Neighbors to the World
Rural Success Stories:
Kaufman trailers carry precious cargo...hope
by Scott Rager
Trailers are an essential part of the agricultural and rural economy, but in Beaver City, trailers built by Kaufman Trailers carry more than livestock and ag supplies, they carry hope. When a friend of Rob Kaufman’s, and a champion of Beaver City, mentioned that Nebraska would be a great place to expand his business, Kaufman was intrigued.
As writer Scott Rager learns, Kaufman found in Beaver City the labor, land and economic development incentives he needed to build a 26,000-square-foot facility there. Now Kaufman Trailers employs 40 full-time employees in the town of approximately 600.
Kaufman Trailers provides a steady paycheck, an opportunity to grow in the company and benefits that rural Nebraska needs to keep its residents while bringing new residents in. Kaufman trailers are a quality product built by people who are excited to come to work every day. Learn more in our February Rural Success Story.
Magic started it all
We head into the fantastical world of gaming for this month’s Rural Success Story. There writer Scott Rager finds two young men who found their love of the game Magic: The Gathering could make the perfect business opportunity.
As friends Cody Dame and Tanner Lytle of McCook organized a business plan, they applied for the Hormel Family Foundation Business Competition and were selected as the winners. With $25,000 cash investment, plus additional consulting and advertising, their idea became Game On, a place that sells games and gaming systems but also creates a community gathering place.
Game On now has two locations, and they still offer a place for nightly organized play where gamers can connect with each other. “Gaming is great practice for life,” Lytle said. “The skills you use when playing Magic or any other strategic game translates into being the best you can be in any situation.”
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.
Articles & Essays:
Nebraska's world link: from Europe to Nebraska
Angela Davis’ essay in Nebraska Rural Living has been a long time in the making. Davis, a world traveler and friend of NRL founder Betty Sayers, has often talked of exploring the links between other parts of the world and Nebraska. And finally, in this month’s essay, she explores the similarities between the Netherlands and Nebraska as demonstrated by something both areas have in common, windmills.
Davis, a native New Orleanian, is married to a Dutch farmer, and she was excited to find that a windmill she insisted be in her wedding photo is the same windmill that resides near the village of Wissenkerke, where the couple bought a home. “Windmills are an iconic part of the Dutch landscape, and a visit to one is a must for visitors to the Netherlands,” Davis writes.
But windmills have also played a central role when pioneers settled the plains of Nebraska. Davis found that Erwin Hinckley Barbour described the Platte Valley region as a windmill center in his essay written in 1899. Though these two areas are more than an ocean apart, Davis brings them side by side in her essay and shows that you can find common ground wherever you might find yourself in the world today.
Night Sky Photos - Photo Essay
Clear skies over Nebraska
We asked readers and fans to submit their night sky photos for our photo essay this month. The array of colors visible in the night sky is stunning.
And reader Ron Korngiebel takes us inside the process of photographing the night sky in his essay. We find out what it takes to capture those stunning photos and where to turn for more information.
Join us for a trip through the stars in February’s photo essay.
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.
Beaver Bar & Grill
Angry Beaver tops the food chain in Beaver City
At an age when most people find themselves thinking of retirement, Doris Wentling found herself settling into the restaurant business. And though it may not have been where she first imagined herself, she has thrown herself into it wholeheartedly, not once, but twice. Most recently at the helm of the Beaver Bar and Grill in Beaver City.
Wentling was first at the Branding Iron, a steakhouse in Beaver City which she owned and operated with her son Randy. But after she sold it, a fire demolished the restaurant. Wentling saw a town without a restaurant and she couldn’t stand idly by. “After the fire there was no place to eat in Beaver City,” she told write Scott Rager. “Everyone in town felt the loss.”
So Wentling and her family started Beaver Bar and Grill to fill the void. The Rural Foodies ventured down to Beaver Bar and Grill in search of comfort food and what they found will make your mouth water. An Angry Beaver burger, a fast disappearing Runza Casserole and the perfect steak are just a few of the many choices on Beaver Bar and Grill’s menu. Explore all the restaurant has to offer in this month’s Rural Foodies.
Itís easy to be well fed at Cunninghamís Feed
In the heart of the Republican River Valley, you will find Cunningham’s Feed, a restaurant with thoughtfully sourced ingredients, unique menu options and the perfect setting for a Valentine’s date. When Rural Foodies were looking for something more than blue plate specials and bar fare, they headed to Cunningham’s Feed, a place that never disappoints.
There they found a buzzing crowd, a warm welcome, and tasty surprises served with a friendly smile. Owners Kevin and Mitzi Urbom know what it takes to keep a restaurant up and running in rural Nebraska, and they deliver with consistency.
None of the menu options disappoint, but at Cunningham’s Feed, they know that quality beef is what makes frequent patrons in Nebraska. “Quality steaks that are perfectly prepared are what keep restaurateurs in business and Cunningham’s Feed knows that well,” Scott Rager writes.
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.
Keep in Touch
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Dynamic Towns & Cities:
Village of Oxford Proves Good Things Come In Small Packages
Cruise into the small (pop. 900) Village of Oxford in south-central Nebraska, and you’re greeted by a main street broad enough to park cars in the middle as well as at the curbs. The first Oxford citizens designed a spacious community with room to expand. Clean, wide streets and sidewalks with big, shady trees welcome customers and visitors. Twenty-two businesses comprise the business district, first laid out and built in 1880 when the Republican Valley Railway Company (later to become the Chicago, Burlington and Quincey) crossed Harlan County and into the fledgling town. more...
Indomitable spirit keeps Bertrand vibrant and dynamic
“To make a small community thrive, you work together.”
Bertrand is thriving in great part because this solidarity message is spoken in many different ways and by people of all ages and occupations in Bertrand. The town is bustling with committees planning the Bertrand Rodeo, the famous Bertrand craft show, a talent show, theater, music and sports activities, and fund raising events for families in need. Businesses also thrive in Bertrand. Over 72 businesses handle most wants and needs in the community, including a medical clinic and a weekly newspaper, the Bertrand Herald, which was recently sold to new owners.
Benkelman is a town with a view...and a view of the future
About as far south and west as you can go and still be in Nebraska, Benkelman is a town with a view, built on spectacular terrain featuring lookouts and ledges. Only three hours from Denver International Airport, you’ll find the hectic, high-priced urban lifestyle evolves into wholesome, affordable, rural living in Benkelman and Dundy County.
The lifestyle of the almost-mythical American rancher and cowboy come alive in Benkelman. There are more veterinarians than doctors in Dundy County, and no wonder: an estimated 70,000 cattle range on land that is all privately owned, with not a single commercial feedlot.
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.
Also Featured This Month
Handcrafted wooden buckets permit freedom, serenity for Indianola couple
Be forewarned: The story that follows may entice you into giving up your corporate job and joining the ranks of entrepreneurs who live contented lives in rural Nebraska. Jim and Marilyn Gaster work, manage their business and dwell in a hand-built, rambling log house nestled in a hidden paradise with spectacular views of the canyons south of Indianola.
Artisan breads are just the beginning for the Back Alley Bakery
Technologically speaking, retained-heat brick ovens are way dark ages, in use by ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans thousands of years B.C. So why, in an age of microwave Hot Pockets and dough-in-a-can, do people still make bread this way? Oh, you poor creature. If you have to ask, for the sake of your culinary soul, schedule a trip immediately, if not sooner, to the Back Alley Bakery in Hastings.
Harlan County tests its wings in nature-based tourism
Residents of Harlan County, Neb., know spring is just around the corner when the American White Pelicans return from their winter feeding grounds to take up temporary residence at the Harlan County Reservoir.