The Madison County Group: Madison
This group of producers wants to reduce chemical use on
their farms, to improve profits and to protect their health and
the environment. They are learning to use compost, mechanized
weed control, and to manage grazing systems. One farmer intends
to discontinue chemical use entirely on a 5-acre corn plot. He
will use this plot as a learning tool for himself and the group.
He will limit chemical use on other fields.
Two group members want to make compost, using manure from
their livestock operations, and chips and sawdust from a local
pallet mill as a carbon source. They will use the compost on
their farms, and hope to sell some to people in town. This
integration of rural and urban resources produces benefits for
everyone. Their local extension educator will help them to
coordinate this project.
Contact: Steven Freudenburg RR 1 Box 545 Madison, NE 68748
The Custer County Sustainable Agriculture Society: Broken Bow
This group includes farmers with much and little
experience, and full- and part-time farmers. Their eventual goal
is to form a community-supported agriculture cooperative. To
this end, they held a sustainable agriculture fair this summer,
to increase community awareness of agriculture. People toured
three farms, including one of two Grade A sheep dairies in the
United States, a market garden with many ideas for producing
without purchased inputs, and a beekeeping operation.
The group also wants to construct an underground,
solar-powered, walk-in cooler, which will be used for
direct-marketed farm produce. They are now investigating ideas
for design and construction.
Their projects have common themes of energy conservation,
cost-cutting through reduced use of purchased inputs, and
community linkages with agriculture. They have received much
support from their local extension educator.
Contact: David Hansen HC 69 Box 112 Anselmo, NE 68813
The Mid-Nebraska Task Force: Hamilton County
This established group of farmers, business people, and
agency representatives is promoting production methods which
reduce soil nitrogen to improve water quality. New information
about alternative crops and sustainable farming methods is
important for them.
The group will develop an information exchange network,
including an Internet discussion group, to keep people aware of
new ideas, so they can be flexible in their farming operations.
They will provide training for group members on Internet access
and use. This training will be designed so that other groups can
use the materials and methods.
Group members are planning on-farm trials of cropping
practices uncommon in their area. They will focus on alternative
crops and rotations in 1996.
Contact: Andrew Christianson Box 308 Aurora, NE 68818-0308
The Northeast Farmers: Cedar, Dixon, Wayne, and Stanton
Members of this group have different on-farm research and
demonstration projects. Gary Young and Pat Steffen have pastures
along streambanks and are investigating ways of using the
streams for water, without damaging the riparian area. Monty
Mason received SARE producer grants in 1994 and 1995 to
investigate methods of removing dead biomass from old
switchgrass CRP stands. He will provide information to other
producers about effective, least-cost ways to renovate CRP,
especially for conversion to grazing land.
Paul Phelps is comparing spraying, wool mulch, and
cultivation as alternative methods of weed control in new cedar
windbreak plantings. Lowell Schroeder is comparing performance
of stocker steers on grazing maize or open-pollinated silage
corn. Marvin DeBlauw is comparing different cultivars of
grazing-type alfalfa, mixed with bromegrass. Several of these
producers tested Baldridge Grazing Maize this year.
Contact: Pat Steffen Rt. 2 Box 32 Fordyce, NE 68736
The Tekamah CRP Group: Tekamah and Herman
This group of farmers and local agribusinessmen believe
that converting CRP to profitable grazing lands could be one
avenue for the success of beginning or small farmers. They are
also concerned about the environmental benefits of keeping
permanent cover on CRP land.
The group is part of the University of Nebraska CRP
Demonstration Project. The Herman site compares two rotational
grazing systems on CRP land planted to native and introduced
grasses. The land belongs to one of the farmers in the group; he
manages the project, with input from university researchers and
the help of the local extension educator.
This summer, group members attended the Missouri Forage
Systems grazing school together. Some members are planning
projects for their own forage systems for 1996. They are
interested in strengthening their group and in teaching other
producers about livestock systems.
Contact: Kenny Widener Rt. 2 Box 96 Tekamah, NE 68061
The EQUAL Group: Bow Valley
EQUAL is a rural women's group whose name stands for
Enhanced Quality of Life. The ten members are all farmers, with
a wide range of age and experience. They share a desire to learn
new things and expand their horizons through interactions with
one another and their community. They want to be able to share
their skills and strength with the community.
Stronger, more sustainable farms and communities are their
goal. They do educational and support activities which will help
them make their farms more profitable and which will lead to
stronger families, including learning about communication
skills, gardening, grazing systems, co-ops, time management, and
Their largest project is to start a day care in their
community. They have taken a CPR class, and are researching
facilities and regulations for day care businesses.
Contact: Linda Kleinschmit Rt. 3 Box 180A Hartington, NE
The Fordyce Organic Growers Group: Fordyce
This group's educational project will help them to learn
production techniques, grain handling skills, alternative crop
options, and marketing possibilities for organic grains. They
visited Oak Creek Farms in southern Nebraska, to learn about
marketing tips and the requirements for organic grains. They
also visited The Grain Place to learn processing methods and to
find out what grains besides corn and soybeans may be sold as
certified organic. Later they will visit organic farmers in
southern South Dakota.
The county extension educator will help the group to hold
an October field day at their farms. People will see crops
before harvest and learn how and why the farmers grow crops
organically. The group plans to invite farmers to a winter
workshop, with Wilfred Schill, an organic grower and cooperative
marketer from North Dakota, as the featured speaker.
Contact: Marvin Lange HC 15 Box 6 Fordyce, NE 68736
Compiled by Victoria Mundy
STEFFEN FAMILY WORKS TOWARD GOALS WITH HRM MODEL
By Wyatt Fraas, Center for Rural Affairs
Century-old wagon ruts lead from the Pat and Julie Steffen
farmstead over a ridge of native prairie to the village of
Constance. Pat and Julie are young farmers near Fordyce, NE.
Their children are the fifth generation of Steffens on the farm.
Pat and Julie are proud of their farm's history and are
taking positive steps to make it securely their own. The farm
was nearly lost during the farm crisis, and Pat is constantly
aware of how easily it could be lost again.
One step they took was to attend a series of Holistic
Resource Management (HRM) courses sponsored by the Center for
Rural Affairs. Pat and Julie developed a set of family goals
during those courses that have guided their decisions ever
HRM is a process of setting goals, developing plans to
achieve them, monitoring progress, and replanning to stay on
course. HRM has been a tool for many farms, ranches and
businesses for nearly 20 years.
Pat and Julie first set quality-of-life goals, which they
then used to direct their landscape and production decisions.
They identified the most important things in their lives, and
what they want to accomplish and enjoy in the foreseeable
Pat and Julie "want to own their own farm and to make a
good living from it". They "want to enjoy farming and to be able
to help their kids start farming, if and when they want to," and
want "to improve the health and productivity of their land".
They took care to make their goal statement positive, proactive,
and full of specifics ù they didn't just say "make more money"
or "not work in town".
Pat and Julie filter their decisions through this goal
statement. For example, they didn't believe that they could
continue row cropping their steep fields and maintain soil
fertility. Pat also realized that he would rather work with
cattle than machinery, so he sowed his fields to alfalfa and
warm season grasses and sold his field equipment.
Pat now has a profitable grass-based beef enterprise that
helps restore some native prairie pastures, and allows his young
children to help with the "fieldwork". Pat relishes the
improvement in wildlife habitat accompanying his new grazing
practices, as he is an enthusiastic bird watcher.
One major source of debt a decade ago was two new hog
confinement facilities. Pat was using one of these aging
buildings for a custom feeding operation, but he felt it wasn't
profitable enough to pay for needed repairs. He also felt that
the custom operation put his own sows at risk from disease.
Pat decided to quit the custom operation, and tore out a
wall of the confinement barn for his expanding herd. He improved
his hog profitability further by gestating and farrowing some
sows on an unused piece of pasture.
Not only have the family's decisions passed
quality-of-life-goal muster, they have also been thoroughly
screened for profitability before being adopted. Pat has learned
to use a financial planning process that lets him prioritize,
plan, and monitor his yearly cash flow. As a result of their
sound financial planning, this year they were able to forego
taking in 100 heifers for the summer and buy 50 head of their
Pat and Julie Steffen are constantly reevaluating the
resources on their farm and looking for new means to achieve
their goals. If you are looking for ways to reach your own
goals, consider an HRM course. The NSAS office can connect you
with the international Center for Holistic Resource Management
in Albuquerque or with the Nebraska CHRM Branch.
New Livestock Publications
Udder $ense: A Search for Low-Cost/Sustainable Strategies
of Resourceful Dairy Farmers by Larry Krcil and Shawn Gralla is
now available from the Center for Rural Affairs. Udder $ense is
a collection of farmer interviews and on-farm research results
that explore low-cost, sustainable dairy farming alternatives.
Sections on grass-based dairying, manure management,
low-cost facilities, alternatives for fly control, and renewable
energy are included. The results of experiments with
walk-through horn fly traps for pastured dairy cows are reported
as well. A comprehensive list of resources is provided at the
end of each section.
Udder $ense is $10.00 a copy. Call the Center at
(402)846-5428, or write to them at PO Box 406, Walthill, NE
68067 to order a copy.
This fall, the Center for Rural Affairs will release a new
special report: From the Carcass to the Kitchen: Competition and
the Wholesale Meat Market, written by Marty Strange and Annette
Higby. This is the executive summary of a report prepared for
the Nebraska Livestock Anti-Trust Association addressing
competition issues in the wholesale meat market.
The report examines how wholesale meat is priced, changes
in the retail grocery market, and who has market power. It
reviews legal issues regarding anti-competitive behavior and
concludes with policy recommendations. Contact the Center at the
above address for more information about this publication.
Today, North American milk costs six times as much to
produce as New Zealand milk. Grain-finished North American beef
costs three times as much as grass-finished beef from Argentina,
Australia and New Zealand. Can North American beef and dairy
producers compete internationally with a production cost triple
that of the world?
Allan Nation unmasks the myth of cheap grain in Quality
Pasture: How to Create It, Manage It, and Profit From It.
Backing his argument with facts, figures and examples of
successful producers, Nation details how one pound of dry matter
from quality pasture can replace one pound of dry matter from
grain at one-fourth to one-fifth the cost.
Quality Pasture sells for $32.50 plus shipping and
handling. It is distributed through the Stockman Grass Farmer
magazine, PO Box 9607, Jackson, MS 39286-9607. Call
1-800-748-9808 for orders and information.
Promoting Organic Agriculture Locally
Increasing Organic Agriculture at the Local Level: A Manual
for Consumers, Grocers, Farmers and Policy Makers is a 100-page
book promoting a more sustainable, healthful food system. Copies
can be purchased by sending $18 to Publications Department,
Community Environmental Council, 930 Miramonte Drive, Santa
Barbara, CA 93109.
Project Assists Disabled Nebraskans Working in Agriculture
Resources for people with disabilities are sometimes scarce
in rural communities. The Nebraska AgrAbility Project provides
assistance and on-site assessment for disabled Nebraskans
working in agriculture.
The AgrAbility Project offers information, support and
education on modifying farm/ranch operations, adapting
equipment, promoting farmstead accessibility, using assistive
technologies, and living independently.
For more information, contact the project at
1-800-683-6699, or write to 2916 West Highway 30, Kearney, NE
68847. The Nebraska AgrAbility Project is a joint effort of UNL
Cooperative Extension, the Nebraska Easter Seal Society, the
Nebraska Assistive Technology Project and the Nebraska
Department of Health.
Policy Advocacy and Outreach
The Center for Rural Affairs seeks a Research and
Technology Policy Project Leader. This person will lead the
Center's efforts to redirect federal agricultural research and
extension policy to support sustainable agriculture and family
farming. The Project Leader also will serve as the Policy
Outreach Director for the National Consortium for Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education.
This position demands a person with a wide range of skills
who is self-directed yet a team player. Experience in organizing
or policy advocacy is preferred. Bachelor's degree or
equivalent experience required.
The position will be based in Walthill, Nebraska. The
salary will start at $26,437, plus benefits.
Please send letter of application, resume, brief writing
sample and references by October 13 to: Elizabeth Bird, Center
for Rural Affairs, PO Box 406, Walthill, NE 68067-0406; phone
(402) 846-5428; FAX (402) 846-5420.
Wilder Forest, a 1,124 acre educational camp and conference
center near Stillwater, MN, seeks an agricultural specialist.
Wilder Forest serves non-profit organizations promoting the
vitality, diversity and sustainability of human communities and
the environment. A portion of the property has been developed as
an educational working farm with gardens, crops, livestock, and
greenhouse using sustainable practices.
The function of the Agricultural Specialist is to develop
and carry out farming operations and activities that are
appropriate to the purpose of Wilder Forest. This position
requires experience with farm equipment maintenance and CSA
The Agricultural Specialist shall have five years of
farming experience, including poultry, livestock, crop farming,
orchards and rotational grazing, and a bachelor's degree in an
agricultural field. For further information contact Keith at
612-433-5198, Monday through Friday.
A Place to Grow
My life has been in visions that my eyes may never see.
The first vision:
The people who around me, as tender as I was, sheltered
To respond in truth to the calling of the land
Went forth with commitment, desire and fear of that which lay at
"The place" it was new but somehow old, as the stars
Old light that shines on the urban child's eyes
The next vision:
The young beans sprout and the water is given
Summer sun becomes bright to make long the day
After cutting and raking, the fragrance, we know signs the
curing of hay
This crop is good with the care of due process
but to make next years' field, that is the vision
The next vision:
Our pain, love, comfort, exhaustion, peace, friendship,
understanding, sorrow, celebration
To measure the land, in acres or bushels, demeans this oasis,
that which is given
Not only this place, but also all people as they are sustained
The metric I choose is the depth of the people, one
"Joy to the World" as we grow together
The unfinished vision:
As far ahead was the foresight for all these great visions
The state of affairs pleads out to this place "Help me now"
Life's corners and back alleys need the light nurtured here
Put forth the great banner grown in this heartland near
Life is people who care for the land
Grow to sustain not exploit,
nurture not horde,
share not demand
10/11-10/13: Management Intensive Grazing for Economic and
Environmental Sustainability Seminar, sponsored by the
University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus,
MO. For more information call 816-895-5121.
10/13: Applications must be postmarked for the Center for Rural
Affairs's Policy Advocacy and Outreach position. See job
announcement on page 10.
10/18: The Groundwater Foundation's 1995 Fall Symposium in
Lincoln will focus on Making the Connection from Aquifer to Tap.
Registration costs $54 for members and $60 for nonmembers. For
more information call 1-800-858-4844.
10/23-10/25: Nebraska State Recycling Association conference and
trade show. For more information contact the State Recycling
Association, 1941 S. 42nd St. #512, Omaha, NE 68105.
10/29: Whole Farms, Whole Foods, Whole Lives is the theme of the
Michael Fields Agricultural Institute's fifth annual Urban-Rural
Conference, in East Troy, WI. Registration costs $65 for the
weekend. To register call Gail Kahovic at 414-642-3303.
11/2-11/3: AERO's Weeds as Teachers conference in Great Falls,
Montana, focuses on alternative weed management. Registration
costs from $55 to $80. For more information call Stephanie
Rittmann at 406-443-7272.
11/8: NSAS Board Meeting, Columbus, 6:30 pm.
11/6-11/8: Linkages among Farming Systems and Communities is the
theme of the Association for Farming Systems Research and
Education's (AFSRE) North American meeting in Ames, IA. To
register, call Charles Persinger at 515-294-5063.
11/15: Project proposals and group applications due for the
Nebraska IMPACT Project. Call 402-254-2289 for more info.
11/16: From Product to Profit seminar, sponsored by the UNL Food
Processing Center. For more information call 402-472-7833.
12/6: Nebraska IMPACT Project Steering Committee Meeting. Time
and location TBA. Call 402-254-2289 for more info.
12/11: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension and NSAS
present a Grazing Maize Conference in Wausa. Preregistration
costs $15 per person ($20 per couple). To register call Knox
County Extension at 1-800-277-2443.
1/19-1/21: PrairieFire sponsors Harvesting our Potential: A
Rural Women's Gathering in Des Moines, IA. For more information
call PrairieFire at 515-244-5671.
1/26-1/28: NPSAS's Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Conference,
Mandan, ND. For more information call Teresa Podol at
2/3: NSAS's Western Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Conference,
Ogallala. Contact NSAS for more information.
2/15: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension and NSAS
sponsor a Dairy Grazing Conference in Hartington.
Preregistration costs $15 per person ($20 per couple). For more
information, contact Mike Lechner at 402-254-6821.
2/16: Dairy Grazing Conference in Fairbury (see above listing).
For more information call Bob Stritzke at 402-729-3487.
2/23: Project proposals and group applications due for the
Nebraska IMPACT Project. Call 402-254-2289 for more info.
2/23: Nebraska IMPACT Project Networking Meeting, Columbus.
Contact NSAS for more information.
2/24: NSAS Annual Meeting, Columbus. Contact NSAS for more
The NSAS Calendar is published electronically in October,
January, April, and July. If you would like to announce your
event in our calendar, please send information to the NSAS
Newsletter Editor, PO Box 736, Hartington, NE 68739, or e-mail