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Rural Success Stories:

Industrial Skins

by Scott RagerIndustrial Skins

Restaurant owner Shawn Engberg dreaded the arduous task of cleaning grease and grime from the ceiling tiles of his Kearney restaurant. One day he splashed chemicals in his eye during the process, which got him thinking about how he could eliminate the dirty job.

From that fortuitous splash, an idea was born. Inspired by his mother’s spring cleaning ritual of lining her shelves with self-adhesive contact paper, Shawn developed a product that works basically the same way on ceiling tiles.

As writer Scott Rager learned, Shawn has now expanded that idea into a product that is sold commercially and manufactured in a facility in Cozad. Shawn’s idea won a 2014 Kitchen Innovations Award from the National Restaurant Association. Read more about how Shawn’s entrepreneurial idea is bringing recognition and jobs to central Nebraska in our Rural Success story.  


Sehnert's Bakery

Sehnert's Bakery

Pizza production a thing of beauty

When writer Scott Rager walked through the doors of Sehnert’s Bakery in McCook, he found himself in the midst of a culinary ballet. “Under the buzz and glow of florescent lighting, a cast of artisan bakers moved in a rhythm that seemed to be professionally choreographed,” he writes.

Sehnert’s Bakery creates many kinds of delectable pastries and breads, but it was the pizza crusts Scott was searching for. The wholesale business providing fresh pizza crusts to local restaurants has become the heart of Sehnert’s Bakery.

Scott explores how Sehnert’s expanded into pizza production in our Rural Success story. Then stick around as Scott spotlights those pizza crusts in a rustic picnic fit for Martha Stewart in our Rural Foodie find.


VK Electronics

VK Electronics

VK Electroics fast forwards from movie rentals to thriving electronics store
by Cody Gerlach

Writer Cody Gerlach takes us to McCook to meet the Taylor family, who have transformed a small movie rental store into a multi-faceted business that meets the changing needs of its community. VK Electronics Home and Mobile first opened its doors as a video rental store in 1983, but owner Linda Taylor said if she could have seen back then what the business would become, she probably wouldn't have recognized it.

VK Electronics now sells furniture, televisions and home entertainment equipment, installs security systems and is an authorized dealer for DirecTV, Dish Network and HughesNet. The latest expansion has led the store into the grilling industry, dealing in top-of-the-line gas grills and smokers and even offering cooking classes on grilling and smoking every other month.

It's risky business starting something new, but the Taylors realize that to remain healthy and thriving in their community, they have to take risks. That's what makes them a Rural Success Story and we can't wait to share their story with you.


Those Blasted Signs & Designs

Those Blasted Signs & Designs

Designing signs beneath wide open skies

Tucked in among the canyons of Gosper County is a family farmstead where a thriving sign business lives. Cristal and Jeremy Hansen live north of Smithfield and operate Those Blasted Signs & Designs from their rural setting.

“I appreciate working out of our home in a rural setting where I have superb broadband and phone service, as well as a gorgeous canyon view out of my office window,” Cristal said. They watch hawks soar overhead as they design signs for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Talk about creative inspiration!

The Hansens prove you can be successful even miles away from the city. Creativity is tucked across the state in the most unlikely places because today’s technology is allowing business owners to work wherever they want, and the Hansens chose to stay rural. Visit their business in this month’s rural success story.


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Articles & Essays:

Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District - Part Four

Central Nebraska Public Power & Irrigation District

Fun on Nebraska Waters
by Betty Sayers

Here in Nebraska we know that towns empty out on the summer weekends as people head to their nearest lake, pond or stream for some outdoor fun. It’s often listed as one of the top items people are looking for when they choose where to live in Nebraska.

Writer Betty Sayers finds that without Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s irrigation and hydro power project in 1935, people in Nebraska might have missed out on many of the recreational water activities they enjoy today.

Central’s Supply Canal forms 26 small lakes that offer recreation and fun for residents and tourist in every season. Come along as we visit those lakes through pictures in this month’s essay.


Plum Good

by Geraldine KilgorePlum Good

Nebraska Rural Living reader Geraldine Kilgore now lives in Newburg, Ind., but she remembers well the days of her childhood, growing up on a farm 15 miles southeast of Lynch, Neb. Back then, a pencil box birthday present filled her with delight.

But what she remembers most from that time was the meandering way she and her brother and sister made the two-mile walk to their country school, ducking under barb wire fences and startling pheasants along the way. The best part of that walk was a stop at the plum patch on the way home.

Geraldine takes us back to that plum patch where they spent many contented hours popping plums in their mouths, chores forgotten for the moment. Lie in the grass and watch the clouds drift by with Geraldine in this month’s essay. If you have a special Nebraska memory to share, send it to us at Check out our Writer Guidelines for more information.


Call for Entries - County Fairs

County Fair Memories (in pictures)

County fair memories (in pictures)

We love fair season, that time of sunny days at the fair, where neighbors gather for conversation, competitions and thrills. We thought it would be fun to see our local fairs through the eyes (and lens) of our readers.


Chokecherry Pickin’

Chokecherry Pickin'

July and August are reader Linda Potter's favorite months. She grew up on a farm in south central Nebraska and returned there often as an adult to pick chokecherries with her daddy.

In this month's essay, Linda relives one of her visits to pick chokecherries. "Popping a tart, mouth-numbing berry in my mouth, I thought, Yep, this is why they call them chokecherries." she writes. Her memories of working side by side with her daddy will have you smiling and recalling your own special memories with parents.

Before the long days of summer give way to the briskness of fall, we want to share Linda's story with you. "As the sun set, three hot, tired Nebraskans sat peacefully again on the front porch, enjoying the certainty of a day well spent. We had tasted the good life together and looked forward to more delightful outings in the days to come," Linda writes. Enjoy her memories as you make your own this summer.


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Rural Foodies:

Farmers' Market Produce

Farmers' Market Produce

Veggies call my name

by Betty Sayers

In this month’s Rural Foodie adventure, Betty Sayers steps outside to visit Jean and Garreld Fecht, whose veggies grace the aisles of many of central Nebraska local farmers’ markets. After visiting with the Fechts at Holdrege’s farmers’ market, Betty visits their garden acres in and around Axtell to get to the root of the story.

The Fechts raise hundreds of pound of produce on four acres of land and love to share their bounty with others. “I can’t remember when we didn’t garden,” Garreld told Betty.

Explore the colors, tastes and smells of the homegrown goodness of beans, squash, cucumbers, greens, onions, tomatoes and potatoes in this month’s  Rural Foodies feature. Then head to your own local farmers’ market to make the most of this season’s fabulous food finds. Maybe you can even try out Jean’s recipe for collard greens. You won’t be disappointed.


Perfect Pizza Picnic

Pizza Picnic

by Scott Rager

Next to a still lake the color of moss, with mighty cottonwood trees swaying in rhythm, our Rural Foodies fired up the grill to celebrate a Rural Foodie find, Sehnert’s Bakery pizza crusts. “I set out to highlight the flavors of summer and the quality of a locally made product,” writes Scott Rager.

He topped three pizzas with local ingredients from a nearby farmer’s market and found the pairings to be pleasing to the eye and the taste buds. “If the first pizza was any indication of the rest of our meal, we were in for a treat,” he writes.

This picnic will have you longing to set up your own impromptu outdoor gathering. If you hadn’t thought of pizza as picnic food, this story will change your mind. Find a setting that will sharpen all the flavors and you’ll have a spread worthy of the pages of any magazine. Pull up a seat at Scott’s picnic table and grab a slice in our Rural Foodie pizza picnic.


4th Avenue Coffee

4th Avenue Coffee

Connecting community through coffee

Since 4th Avenue Coffee opened in Holdrege last September, Rural Foodie writer Scott Rager has found himself returning again and again to this coffee shop. It's a place where mud-crusted farm trucks rub shoulders with shiny SUVs.

For Rager, 4th Avenue Coffee reminds him of the days in his childhood when families would gather in downtown Holdrege on Thursday nights, not just to shop, but to socialize. After Brian and Elisha Steinbach moved to Holdrege a few years ago, Brian had a vision of creating a place where people could meet and connect. "Sometimes it takes an outsider to realize what we are missing in our own community," Scott writes.

Since its opening, 4th Avenue Coffee has earned a solid customer base thanks to its amazing offerings, stellar customer service and consistency, Scott writes. The Steinbach's dedication to quality ingredients and Elisha's superb baking creates a wonderful food backdrop where good conversation flows as easily as the coffee.


Jay Bros

Jay Bros

An exotic pit stop along I-80

As Scott Rager writes in the Rural Foodie feature this month, in the Midwest, if we are anything, we are consistent. We like our meat and potatoes, but “when a restaurant surfaces in rural Nebraska that serves up an ethnic cuisine of savory proportions, we celebrate flavor and become faithful patrons,” he writes.

He visited Jay Bros, an Indian restaurant that has opened in the most unlikely of places, a once abandoned truck stop at the Overton exit along Interstate 80. Harry Chaudhari and his family are serving up a culinary melody with notes of spice and flavor, served with ceremonial flare.

With intoxicating scents and food good for the soul, Jay Bros is an oasis along Interstate 80. The restaurant is young and finding its way as it serves those who stop by, but a little before-you-arrive preparation is worth it to find a delicious alternative to our meat and potatoes diet.


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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:


Alma, Nebraska

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...


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.



Cambridge, Nebraska

Cambridge opens its arms, offering high-tech capabilities and new housing development

Cambridge is the kind of town where canopies of maple, ash and oak trees shade sturdy wood-sided homes and walkers, bicyclists and runners enjoy wide sidewalks, a park with a creek, and miles of well-kept trails. It’s a town known for a friendly, front-porch culture and a healthy lifestyle, opportunities to prosper in business, quality schools, and a strong sense of community.

At the same time, some of the latest and best internet technology available between Omaha and Denver fuels business start-ups, telecommuters and entrepreneurs. PinPoint Communications, headquartered in Cambridge, made fiber optic cable available to every home and business in Cambridge and brought wireless access to the public park and campgrounds.

Cambridge’s main street is a portrait of productivity in small town America.  Every store front is currently leased and open for business. more...

Curtis, Maywood

Curtis, Maywood

Curtis, Maywood are beautiful spots to live the Nebraska good life

Nestled in the beautiful Medicine Creek Valley, Curtis and Maywood are roughly equidistant between McCook, Lexington and North Platte. Separated by only seven miles, both communities proudly proclaim excellent school systems and today, as it has been for millennia, the primary business in Frontier County is farming and ranching. Archaeological evidence suggests the population of the valley is roughly the same now as when it was occupied by Native Americans 1300 years ago.

Today, Medicine Creek Valley is home to the progressive Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, a new community center, an abundance of community spirit and an indomitable drive to thrive.more...

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Also Featured This Month

Navigators Restaurant at North Shore Marina makes for a perfect mini-vacation
Tucked away on a little promontory at North Shore Marina is an ideal destination for a restaurant to take you out of your restaurant rut: Navigators.

Frontier Partners offers a full (home on the) range of business services
Holly Hornung Remund, founder and co-owner of Frontier Partners, admits that “40% of the time I end up on a horse sometime during the day.” That may not surprise you if you knew Holly lived on a ranch near Arnold, Neb.

Bull Strong, Sheep Tight
I’m driving east in the Republican River Valley on Highway 6, a road traveled by the First People eons before automobiles. As I near the town of Cambridge, my eyes drift along the white highway stripe and I glance at a sign partially obscured by a brushy tree. I see words, large and bold in black and white, and they stick in my mind like a cockle burr on a sock. BULL STRONG. SHEEP TIGHT.

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