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Rural Success Stories:

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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Kaufman Trailers

Kaufman Trailers

Kaufman trailers carry precious cargo...hope
by Scott Rager

Trailers are an essential part of the agricultural and rural economy, but in Beaver City, trailers built by Kaufman Trailers carry more than livestock and ag supplies, they carry hope. When a friend of Rob Kaufman’s, and a champion of Beaver City, mentioned that Nebraska would be a great place to expand his business, Kaufman was intrigued.

As writer Scott Rager learns, Kaufman found in Beaver City the labor, land and economic development incentives he needed to build a 26,000-square-foot facility there. Now Kaufman Trailers employs 40 full-time employees in the town of approximately 600.

Kaufman Trailers provides a steady paycheck, an opportunity to grow in the company and benefits that rural Nebraska needs to keep its residents while bringing new residents in. Kaufman trailers are a quality product built by people who are excited to come to work every day. Learn more in our February Rural Success Story.

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Game On

Game On

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.”

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McCook Economic Development Corporation

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.”

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Articles & Essays:

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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Nebraska's world link: from Europe to Nebraska

WindmillWindmills
by Angela Davis

Angela Davis’ essay in Nebraska Rural Living has been a long time in the making. Davis, a world traveler and friend of NRL founder Betty Sayers, has often talked of exploring the links between other parts of the world and Nebraska. And finally, in this month’s essay, she explores the similarities between the Netherlands and Nebraska as demonstrated by something both areas have in common, windmills.

Davis, a native New Orleanian, is married to a Dutch farmer, and she was excited to find that a windmill she insisted be in her wedding photo is the same windmill that resides near the village of Wissenkerke, where the couple bought a home. “Windmills are an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, and a visit to one is a must for visitors to the Netherlands,” Davis writes.

But windmills have also played a central role when pioneers settled the plains of Nebraska. Davis found that Erwin Hinckley Barbour described the Platte Valley region as a windmill center in his essay written in 1899. Though these two areas are more than an ocean apart, Davis brings them side by side in her essay and shows that you can find common ground wherever you might find yourself in the world today.

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Night Sky Photos - Photo Essay

Clear skies over Nebraska

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.

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NEWorks

NEWorks

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.

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Rural Foodies:

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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Beaver Bar & Grill

Beaver Bar & Grill

Angry Beaver tops the food chain in Beaver City

At an age when most people find themselves thinking of retirement, Doris Wentling found herself settling into the restaurant business. And though it may not have been where she first imagined herself, she has thrown herself into it wholeheartedly, not once, but twice. Most recently at the helm of the Beaver Bar and Grill in Beaver City.

Wentling was first at the Branding Iron, a steakhouse in Beaver City which she owned and operated with her son Randy. But after she sold it, a fire demolished the restaurant. Wentling saw a town without a restaurant and she couldn’t stand idly by.  “After the fire there was no place to eat in Beaver City,” she told write Scott Rager. “Everyone in town felt the loss.”

So Wentling and her family started Beaver Bar and Grill to fill the void. The Rural Foodies ventured down to Beaver Bar and Grill in search of comfort food and what they found will make your mouth water. An Angry Beaver burger, a fast disappearing Runza Casserole and the perfect steak are just a few of the many choices on Beaver Bar and Grill’s menu. Explore all the restaurant has to offer in this month’s Rural Foodies.

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Cunningham's Feed

Cunningham's Feed

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.   

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Tuffy's Tavern

Tuffy's Tavern

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.

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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:

Oxford

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

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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Benkelman

Benkelman

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.

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Axtell

Axtell, Nebraska

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.

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Also Featured This Month

Flashbacks loves Ravenna, Ravenna loves Flashbacks
Every small town in Nebraska could use a place like Flashbacks Neighborhood Grille in Ravenna. Flashbacks is the place that stays open after the basketball game; it’s the perfect spot for a business lunch or a family dinner; and for date night with your sweetie, it has a full bar and a nice steak-and-seafood kind of menu.

SCORR Marketing is doing big-city ad work in central Nebraska
As a rule, advertising agencies of any size are found almost exclusively in larger urban areas — that’s where the clients generally are.

Words of wisdom: Dr. George Garlick reflects on living in rural Nebraska
Nebraska Rural Living’s Betty Sayers had the privilege of interviewing Curtis leader and benefactor Dr. George Garlick in preparation of the Curtis-Maywood profile in this edition. His words eloquently express the value of a rural place to be and become in a modern world.

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