Nebraska,” says Casey Foster, ag promotion coordinator for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA). “As demand has increased, so



Staff Photo

have the number of outlets farmers are selling from. Most Nebraskans should be able to find a source of local, fresh produce, whether it be a farmers’ market, roadside stand, U-pick operation or even at some grocery stores.” Foster says while actual figures are difficult to quantify, there are at least 600 growers, located throughout the state, who are registered with NDA, and the number of farmers’ markets registered with NDA has grown from 39 in 2000 to 82 for the 2013 season.

New Sales Outlets

In addition to participating in farmers’ markets, some growers in the state are starting or joining community-supported agriculture (CSA) groups, according to Ryan Pekarek, who owns Pekarek’s



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Produce in Dwight and is president of the Nebraska Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. “CSAs provide growers another outlet to sell their produce,” he says. For a CSA group, customers sign-up with a farm to receive produce during the growing season. The customers pay an up-front fee for a “share” of the harvest, and receive produce from the farm as it comes in season and in amounts representative of the share purchased earlier. “The customer shares somewhat in the risks involved in growing produce. For example, if the green bean crop fails for some reason, the customer gets no green beans from the farm that season,” Pekarek says. “But many folks like the idea of that close relationship with the person growing their food.”

While some growers move to CSAs, a few have found a new outlet in an area once difficult for growers to crack. Jackson, of Daniels Produce, says some growers have been able to get their product into large grocery stores. “It used to be hard to sell to larger retailers, such as Wal-Mart,” she says. “But now, this whole movement of buying local has really helped. There are a lot of opportunities to raise local produce because a lot of these larger grocery stores are jumping on the bandwagon of buying local, and I think they’re trying to save on transportation costs by decreasing their imports from California and Mexico.”

Marketing Efforts

Foster says the NDA is working hard to help customers and produce growers connect. The department

Farmers’ market shoppers purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from a produce grower. More than 80 seasonal farmers’ markets are located throughout the state.

operates a marketing program known as “Nebraska Our Best to You,” which is designed to advance the availability and benefits of Nebraska’s agricultural food products, particularly fruits and vegetables. The program’s website,, provides details that are helpful to consumers seeking information on local produce. It includes a list, located by county, of farmers’ markets, roadside stands, U-pick operations and produce growers. It also includes recipes, a harvest calendar and gardening tips.

NDA also works with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to administer the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and the Women, Infants and Children’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. Qualified nutritionally at-risk low-income seniors, women and children use coupons to purchase fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. The programs grow the market for farmers, while improving nutrition in specific low-income populations, Foster says.

Nebraska-grown produce is great for your table and great for the local economy. To find local produce near you, visit our website at

Nebraska Fruit aNd Vegetable growers associatioN NCIA has the only official AOSA seed laboratory in Nebraska. We offer seed certification and value-added programs for the seed, grain and feed industry.

Supporting the improvement and promotion of Nebraska’s fruit and vegetable industry

IDENTITY PRESERVED • QUALITY ASSURED P.O. Box 830911 • Lincoln, NE 68583-0911 (402) 472-1444 •



local food

Tunnel Vision

High tunnels lengthen season for produce growers


ith the continuing growth in demand for fresh produce, Nebraska farmers are exploring ways to extend their growing season. Today, more farmers are using hoophouses, or high tunnels, according to Ryan Pekarek, who owns Pekarek’s Produce in Dwight and is president of the Nebraska Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.

High tunnels are similar to greenhouses, but much less expensive to build and maintain. Another distinction is that plants grown in high tunnels are actually rooted in the ground, where those in greenhouses are commonly grown in containers. Covered in plastic and heated with available sunlight, hoophouses are quite effective in lengthening the season for several

types of produce. “This means customers can find produce such as tomatoes and various mixed greens at stands and farmers markets much earlier and later in the season than past years,” Pekarek says. “Customers win because they can get local produce for a longer time period, and farmers win because they can get extended sales for their investment.”

Vegetables Commonly Grown in High Tunnels




Tomato plants grow best between


70-75 degrees Fahrenheit.


Crops grown in high tunnels must be irrigated.



nda at work for you



Nebraska Agriculture and You




DEAL NDA Consumer Protection Division enforces retail rules

At left, Mike Johnson, an ag inspection specialist with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Consumer Protection Division, tests scales at a grocery store. Each scale that passes is marked with a yellow Nebraska Department of Agriculture sticker.



photography by todd bennett

Mike Johnson tests gas pumps at a station in Omaha to ensure that they are measuring fuel accurately. This protects all Nebraska consumers.

The nebraska department of agriculture regularly inspects


devices to protect consumers from fraud, inaccuracies and faulty measuring equipment. NDA officials conduct random inspections of more than 75,000 packaged products each year.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

When you hand hard-earned

cash to a retailer, you expect to get what you pay for. But how can you be sure you’re getting your money’s worth? Are you really getting a full gallon of gas or pound of apples? The Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) works behind the scenes to protect you by ensuring fair exchanges for items sold by weight, measure or count. NDA’s Food Safety and Consumer Protection Division enforces laws and regulations ensuring the accuracy of commercial transactions, using uniform standards to regulate purchases based on weight, measure or count. The division regularly inspects 42,000 commercial devices to protect consumers from fraud, inaccuracies and faulty measuring equipment. “It’s about allowing the consumer to make a cost and quantity comparison so they know what the best deal is and that they’re not getting short-changed,” Division Administrator Paul Moyer says. The National Institute of Standards and Technology estimates that weights and measures rules influence about half of the U.S. gross domestic product. “We’re out there inspecting all sorts of businesses,” Moyer says. “It

might be companies selling anything from antifreeze to ice cream.”

Packaging and Labeling

Products sold by weight, measure or count must comply with state statutes. Store checkout scales as well as the software systems they utilize are inspected for accuracy to ensure the packaging material is not charged as part of the product weight. For example, when a customer purchases a pound of apples, the software system should deduct the weight of the plastic bag the apples were placed in; this is referred to as the tare weight. Another example would be when purchasing ground bulk coffee. The system should deduct the tare weight (for the bag) to assure the consumer is not being charged for the weight of the bag, potentially preventing the consumer from being overcharged 30 cents or more (based on the price of coffee per pound). The NDA Food Safety and Consumer Protection Division also enforces proper packaging and labeling on prepackaged items. A prepackaged item must contain at least the net weight shown on the label. This protects consumers from paying for packaging materials. NDA officials conduct random inspections of more than 75,000 packaged products each year.

Full Compliance Required

Whether making purchases from a farmers’ market, grocery store or a gas station, consumers can trust the product they buy is weighed, measured and sold in conformity to state and federal regulations. NDA has the ability to check scales with capacities ranging from a hundredth of a gram to 500,000 pounds. “We check all commercial devices annually, which is required by law,” Moyer says. “If a device is found to be out of compliance for any reason, our inspector will place a colored tag on the device. That tag will only be removed once the device is brought back into compliance. A follow up inspection will be conducted to ensure it meets all regulations.” According to Moyer, officials discover issues with 8 to 10 percent of inspected devices with only about 4 percent of the problems affecting accuracy. The other 4 to 6 percent relate to labeling and other issues. Enforcing accuracy in commercial transactions serves the interests of consumers, as well as the business. “The inspections we conduct help ensure that the consumer is getting what they are paying for, but it also helps make sure that the business is not being shortchanged either,” says Moyer. Businesses benefit from consumer confidence gained through oversight and are free from suspicion of fraudulence, even when consumers cannot visually inspect purchases, like gasoline. Rising prices of all commodities are hard enough to absorb, let alone dealing with a malfunctioning device. NDA-inspected gas pumps receive a yellow, Nebraska-shaped sticker with the inspection date clearly marked. The sticker signifies the device is functioning properly and that the consumer may expect a fair transaction. “It benefits petroleum marketers from a competitive standpoint. Consumers are getting what they pay for, and the retailer is on a level playing field,” Timothy Keigher says. Keigher is executive director of Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, a non-profit trade organization.

This yellow sticker can be found on weighing and measuring devices at stores across Nebraska and indicates that the device has been inspected by NDA for accuracy.





Nebraska Agriculture and You

nda at work for you

Plant Life

Nursery stock inspectors monitor for diseases, pests

photo by Jeff adkins


rom asters to lilacs to willow trees, when you make an investment in a perennial or woody plant, you want to know that what you are adding to your home’s landscape has a good chance at surviving. You shouldn’t be worried, according to State Entomologist Julie Van Meter with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture’s (NDA) Entomology Program. Through the program, NDA inspectors license and inspect firms that distribute nursery stock in Nebraska, checking for unwanted pests and plant diseases. NDA inspectors license over 1,300 nurseries, including 400 growers who raise over 2,000 acres of Nebraska nursery stock, to determine if the nursery stock meets the state’s certification requirements and can be distributed. “Our goal is to keep plant pests, particularly exotic and invasive pests, from being distributed on nursery stock in Nebraska,” says Van Meter. “We want to protect the consumer who is purchasing the plant from getting a bad product, and we want to protect the nursery industry and the Nebraska landscape from disease and pest outbreaks.” Nursery stock entering Nebraska from other states must be inspected and certified in the home state, and must meet Nebraska’s entry requirements before it can be shipped into the state. Upon arrival in Nebraska, the stock is inspected for signs and symptoms of insect and disease problems, mechanical damage, weeds and overall general health, Van Meter says.

Tom Hamernik, who along with his brothers Mike and Chuck owns Bluebird Nursery, Inc. in Clarkson, says NDA’s nursery stock inspections play a vital role in “protecting the entire community.” “They protect our state from disease and insect issues,” says Hamernik, who also serves as president of the Nebraska Nursery and Landscape Association. “As a grower, they protect me from having satisfaction issues with my customers. And they protect the end consumer from fly-bynight nursery people that may not have the same types of sources that long-term nurseries and growers utilize.” According to Van Meter, inspections help nursery stock producers identify pest problems early, when they are more easily managed, helping to reduce losses.

The inspectors will also work with the producers to identify potential pathways for pest introductions, educate producers on various plant pest issues and work with the producers to achieve certification of their nursery stock. “Once a pest becomes established, then you have to manage it,” Van Meter says. “Nobody wants to get home with a plant and find out it’s already infested with oystershell scale or bagworm, and have it spread to other plants in your yard.” “They (the inspectors) give us more eyes and ears across the state so we know what to look for,” says Angie Vandersnick, owner of Nebraska Nursery & Color Gardens in Lincoln. “They’re very important to the nursery industry in general and the whole environment of the state.”



opportunities in agriculture


theJob Market Agriculture careers are booming both on and off the farm

there are more than


types of careers in agriculture, with many in high demand.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

A shley Bernstein knew

nothing about farm life as a child growing up on the East Coast. Her family has been in Nebraska for some time now, but she was no more exposed to agriculture during her teen years than if she had been living in a borough of New York City. Ashton Meints, on the other hand, comes from a family that owns a farm just south of Plymouth, Neb. Her dad is a farmer who also happens to sell farm equipment, “ so agriculture has been a part of my life since I was really, really young,” she says. They may come from different backgrounds, but Bernstein and Meints share a bond that is more and more prevalent among college graduates these days: They both have launched careers that are related to agriculture.

High Growth in Ag Jobs

“Agriculture is one of the bright spots where we’re experiencing under-supply and over-demand, and that’s just so counter to where most industries are,” says Dr. Ronnie Green, vice chancellor of the University of Nebraska’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Lincoln. “The level of employment – both in terms of availability of jobs and in compensation – is very good,” he adds. “It’s not unheard of for graduates to have four or five job offers. It’s a very good position for young people to be looking at these kinds of professions.” The University of NebraskaLincoln is one of the nation’s top 10 agriculture universities, according to rankings by U.S. News and World Report, and the school’s agriculture and natural resources college had an

photography by todd bennett

Ashton Meints teaches high school agriculture at Bryan High School in Omaha. Meints, a graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, hails from a farm family near Plymouth, Neb., and says that agriculture has always been part of her life.



Photo courtesy of the nebraska college of agriculture

Top: Ashton Meints teaches agriculture at Bryan High School in Omaha. The school recently reopened its agriculture program, after decades without one. Meints says this speaks to the increasing demand for agriculture-related career professionals. Above: Students studying agriculture in high school or college enjoy learning a lesson, then getting hands-on experience to bring it to life.



Nebraska Agriculture and You

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is one of the nation’s top 10 agriculture universities, according to rankings by U.S. News and World Report, and the school’s agriculture and natural resources college had an enrollment of about 3,100 undergraduate and graduate students in 2012. enrollment of about 3,100 undergraduate and graduate students in 2012. “The college has had a guaranteed job placement policy with students for a number of years,” Green says, “and we’ve always fulfilled that. Our placement rates are very high.” The same can also be said for the range of careers in agriculture. Even though Bernstein had no exposure to farms, she had developed an interest in food science in her early teens. She enrolled in the agriculture college at Nebraska, and graduated in May 2012, immediately finding employment as a research and development technologist with D&D Foods in Omaha. The company produces salad and meat-case foods for Hy-Vee, the Midwest chain of grocery stores. “Agriculture majors are needed everywhere,” Bernstein says. “I would most definitely advise high school students to go into agriculture. Everybody needs food, and the way the world is changing constantly, we have to keep up with demand as population keeps growing.” Meints is having a direct influence on students’ possibly choosing a career in agriculture. Also a 2012 graduate of UNL, she began a career in education as an urban agriculture instructor at Omaha Bryan High School. The inner-city school had reintroduced an agriculture program in 2012, nearly 30 years after a previous one had ended, and Meints believes it will make a huge impact. “I think agriculture is important to everyone,” she says. “No matter what you do or where you are,

agriculture is always in your life, especially in Nebraska. “It’s real important for students to have the experience in high school early on, so it will get their interest and lead them to major in agriculture in college. Omaha has all these ag-related jobs, and these businesses really need people to have some sort of agriculture experience.”

Wide Range of Job Opportunities

In addition to food science and education, careers in agriculture are found in a wide spectrum of the economy. There is great demand for highly skilled employees in farm and ranch production, and agribusiness and financial positions are also hot commodities. Growth is particularly noted in biotechnology and in the genetic improvement industry, and government-related resource management positions are on the increase as well. The need for veterinarian professionals continues to expand. The choices seem endless. “It used to be that doctors or lawyers were the sexy jobs because of the financial compensation tied to them, but it’s now agriculture,” Green says. “This generation is figuring out that many of the big problems in the world are going to deal with food and fuel and water, and those are the challenges a peaceful world is going to face in their lifetime. A lot of those problems are going to get solved in agriculture. The new sexy jobs – and, frankly, the lucrative ones – are going to be in this area.”



opportunities in agriculture

Educating the Future Youth program teaches students about agriculture


t starts with the youth. For more than 40 years now, that saying has been particularly relevant for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) and its program known as the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute (NAYI). The NAYI is a five-day conference held every July for high school juniors and seniors, teaching them many aspects of agriculture. “It’s the longest-running program of its kind in the nation,” says Christin Kamm, advisor for the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council, which coordinates the NAYI. “The Nebraska Department of Agriculture believes the NAYI is important to get youth involved in agriculture, so it’s something we obviously feel very strongly about.” “We usually have around 150 participants each year,” she adds. “The students learn about agriculture, how to be a good advocate for the agricultural industry, and about agricultural careers available and how to get those careers through college majors.” The annual Institute features a variety of programs and speakers, and there are many opportunities for participants to interact in small-group settings. They become involved in areas such as career development, leadership and education. NAYI delegates have the opportunity to participate in a computersimulated farm management game, or serve as ag communicators through daily newsletter writing, video editing and the use of social media.

“The Institute is designed to educate rural and urban youth alike. We’ve had many students from urban areas that were curious about agriculture attend NAYI in the past,” Kamm says, “many of which have decided to pursue an agricultural career path. The Institute shows students the vast opportunities available to them in the agricultural industry.” NAYI is coordinated through the NDA by members of the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Council (NAYC). The NAYC is currently comprised of 19 college-age men and women with a passion for agriculture and educating others about the

importance of agriculture in their daily lives. “The Council also coordinates other youth educational events throughout the year including elementary school visits, and taking urban youth to farm settings to look, feel and smell agriculture,” says Kamm. Kamm encourages any high school students interested in learning more about careers in agriculture to consider participating in NAYI. “It’s not just about learning to be a farmer or a rancher,” she says. “ The diversity of job opportunities is truly amazing.”

The Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute offers hands-on experiences.



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Nebraska Dry Bean Commission

Chadron State College

Nebraska Farm Bureau

ConAgra Foods

Nebraska Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association

Cornerstone Bank

Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board

Country Sliced Ham

Nebraska Nursery & Landscape Association

Farm Credit Services of America Farmers Mutual of Nebraska First National Bank Great Western Bank Lindsay Midwest Bank Nebraska Bankers Association Nebraska Beef Council Nebraska Cattlemen Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Nebraska Corn Board Nebraska Crop Improvement Association



Nebraska Agriculture and You

Nebraska Pork Producers Nebraska Soybean Board Nebraska Wheat Board Nebraska Winery & Grape Growers Association Northeast Community College Platte Valley Reinke Southeast Community College T-L Irrigation Company The Gavilon Group LLC University of Nebraska Valmont Irrigation

Find recipes, cooking tips and food for thought.

opportunities in agriculture

A Rural View of Education

Agriculture college marks a century of training students, broadens its focus


t one point in time, you could find many two-year community colleges that focused entirely on agriculture spread across the nation. Now, there are only two – one in Ohio, the other the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) in Curtis. The institution, part of the University of Nebraska system, has withstood the test of time and a series of name changes throughout its 100-year existence. What hasn’t changed, however, is the school’s commitment to educate farmers, ranchers, and men and women in agribusiness. Enrollment in fall 2012 was 331, with 74 percent from Nebraska and 26 percent from 11 other states. But don’t let the “agriculture” in the NCTA name fool you. While NCTA faculty members still have a focus on farmers and ranchers, the college also has broadened its view to prepare students for other opportunities for a successful life in rural communities. “Many students who attend NCTA have a rural background or an interest in agriculture,” says Dr. Douglas Smith, agriculture production systems division chair. “Some students do wish to own their own operation, so we have incorporated entrepreneurship or business-minded principles across our curriculum. When students leave NCTA, they are ready to enter the industry as managers and stewards of land and livestock. Many become partners in

Lessons in crop production and farm management are taught at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis, Neb. The school is celebrating its 100-year anniversary.

operations and future owners.” Douglas says as agricultural production techniques have changed, the complexion of rural America has too, but there are still business opportunities in rural communities either related to agriculture or serving those who work in agriculture. Weldon Sleight, who retired in late 2012 as dean of NCTA, says the school has created several specialty programs to encourage entrepreneurship and ownership in farming, ranching and rural business. This includes the 100 Acre Farm Advantage, 100 Beef Cow Advantage, Agronomy Scholars, and Business Builders. The hope is that these specialty programs will help encourage

young people to see the value of returning to rural communities, establish agriculture and main street business enterprises and become rural community leaders, Sleight says. “We just have to get these young people back there to have children of their own and be the next generation of farmers, ranchers, business people and community leaders.” Sleight also noted the college is renovating facilities as it grows and changes, completing an extensive, $15 million building program in 2011 that included a new Education Center, Veterinary Technology Teaching Complex, Aggie West and Aggie Central residence halls, and a biomass campus heating system.




85 A-FAN

96 Chadron State College

86 ConAgra Foods

1 Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture

72 Cornerstone Bank

57 Country Sliced Ham

C2 Farm Credit Services of America

54 Farmers Mutual of Nebraska

8 First National Bank

45 Great Western Bank

38 Lindsay

6 Midwest Bank

63 Nebraska Cattlemen

48 Nebraska Corn Board

79 Nebraska Crop Improvement Association 42 Nebraska Dry Bean Commission

C4 Nebraska Farm Bureau

79 Nebraska Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association

27 Nebraska Grain Sorghum Board

46 Nebraska Bankers Association

71 Nebraska Nursery & Landscape Association

66 Nebraska Beef Council

2 Nebraska Pork Producers


12 Nebraska soybean Board

86 Nebraska Wheat Board

4 Nebraska Winery & Grape Growers Association 48 Northeast Community College

20 Platte Valley

18 Reinke

91 Southeast Community College

35 T-L Irrigation Company

54 The Gavilon Group LLC

92 University of Nebraska

C3 Valmont Irrigation

Nebraska Agriculture and You 2013  

State’s top industry impacting your daily life

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