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Comfortable Brick Home
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Rural Success Stories:

Red Road Herb Retreat and Learning Center

Red Road Herbs

Red Road Herbs is living textbook
by Betty Sayers

Betty Sayers met Rachel Liester, a country herbalist and entrepreneur at her family’s enterprise, Red Road Herbs, near Stanton, Nebraska, for a crash course on herbs and their medicinal and healing properties.

Rachel, her daughter Jazmine and husband Michael invite people to their gardens to learn about herbs and how plants connect to the planet. “Plants are the original medicine and offer healing,” Rachel said. “Plants keep us healthy over time. They look pretty and association with plants increases feelings of well being.”

The Liesters also invite the public to Red Road Herbs for various events over the summer. Rachel invites us to stop and walk through the grass barefoot in this month’s Rural Success Story.


Orleans Hotel

Orleans Hotel

Skeleton keys reveal charm of Orleans Hotel

When you walk into the Orleans Hotel, don’t expect your standard hotel visit. Instead, proprietors David and Marilyn Snodgrass will hand you an honest-to-goodness skeleton key and escort you to a room that is sure to provide a unique hotel experience.

The Snodgrasses scooped up the Orleans Hotel in May 2014 after the hotel had been on the market for more than six years, waiting for just the right owners. David and Marilyn fit the bill. They felt the hotel was their calling and they’ve worked hard to do it justice.

“In a very short time, the Snodgrasses have single-handedly revitalized tourism in this section of Harlan County,” writes Scott Rager. They opened the doors to welcome the community at Orleans Apple Fest and then booked a wedding party who rented the entire hotel. Things haven’t slowed down since. Though they are busy, we invite you to slow down for a minute and read this month’s Rural Success Story, an inspiring story about taking a historical building and bringing it back to life.


Summer Honors Program

Summer Honors Program

Everything (and everyone) is awesome at SHP
by Scott Rager

Every summer a group of talented youth from across southern Nebraska meets in Holdrege for the annual Summer Honors Program. The program was first started in 1978 to give students an outlet and place to encourage creativity, excellence and empowerment. It has grown from 40 students to 126 students.

“Not only is it an opportunity for students to identify an area in which they excel, but it also allows a rural region to support and showcase a level of young talent that often goes unappreciated in most public school systems,” writes Scott Rager. Rager knows firsthand the benefits of SHP as he is an alum of the program.

The program has been recognized as one of the top gifted programs for rural students in the nation, and rural Nebraska should celebrate the talent this program encourages. Writer Scott Rager gets the inside scoop on what makes SHP awesome in this month’s Rural Success Story.


Scratchtown Brewing Co.

SuScratchtown Brewing

Entrepreneurial itch drives buddies to open Scratchtown Brewing

Three buddies from Ord have turned a weekend hobby into a thriving brewing company. Their story started when Jade Stunkle, Mike Klimek and Caleb Pollard found themselves in a garage most weekends discussing all sorts of issues. What they agreed on was this. Klimek's homemade brew was good.

"The world deserves to taste Mike Klimek's beer," Pollard told writer Scott Rager when he sat down to talk with them. The friends started Scratchtown Brewing Company and have been bringing that brew to the public, one mug at a time.

Now people are driving from hundreds of mile away to try Scratchtown Brewing's offerings. And along the way, the friends have developed a place where the brews are generating conversation and connecting people in this small rural community. Read this month's rural success story to learn how starting Scratchtown Brewing beat the odds to build a company that is gathering attention across the state and beyond.


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Articles & Essays:

Finding Nebraska Rural Living in New York City

NRL in NYCFinding Nebraska Rural Living in New York City
by Angela Davis

When writer Angela Davis visited New York City recently, she found herself surrounded by water towers. Those towers took her straight back to Nebraska where water towers proudly mark the landscape of rural towns across the state.

As she tours New York City, Angela is continually reminded about scenes from rural Nebraska. She reminisces about all the unique water towers that dot Nebraska and finds that even half a country away, connections can be made between urban and rural in this month’s essay.


WWII Museums and Wildflowers

WWII museums and wildflowers

Clear skies over Nebraska

Writer Angela Davis is back with another adventure from across the globe. In May, Davis drove across Belgium from the Netherlands to the coast. She found a World War II museum and red poppies, a stark contrast between brutality and beauty, that made her start thinking about how that translates to what can be found in Nebraska.

What she discovered is that even though people might find themselves in Nebraska, beauty and history are all around, with a sprinkling of war museums across the state and fantastic gardens that provide a visual treat for the eyes. If we look at a place with new eyes, it is amazing what we can find hidden just behind the commonplace.

Though we might not all be able to adventure across the ocean like Davis, we can still find memorable experiences in our own backyard. Join Davis on her journey and then make your own memories with this month’s essay.


Writing rural decades ago

Writing Rural

by Jennifer Chick

While Nebraska Rural Living celebrates rural living today, there are writers who have been building good will about rural living for decades, even centuries before us. Laura Ingalls Wilder is one of those writers and Jennifer Chick talks about her fascination with Laura in this month’s essay.
Chick was first introduced to Laura when she was 10, living on a farm in western Kansas. Something about Laura clicked with her. Maybe it was the setting since Laura also lived in Kansas at one time. Maybe it was Laura’s uncanny ability to get in trouble no matter how hard she tried to be good. Maybe it was Laura’s brown hair. How they both longed to trade their drab brown locks for golden blond hair.

Whatever the connection, Chick has been enamored with her ever since. She’s travelled to several of Laura’s home sites and read the books until they’ve fallen apart. Take a pilgrimage to those sites in this month’s essay.


Emery Blagdon Art

Emery Blagdon Art

A vision realized

It was almost a decade ago when Kelly Rush was introduced to the complicated and intriguing art of Emery Blagdon. Through his art, Blagdon wanted to produce an environment that would make people feel better, and Rush was fascinated. 

Rush is an NET Television producer and she found a fellow co-worker, NET Radio announcer and reporter Jerry Johnston, who shared her fascination. They had many hallway conversations about Blagdon and decided they wanted to tell his story.

It took six years, but the two finally created an NET documentary, Emery Blagdon and His Healing Machine, to highlight Blagdon's life and his work. Rush writes about the process and the end result in this month's essay.


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Rural Foodies:

Grinders Food Truck

Grinders Food Truck

Grinders Food Truck's orange glow lures them in
by Roni Lewis

The orange glow of the Grinders Food Truck lures diners in first, but then they linger and return for the mouth-watering sandwiches chef Jim Fry serves up. “You will go bananas for the experience of the Grinders Food Truck and the culinary genius of owner Jim Fry,” writes Roni Fisher.

Jim Fry has traveled the world but finds his calling in the food truck business. He serves up delectable and tasty sub sandwiches for hungry diners in Holdrege and Kearney. And his scrumptious side dishes don’t take a back seat. The food is balanced and hearty.

“We are real guys making real food,” Fry told Roni. “There is nothing fancy about it.” Roni searched the streets for the Grinders Food Truck and she shares her experience in this month’s Rural Foodie find.


Speak-Easy Restaurant

Speak-Easy Restaurant

Artistry with a spoon
by Scott Rager

Artists work with charcoals, pencils and paintbrushes, but Chef Ryan Puls of The Speakeasy in Sacramento is displaying his precision with spoons, ladles and knives. Chef  Puls brought his artistry to The Speakeasy in 2012 when he returned to the family business as his father was contemplating retirement.

“Eager to implement his own ideas and a fresh menu, Puls knew that the introduction of new flavor profiles and cooking techniques would have to be methodical and slow paced,” writes Scott Rager. “After all, this is meat-and-potatoes country.”

But Puls balances it all with tried-and-true classics and inventive daily specials. His approach is maintaining and even growing TheSpeakeasy’s  customer base. As The Speakeasy celebrates its 35th year anniversary this summer, the future looks bright. Try a bite with this month’s Rural Foodie feature.


Deer Canyon Coffee

Deer Canyon Coffee

Expect a story with your coffee

by Scott Rager

Writer Scott Rager loves how in rural Nebraska, the unexpected is never far off the beaten path. And when he pushed open the door at Deer Canyon Coffee in Sargent, that’s exactly what he found in this month’s Rural Foodie feature.

“With its walls filled with hunting trophies and mementos of world travel and local days of yore, Deer Canyon Coffee could easily have been the setting of an epic Hemmingway novel,” Rager writes. Owners Dick and Di Cowell have created a space for creating conversation, sharing stories and finding friends.  

But it’s not only the setting and feel of the place that are drawing people to Deer Canyon Coffee. Rager said their coffee is the real deal, roasted on location in a roaster made from old Harley Davidson parts. Beans are imported directly from growers around the world in an effort to support sustainability. Start your morning with this month’s Rural Foodies find and you’re sure to have a great day ahead.


Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics

Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics

Lettuce with a story to tell

by Scott Rager

When Rural Foodies tracked down the source of the crisp green lettuce they were finding in local supermarkets, they found Ryan David of Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics in Ord, who is changing the way we grow our food and feed our communities. Farms like Oak Ridge are creating interesting conversations across the country about how and what we eat.

The story behind Oak Ridge Farms is as intriguing as the bright green heads of lettuce which stand out in a sea of colorless ice berg and wilted Romaine on a dreary winter day. “Ryan David is a self-taught hydroponic grower who entered the business because of his mother Barb's interest in alternative agriculture,” Scott Rager writes.

Barb’s interest led to the start of Oak Ridge Farms Hydroponics in 2013. Now friends and family members drive the delivery truck to public schools, hospitals, grocery stores and restaurants across the region. With tenacity and perseverance, Oak Ridge Farms is making a name for itself while providing locally grown lettuce we can be proud to say came from mere miles away. Learn the whole story in this month’s Rural Foodies feature.


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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:


Minden, Nebraska

If the perfect small town exists, it just might be Minden

If you could sit down at a drawing board to design the perfect small town, you’d start with a superb education system, then add in gracious and affordable homes. You’d want to make sure you had a prosperous manufacturing sector so there would be good jobs and a sound economy, then perhaps you’d want to add some interesting retail enterprises on wide, safe streets. You’d want to make sure to design in a strong sense of community, with a lot of citizen participation in community decisions, quality healthcare facilities and nearby opportunities for camping, hunting and fishing. Put down your pencil. You’re describing Minden.more...



Holdrege is poster town for mid-western values

If you were looking for someplace that embodied the kind of values America was built on – hard work, education, common sense, care for others – you wouldn’t have to look farther than Holdrege, Nebraska.

Located near the geographic midpoint of the country, Holdrege is one of those towns where all the downtown intersections are paved in brick. The churches near downtown – and there are many – are venerable and substantial, with traditional steeples and stained glass windows, many referencing having been founded in the 1880s or 90s. The trees are old and big – ash and maple and oak and elm – and the houses have spacious, well-kept lawns and generous, shady porches.



Oxford, Nebraska

Village of Oxford Proves Good Things Come In Small Packages

Cruise into the small (pop. 900) Village of Oxford in south-central Nebraska, and you’re greeted by a main street broad enough to park cars in the middle as well as at the curbs. The first Oxford citizens designed a spacious community with room to expand. Clean, wide streets and sidewalks with big, shady trees welcome customers and visitors. Twenty-two businesses comprise the business district, first laid out and built in 1880 when the Republican Valley Railway Company (later to become the Chicago, Burlington and Quincey) crossed Harlan County and into the fledgling town. more...


Bertrand, Nebraska

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.


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Also Featured This Month

Farmer’s market throwdown yields our best fresh summer meal ever
Farmer’s markets draw in foodies like rabbits to clover. We like to stroll among the tables and canopies sipping a cool drink, listening to a musician playing familiar country tunes to a small crowd gathered on lawn chairs and perched on picnic tables.

High-tech composite aerospace components are all in a day's work for Minden company
Picture a military aircraft just a couple of clicks from what you’d see in a Star Wars movie or an advanced communications satellite rocketing into space. That's the kind of work they do at Royal Engineered Composites in Minden.

Emmet couple share their love of “gentle giant” Clydesdales
If you'd like to take a step back in time, when life moved at a slower pace, or if you'd just like to blow some of those cobwebs out of your mind and get a “fresh air life” start on the year, I'd suggest a leisurely, open air horse-drawn wagon ride pulled by Kelly Kloppenborg's team of majestic Clydesdale horses.

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