Neighbors to the World
Rural Success Stories:
Magic started it all
We head into the fantastical world of gaming for this month’s Rural Success Story. There writer Scott Rager finds two young men who found their love of the game Magic: The Gathering could make the perfect business opportunity.
As friends Cody Dame and Tanner Lytle of McCook organized a business plan, they applied for the Hormel Family Foundation Business Competition and were selected as the winners. With $25,000 cash investment, plus additional consulting and advertising, their idea became Game On, a place that sells games and gaming systems but also creates a community gathering place.
Game On now has two locations, and they still offer a place for nightly organized play where gamers can connect with each other. “Gaming is great practice for life,” Lytle said. “The skills you use when playing Magic or any other strategic game translates into being the best you can be in any situation.”
McCook Economic Development Corporation
How McCook created a sense of place
by Betty Sayers
McCook is a town that gets it right when creating a city center that draws walkers, bicyclists, foodies and shoppers. But that didn’t just happen by accident. It took hard work and cooperation from a group of citizens focused on a common vision.
Nebraska Rural Living wanted to find out how McCook did that, so Betty Sayers visited with Rex Nelson, economic development director in McCook, to learn more. What she found was that McCook decided not to focus on business recruitment, but instead focus on entrepreneurship and business retention through the McCook Economic Development Corporation.
Through the Keystone project, and with improved relationships among the business community, public and private entities, McCook is bringing enthusiasm and energy to businesses in the community. “Rural life is wonderful,” Nelson told Sayers. “We’re always looking at ways that we can invest our time and resources to help make the rural life economically rewarding as well.”
GROW business Sunheat International warms up chilly days
As you complete your holiday shopping, we encourage you to take a look at what Nebraska entrepreneurs have to offer through the GROW Nebraska website. This month, we are sharing some tips for finding GROW Nebraska products and also featuring one of GROW Nebraska’s entrepreneurs in our Rural Success Story. Sunheat International products are sold in GROW stores and through BuyNebraska.com.
“It’s that time of year when staying warm dominates our thought process, and nobody has heat on their mind more than Josh Rookstool of Sunheat International,” writes Scott Rager. Sunheat International is a Nebraska-based business that focuses on quality by selling through independent stores, not big box chains.
“We prefer to work with mom-and-pop stores because they understand the product and cater to the customer,” Rookstool says. Check out the story behind Sunheat International and take a look at what other GROW Nebraska entrepreneurs offer in this month’s Rural Success Story.
Central American Foods
Nebraska opportunities draw Honduran entrepreneurs
by Scott Rager
“The road to success for business partners and brothers Marlon and Carlos Reyes is rooted in their native country of Honduras but stretches all the way to rural Nebraska,” writes Scott Rager. When delays in U.S. Customs were causing their shipments of artisanal cheese to spoil, they started looking for a place to produce their cheeses in the United States. They found that home in Nebraska.
“They selected rural Nebraska, Columbus in particular, not only for the quality of life but also because of the opportunities that are extended to small business owners,” Rager said. The Reyes turned their business plan and family cheese recipes into a thriving business in a short amount of time.
The future looks bright for Reyes’ Central American Foods, with distributors in five different states and a waiting list of companies wanting to work with the company. Read their inspiring story in this month’s Rural Success Story.
Articles & Essays:
Night Sky Photos - Photo Essay
Clear skies over Nebraska
We asked readers and fans to submit their night sky photos for our photo essay this month. The array of colors visible in the night sky is stunning.
And reader Ron Korngiebel takes us inside the process of photographing the night sky in his essay. We find out what it takes to capture those stunning photos and where to turn for more information.
Join us for a trip through the stars in February’s photo essay.
Find a job and join us in Nebraska
We hear every day about people who long to move back to Nebraska. But what holds many back is finding a job once they move back, or even before they move back. And we want to help. So we have partnered with the Nebraska Department of Labor to provide a job-searching tool accessible through our website. Find out more here.
A Kris Kringle Krafty Kristmas!
by Michelle McCormick
Michelle McCormick has given herself the lofty title of “junkionado” since she and friend Kim spend the last weekend every September cruising the roads of central Nebraska on the famous Junk Jaunt. She found several treasures this year but wasn’t sure what to do with one item until a Christmas craft show inspired her.
For less than $10, Michelle transformed a dirty window into a twinkling Christmas centerpiece admired by her family and friends. Her thriftiness shows how treasures are just waiting to be uncovered in the piles during Junk Jaunt.
Read how she came up with her Krafty Kristmas in an essay that will get you into the holiday mood. Fill a cup with eggnog, sit back, and look at what’s around you to come up with your own Krafty Kristmas.
CNPPID invites birds “rest your wings!”
In Betty Sayers’ essay this month, she explores how Central Nebraska Public Power has turned conservation into one of its central missions. Central is providing protection for piping plovers and least terns along the shores of its facilities, as well as perch and roost trees for bald eagles.
Central’s relicensing process included making conservation a priority. That is now happening through the Platte River Recovery Program, which is being praised as one of the most successful habitat recovery programs in the United States. And the relicensing process is succeeding because federal, state and public entities are collaborating instead of fighting.
We invite you to join the birds in Nebraska to explore the impressive irrigation, recreation and conservation project in this month’s essay. Then visit the campgrounds and waterways we talk about to see for yourself the beauty that Central is helping to preserve.
Itís easy to be well fed at Cunninghamís Feed
In the heart of the Republican River Valley, you will find Cunningham’s Feed, a restaurant with thoughtfully sourced ingredients, unique menu options and the perfect setting for a Valentine’s date. When Rural Foodies were looking for something more than blue plate specials and bar fare, they headed to Cunningham’s Feed, a place that never disappoints.
There they found a buzzing crowd, a warm welcome, and tasty surprises served with a friendly smile. Owners Kevin and Mitzi Urbom know what it takes to keep a restaurant up and running in rural Nebraska, and they deliver with consistency.
None of the menu options disappoint, but at Cunningham’s Feed, they know that quality beef is what makes frequent patrons in Nebraska. “Quality steaks that are perfectly prepared are what keep restaurateurs in business and Cunningham’s Feed knows that well,” Scott Rager writes.
Tuffy's Tavern is putting Smithfield back on the map
by Scott Rager
Tuffy’s Tavern in Smithfield had been shuttered for many years when Mark and Carmin Whittaker purchased it in August 2013. Scott Rager writes that they were hoping to capitalize on Carmin's culinary expertise while providing the community with a much-needed dining option. And that’s exactly what they did.
Locals are finding their way back to Tuffy’s Tavern, but the comfort food is drawing in those from outside of town as well. Rager says that their Tuff Burger alone is worth the drive.
The Rural Foodies went to Smithfield in search of a good meal but left with much more. “The Whittakers’ hard work and determination to revitalize not only a restaurant, but a town, has given hope to a place that is in need of much more than a hot meal,” writes Rager.
Haythorn Land & Cattle Co.
Haythorn Ranch offers culinary experience straight from the Old West
by Scott Rager
North of Lake McConaughy lies a ranch where you can stumble into the pages of a Louis L’Amour novel, writes Scott Rager. And the family that runs Haythorn Ranch has the western hospitality and tasty cooking to make you feel right at home.
Craig and Jody Haythorn have a long family history in rural Nebraska dating back to 1884, but in 1999, they built an event center to host the Cattlemen’s Ball that year, a large scale extension of their habit of inviting people to their family table.
Since then, the facility has been used for weddings, receptions, meetings and retreats with full catering services available. And the Haythorns' smoked meats, a centerpiece of these occasions, can also be ordered and shipped anywhere in the United States through Haythorn Land & Cattle Smoke Shop. We invite you to meet the Haythorns in this month’s Rural Foodie experience.
A grand restaurant tradition in Columbus
Columbus’ historic downtown district is home to a charming restaurant and pub that features architectural details, a lush garden view and locally sourced produce and food sources. Traditions Inn drew the Rural Foodies to Columbus recently and it was a feast for the eyes, soul and stomach.
The setting and food melded together perfectly. “This is a place where memories are made, whether you are having lunch or celebrating a wedding reception,” Scott Rager writes. “People come for the food and end up returning for the memories.”
We think you will start planning your own trip to Traditions Inn in Columbus after reading this month’s Rural Foodie find.
Keep in Touch
Our newsletter comes out once a month, but today’s social media also allows us to keep in touch between issues. Take a look at our Facebook page. Follow us on Twitter. Find us @NebRuralLiving. And visit our blog. We love hearing from our readers, because (and we’re not biased) we have the best readers around!
Dynamic Towns & Cities:
Indomitable spirit keeps Bertrand vibrant and dynamic
“To make a small community thrive, you work together.”
Bertrand is thriving in great part because this solidarity message is spoken in many different ways and by people of all ages and occupations in Bertrand. The town is bustling with committees planning the Bertrand Rodeo, the famous Bertrand craft show, a talent show, theater, music and sports activities, and fund raising events for families in need. Businesses also thrive in Bertrand. Over 72 businesses handle most wants and needs in the community, including a medical clinic and a weekly newspaper, the Bertrand Herald, which was recently sold to new owners.
Benkelman is a town with a view...and a view of the future
About as far south and west as you can go and still be in Nebraska, Benkelman is a town with a view, built on spectacular terrain featuring lookouts and ledges. Only three hours from Denver International Airport, you’ll find the hectic, high-priced urban lifestyle evolves into wholesome, affordable, rural living in Benkelman and Dundy County.
The lifestyle of the almost-mythical American rancher and cowboy come alive in Benkelman. There are more veterinarians than doctors in Dundy County, and no wonder: an estimated 70,000 cattle range on land that is all privately owned, with not a single commercial feedlot.
Great school is only one jewel in Axtell's crown
Surveys tell us that one concern of people considering the change to a rural lifestyle is the quality of rural schools. They shouldn’t worry. A recent Department of Education study found that nationwide, rural children did better than their urban counterparts in science and math, and that rural educators were more likely to report being satisfied with their working conditions. Read more about why a great school is just one jewel in Axtell’s crown.
No one remains a stranger for long in Alma
If you want to get to know the town of Alma and learn about its people, start with a visit to any one of the venues where residents gather for morning coffee and a daily update on local happenings. Chances are you will meet enough friendly folks during your first visit that you’ll spend the rest of the day bumping into your new friends, ready with a now-familiar smile and another round of introductions.more...
Also Featured This Month
Voyage through a valley's heart
One of the main things writer Pat Underwood discovered on her recent canoe trip down the Republican River was the quiet. "There is an almost total hush around us as soon as we pass the first rapids and glide the canoe into the main channel," she writes. "It sounds as if we have entered a sacred place, and perhaps we have.
Chocolate Bar is a sweet interlude
When the Rural Foodies found themselves in downtown Grand Island with out-of-town visitors and a hankering for something a little different from the regular selection of dining choices, they headed to the Chocolate Bar after an enthusiastic endorsement from a friend.
Trenton finds winning an ethanol plant is a massive job, but worth the effort
Most business experts agree that entrepreneurs are found in only a small fraction of the population, yet they can have an outsized impact because they pioneer change and create wealth. Discovering one entrepreneur in a community may be akin to finding gold in the nearby hills.