Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Nebraska LEAD Program

Eleven years ago I met twenty-nine talented individuals with a passion of agriculture through the Nebraska LEAD program. To date, I remain friends with many of them and the networking opportunities have been tremendous. The in-state seminars challenged me to think outside of the box and remain an advocate for agriculture. I could go on and on about the excellent opportunities the LEAD program has provided, but I challenge you to experience it yourself!Fruit Market pic

The Nebraska LEAD Program is dedicated to building future Nebraska leaders so that our food and fiber system is preserved and enhanced. If you would like to be a part of the leadership necessary to chart the course . . . now and in the future, and you are presently involved in production agriculture or agribusiness, there will never be a better time to make application to the Nebraska LEAD Program. Fellowship applications for Nebraska LEAD (Leadership Education/Action Development) Group 38 are now available for men and women involved in production agriculture or agribusiness and are due on June 15. Up to 30 motivated men and women with demonstrated leadership potential are selected annually for the Nebraska LEAD Program. Generally the program is for people between the ages of 25-55 years of age.

orange and and brown chess pieces
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In addition to monthly three-day seminars throughout Nebraska from mid-September through late March each year, Nebraska LEAD Fellows also participate in a 10-day National Study/Travel Seminar during the first year and a two week International Study/Travel Seminar during the second year.

Content essential to leadership focuses on public policy issues, natural resources, community development, interpersonal skill development, communications, education, economics, and social and cultural understanding. Soon beginning its 39th year, the program is operated by the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, a nonprofit organization in collaboration with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in cooperation with Nebraska colleges and universities, business and industry, and individuals throughout the state.

Applications are due no later than June 15 and are available via e-mail from the Nebraska LEAD Program.  Please contact Shana at   You may also request an application by calling (402) 472-6810.

Nebraska LEAD Program offices are in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. If you are even thinking about applying, contact me and I’d be more than happy to share my experiences with you and visit with you about this life-changing opportunity!

Posted in Crops, Horticulture, Irrigation, Livestock, Programming

Wellness in Tough Times webinar

Farmers and ranchers have many stressors in their lives.  Weather challenges and disasters like many Nebraskans have recently experienced have led to uncertainty in their crop and livestock operations. Machinery breakdowns, debt loads, volatile markets, sleep deprivation, changing regulations, and the stress of holding onto a multi-generational farm/ranch all play a part of the stress and mental health of a farmer or rancher. Farmers and ranchers know the importance of planning and talking about their financial health to bankers, financial planners, spouses, etc. but might not realize how important it is to spend time on their mental health.

A free webinar will be offered April 23 via the web for farm and ranch families.  The webinar will take place at noon (CST) and can be accessed at  Wellness in Tough Times will be presented by my colleague, Nebraska Extension Educator Glennis McClure and myself from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (CST). This free webinar is available for farm and ranch families to participate and will provide strategies for dealing with the stress of farming or ranching in today’s difficult economic environment.

Participants will learn: How to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress; understand the role stress plays in our lives; and strategies and resources to manage stress.

For more information, contact me at or (402)759-3712. Dates and locations for a separate workshop available to agribusiness professionals and service providers working with farmers and ranchers will be released soon:  Communicating with Farmers Under Stress. For more information on this workshop contact Susan Harris-Broomfield


Posted in Programming, Youth

Tractor Safety Training for Teen Farm/Ranch Workers

Screen Shot 2019-04-04 at 11.47.48 AM.pngFederal law prohibits youth under 16 years of age from using specific equipment on a farm unless parents or legal guardians own the farm.  Certification received through a course provided by Nebraska Extension grants an exemption to the law, allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and work with certain mechanized equipment.

Nebraska Extension’s Tractor Safety & Hazardous Occupations Courses take place at 12 Nebraska locations this year for teens 14 or 15 years of age who will work on a farm.  Anyone older than 15 is also welcome to attend, but those under age 14 are not eligible to take the class.  Extensive training on tractor and ATV safety occurs during in-class lessons with hands-on activities.  Instilling an attitude of safety and a respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the course.

The first day of classroom instruction includes hands-on demonstrations, concluding with a written test.  Classroom instruction will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program.  Students are required to pass the test before taking the driving test on day two.  The second day will include a physical driving test with equipment operation and ATV safety lessons.  To receive certification, students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course.  Instructors will offer an ATV simulator experience to learn about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs and UTVs.  Students will also complete homework assignments for the second day.

All on-site classes begin at 8:00 A.M. and end times will vary, depending on the number of participants.  Training site locations closest to us, Site Coordinator contact numbers, and dates of training are as follows:

Training Site Location                         Site Coordinator         Dates of Training
Fairgrounds, Geneva                          (402) 759-3712           May 20 & 21
Fairgrounds, Nelson                            (402) 225-2092           May 22 & 23
Extension Office, Grand Island         (308) 385-5088           May 28 & 29

Cost of the course is $60, which includes educational materials, instruction, supplies, and lunches.  Print and complete a registration found at, and submit with payment to the appropriate Extension office location at least one week before the course (call the specific location number listed above for mailing address and instructions).

Posted in Programming, Youth

Progressive Ag Safety Day

Statistics from those impacted by a farm-related injury or death are sobering. Many know someone who was impacted by a farm accident that in many cases could have been prevented. This is why I feel so passionately about conducting the Annual Progressive Safety Day each year. The Progressive Agriculture Foundation provides safety and health information to rural communities that need it, which is why I’ve teamed up with them. The mission of Progressive Agriculture Days is simple – to provide education, training, and resources to make farm and ranch life safer and healthier for children and their communities.


During the program’s first year, a total of 2,800 participants and volunteers were reached throughout the South and Midwest and now the program impacts close to 110,000 annually. To date, the program has impacted more than 1.6 million children and adults.

Current 1st through 6th graders are invited to attend Progressive Agriculture Safety Day on Thursday, May 23, 2019 at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds.  Youth will participate in a variety of events designed to help them be aware of safety in potentially hazardous situations such as electricity, emergencies, disability awareness, PTO demonstration, agricultural literacy, chemical look-alikes and others.  This year, each youth will walk away with their own first-aid kit. Registration and consent form is REQUIRED by all youth who participate. This can be found at or by stopping by the Extension Office in Geneva or Clay Center.

April 19th is early bird registrationat only $5 per child that includes a t-shirt, lunch, snack and goodie bag. After April 19th,  registration increases to $10 per youth in order to participate.

This event is conducted by Nebraska Extension in Fillmore/Clay Counties, Shickley and Fillmore Central FFA chapters, 4-H, WIFE, and Fillmore County Emergency Management. For more info or to register, call 402-759-3712 or email

Posted in Programming

Gate to Plate Reflection

Recently at our Farmers & Ranchers College program we had Michele Payn speak on the importance of advocating for agriculture. While it is frustrating that we need to advocate for just doing our jobs, it seems necessary to educate others about the agriculture industry. If it wasn’t for our farmers and ranchers, we would have a hungry world. Michele founded Cause Matters Corp. in 2001, which is a company designed to build connections around the food plate. Cause Matters Corp. focuses on addressing food myths, developing science communication, and connecting farm to food.

vegetables and tomatoes on cutting board
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At the recent program she delivered in Fillmore County, she explained to participants the importance of connecting with consumers on a personal level rather than just spewing facts and statistics at people. When we are able to connect with others on a personal level, it allows us to share our stories with them and understand where they are coming from with their potential concerns. She has also extensively researched social media trends and encouraged participants to share their messages on social media, especially Instagram which is extremely popular with the younger generation. Engaging in dialogue is important to spread the message of agriculture.

Michele’s book, Food Truths: From Farm to Table highlights 25 food truths to shop and eat without guilt. Some of them I’ve decided to highlight include:

  • Hormones are in everything.
  • Antibiotics have benefits.
  • Animal welfare is an hourly concern on farms and ranches.
  • Housing is used to protect animals – and your food – from nature.
  • Organic farming is about production methods, not nutritional value.
  • Food costs are a shared concern.
  • Local is not always better for the environment.
  • Chemicals are naturally in food and needed to protect it.
  • Soil is a farm’s greatest asset.
  • The media isn’t the best source of information about food.
  • Food is an amazing science from farm to table.

I decided to share the food truths above due to the recent disasters we have in Nebraska. Those unfamiliar with the agriculture industry may not know that our farmers and ranchers care greatly for their animals and the loss of animals due to the floods and blizzards is sickening to them. Some gave up many evenings to help bring baby calves into the world only to see them taken away by powerful surges of water. Farmers and ranchers were already struggling with the low commodity prices and this will cause an additional burden making it difficult for some to survive. That being said, if you are in the agricultural industry or know about agriculture, share with others how hard our farmers and ranchers work and the good they do in feeding our hungry and growing population.


Posted in Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Uncategorized

Mental Health is Just as Important as Financial Health

Picture this. Someone is showing physical signs of stress – maybe it’s a heart attack or even a broken leg.  Who might arrive to the scene first?  It probably will be an EMT or other first responder. Their role is to keep the person alive or comfortable until that person reaches the hospital where doctors and other medical professionals will treat that patient. What happens if a person is showing signs of mental distress or even suicidal signs? There are classes available called, “Mental Health First Aid” which provides people the opportunity to properly help others receive professional help he/she might need. Things as simple as listening to the person non-judgmentally and encouraging them to seek professional help might just save that person’s life. Calling the suicide hotline with the person can also help that person realize that they can get through the crisis in their life.

board game business challenge chess
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Farmers and ranchers have many stressors in their life. Weather challenges and disasters like many Nebraskans have recently experienced have led to uncertainty in their crop and livestock operations. Machinery breakdowns, debt loads, volatile markets, long days with sleep deprivation, government regulations, and the stress of holding onto a multi-generational farm/ranch all play a part of the stress and mental health of a farmer or rancher. Farmers and ranchers know the importance of  planning and talking about their financial health to bankers, financial planners, spouses, etc. but might not realize how important it is to spend time on their mental health.

A North Dakota State University Extension publication reminds farmers that “just as farms need to be operated in a sustainable way that preserves resources for the long term, an individual’s life needs to be managed in a sustainable way for long-term well-being. Feeling overly tired, overwhelmed by stresses or under constant pressure is not a recipe for a sustainable lifestyle.” There are physical, mental, emotional/spiritual, personal/relational, work/professional and financial/practical strategies for coping with stress. For example, get at least 7-8 hours of restful sleep is one physical way to take care of yourself. Take 10 minutes and reflect on blessings in your life in as a mental strategy to dealing with stress. Emotional or spiritual coping strategies are to pray, do random acts of kindness and something as simple as eating a meal with a friend of loved one. A personal or relational coping strategy is to plan a small getaway with a family member or spend time playing games with family or friends. For a work strategy, talk to other farmers about their strategies or plan your next day at the end of a work day and set priorities ahead of time. Finally, financial/practical coping strategies are to schedule time to organize your records or finances monthly and create a family budget and live within your means.Assess for risk of suicide or harm. Listen non-judgmentally. Give re-assurance and information. Encourage appropriate professional help. Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

At the Mental Health First Aid workshop, an action plan to help others with potential mental health problems is referred to as “ALGEE.” The action plan is as follows:

  • Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
  • Listen non-judgmentally.
  • Give re-assurance and information.
  • Encourage appropriate professional help.
  • Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

If you or someone you know needs help, there are several resources. The Nebraska Family Helpline can be reached at 1-888-866-8660, the Nebraska Rural Response Hotline at 1-800-464-0258 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Disaster Resources

Nebraska Extension is pushing out information to help.  Please use or share the website  It’s a key resource full of science-based information

Knowing the legal rights, benefits and resources available to low-income survivors of a disaster is crucial to recovery. Legal Aid of Nebraska can help. Apply online at, or call the Disaster Relief Hotline at 1-844-268-5627.

Posted in Uncategorized

JenREES 3-17-19

Here are some resources my colleague, Jenny Rees pulled together on flooding and other helpful information.

JenREESources's Extension Blog

Perspective. I spoke a little of this last week. This week, in the midst of much occurring, it was all about perspective for me. It’s hard to find words for the devastation occurring in Nebraska. Perhaps like me, you found yourself feeling a tad overwhelmed or helpless by the images of damage…cattle being dug out of snow or stranded on islands and whole communities engulfed by water… I think what made this extra hard for me is that so many of our people are hurting and affected. Tornadoes and hail damage are somewhat more isolated for allowing people to more easily respond. This has been harder to help with road and bridge infrastructure damaged in so much of the State. And, unfortunately, we will feel these effects for a long time.

Perspective for me was counting my blessings. Because I rely a great deal on my faith, considering worse things…

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