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Posts Tagged ‘nebraska’

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Photo: Melanie Stetson Freeman/ Christian Science Monitor
Young farmers are returning to the prairie as skilled agriculturalists and entrepreneurs —  injecting a much-needed dynamism into that world.

I can’t resist another story about young people who get interested in farming. They’re not only helping to feed us all, they’re setting an example for how people can carve new paths into an uncertain future. Do they get discouraged like the rest of us? My sense is that they don’t have time for that.

Laurent Belsie of the Christian Science Monitor talks to young farmers in Nebraska.

“Outside Unadilla, Hannah Esch walks into her cooler and pulls out packages of rib-eye, brisket, and hamburger. Over the past nine months her new company, Oak Barn Beef, sold out of meat four times and brought in $52,000 in sales. Over the next year, she expects to double those sales numbers. That will [be] when she finishes her last year of college.

“Some 150 miles northwest, the Brugger twins, Matt and Joe, show off how they’re diversifying from traditional agriculture. They directly market the beef from the cows they raise and they grow hops for local microbreweries. But the most visible sign of their commitment to the rural Plains is the two-story farmhouse they’re renovating on the family homestead. …

“It’s the place their great-grandfather bought when he moved here from Switzerland. It’s where their grandfather was born and where they played as children when the house was later rented by people who kept sheep. …

“There’s a new generation of rural entrepreneur returning to the Great Plains. … It’s not clear how big the movement is and whether it can reverse the population decline that’s gone on for a century in the rural Plains. But if energy combined with business and social media savvy can overcome demographic decline, then perhaps these youthful entrepreneurs – the first generation born after the farm crisis of the 1980s – have an opportunity to do it.

‘There is a spirit in these young people that is different than anything I’ve ever experienced,’ says Tom Field, director of the eight-year-old Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“Of the 120 or more of its alumni, ‘90% of them say their goal is to return – or they choose to live in – a small or rural community. These are students who have had international experiences, had internships on both coasts, but they choose to live and work and play in places where they have a deep affinity with the culture, the people, and the landscape.’ …

“When the Brugger twins first started thinking about a return to the rural Plains, their initial idea was to do something in business development. Then they met with Dr. Field of the Engler program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He urged them to be role models, instead.

“ ‘He was the first one to say, … “The best thing you can do for your community is find what you love to do. Start a business around it and hire people to come back … and show other young people that you can do what you love in a rural community,” ‘ Matt recalls. …

“Now, the recent college graduates run their own company, Upstream Farms. They have 50 cows. They market the beef directly, mostly to the training table program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which serves high-quality foods to student athletes. They raise hops for nearby craft breweries, and because the university takes only the best cuts of beef, the twins sell the rest of their meat as hamburger to the boutique beer firms. …

“ ‘We like to say that we’re twin brothers farming the Midwest, putting new ideas on old dirt and connecting our customers back to land.’ …

“When the twins proposed building a distillery, their parents responded, ‘That’s really risky, guys,’ Matt recalls. ‘They go, “You guys don’t know what it’s like to live in really, really hard times.” And they’re right. We’re privileged not to have [known] that. And so we do take more risks.’ …

“Stability is fragile on the prairie. Despite the good times, Gothenburg has lost more than 3% of its population since 2010, which puts it back to where it was in 1980, before the farm crisis. In rural Nebraska, however, that counts as a roaring success. …

“The decline in population not only crimps the number of people rural businesses can sell their wares to, but also reduces their labor pool. .. Between 2000 and 2010, the typical rural county in the state (one with no town of 2,500 or more) lost nearly half its population of 20- to 24-year-olds, according to the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. That is partially offset by a 16% net in-migration of 30- to 34-year-olds, presumably people who have worked elsewhere and are now wanting to return to the Great Plains.

“But it’s not enough to reverse the overall trend of Nebraskans settling in urban and suburban areas. In 2010, the two counties containing Omaha and Lincoln as well as the county between them represented just over half of Nebraska’s entire population; by 2050, they’re projected to account for two-thirds. The state’s rural counties are expected to lose population over that time….

“Even if the new generation of entrepreneurs succeeds in their attempts to work the soil, the question is whether they can really help revive the rural Midwest.

“ ‘In my area, I’m gonna guess more [people will move in], just because we are so close to Lincoln and Omaha that people can still live this lifestyle but have the great jobs,’ says Ms. Esch, bouncing along a rolling gravel road in her pickup. ‘How do you go live in the city after this?’

“But the rural parts of Nebraska and other states that aren’t close to a metropolitan area might be another matter. …

“ ‘I think the [communities] that continue to innovate and make it a great place for people to live will have more people,’ she says. ‘But the ones that don’t are going out of business.’ ”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Dezeen magazine
Note the Nebraska storefront lowering itself to become a movie theater.

I don’t know much about Nebraska other than that some friends who grew up there said that New England’s trees and mountains made them feel too closed in, but now I have a reason to think about going there. That’s because I just love the idea behind a new cinema and would like to see how it works.

Sebastian Jordahn writes at Dezeen magazine, “Artist Matthew Mazzotta says the success of The Storefront Theater, which won him Architecture Project of the Year at the inaugural Dezeen Awards, comes down to the way the local community has made use of it.

“The Storefront Theater is a retractable theatre disguised as a shop. It was built to re-invigorate the main street in the town of Lyons, Nebraska, and create a community space for its residents.

“Mazzotta told Dezeen that local community has embraced the structure, using it for a variety of activities. …

“Using two hydraulic cylinders, a false storefront folds over the sidewalk of Lyons’ Main Street and rolls out seating for 100 people. A rollable screen can then be paired with the structure in order to create a public theatre.

” ‘Basically it’s a facade that bends down over main street, bleachers come out, a screen comes in and turns main street into a movie theatre,’ Mazzotta said. … ‘They’ve had events that are anti-bullying, they’ve had movies and concerts. Recently I went to one where a very prominent Egyptian musician came and played. …

” ‘Once I learned that one of the buildings downtown was just a storefront, it had no building behind it, [that’s] when we started taking that as the site.’ …

“The architect’s motivation was to reinvigorate Lyons Main Street, which according to Mazzotta has seen a decline in community life due to economic pressures and globalisation.

” ‘This project came about through investigation with the people. They told me how downtown was the centre of the community life and how that has been destroyed over time by globalisation that has pulled all these businesses away,’ Mazzotta said. …

” ‘Architecture has an enormous power over how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to each other. I think architecture is expanding beyond the envelope and I think it starts to think about who feels welcome in these spaces,’ he added.

“Mazotta’s theatre was also named for Rebirth Project of the Year at the inaugural Dezeen Awards ceremony last year.”

More here.

Video: Dezeen
Note the tractor pulling in the movie screen.

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Rainy days at the shore and holidays are for many families today the only time they play board games.

But for folks in Omaha, Nebraska, an unusual coffee shop provides frequent opportunities to play games — including some that, guaranteed, you never heard of.

Robyn Murray reported the story at the radio show Only a Game.

“Remember playing Monopoly and Scrabble around the dinner table? Arguing with your siblings about who gets to be the car or the Scottish Terrier? Or whether Z-A-Q could ever be a real word? Well those days are coming back — with just one variation: The arguments are getting weird. Did you feed your monster properly? Can you trust her to save the world with you? And what’s the best way to ensure your family doesn’t have to go begging — selling bread or planting beans?

“Welcome to the revamped world of board games.

“At Spielbound in Omaha, Neb. — a newly opened coffee shop and board game library with what’s believed to be the largest collection of board games in the country — the Short family recently played Takenoko, a Japanese board game.

“ ‘We are trying to please the emperor by taking care of his panda and growing a most excellent garden that feeds his panda,’ Justin Short explained.

“There’s a comfortable feeling about Spielbound. The tables are wooden and the booths leather. There are no television screens, just a cozy bar that serves beer and coffees with names like ‘Taste of Sweet Victory’ and ‘Dice Delight.’ Downstairs, four foot shelves are stocked with board games. Each box is a little work of art, with titles like ‘Arkham Horror’ and ‘The Road to Canterbury,’ with pictures of ships, dragons and submarines.

“The Shorts come here a lot on their monthly family pass. Short has a collection of 200 board games at home. But that’s nothing compared to the 1,200 available at Spielbound, at least according to the Shorts’ children:

“ ‘It’s just fun to play as a family whenever we get down here,’ Isabelle said.

“ ‘I like pretending to be something else and do something else,’ Sabrina said.

“ ‘I like beating people,’ Cameron said, laughing.”

More here.

Photo: Robyn Murray/Only A Game 
Spielbound, a coffee shop and board game library in Omaha, Neb., holds what’s believed to be the largest collection of board games in the U.S. with over 1,200 games available for patrons.

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