Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GROWNebraskaNative.org launched to help reach new markets for Whiteclay residents

Apr 18, 2017 – GROW Nebraska

GROW Nebraska and partners Lakota Hope Ministry and Nebraska Extension recently launched GROWNebraskaNative.org to support new and existing Native-owned businesses on and off the Pine Ridge Reservation. The goal is to restore human dignity and cultural pride through economic development.
“We have already sold several pieces to consumers in New York.  If we can increase the market reach and receive a higher price than what the Native artist would receive locally – it is a win for everyone,” stated Heidi High, GROW Nebraska coordinator of special projects.

The idea is simple and powerful – to get area entrepreneurs to network and help each other become an organization recognized nationally for its marketing of Native American Art and crafts and use the same principal of networking and training to develop the secondary businesses that come with economic development.

GROW Nebraska and partners are delivering bi-weekly business training sessions and are assisting program participants in every aspect of marketing, from purchasing raw materials to selling the finished products both locally and globally. Key objectives in this innovative, entrepreneur-focused program include entrepreneur-to-entrepreneur networking, focused training and assisted marketing through GROW Nebraska retail and Internet outlets.

The program’s goal is to create a group of entrepreneurs who work together and support each other as they build scalable small businesses that will generate a livable income for the business owners and their family, create jobs and have a positive impact on reservation residents. Currently, works from 25 Native artists are feature on GROWNebraskaNative.org.

“What makes this website so important is that the people will now have a direct connection to the authentic, creative source of what they’re purchasing. It is very important to know and understand the artist behind the work.  There will now be a face and a name behind their work, not just a generic idea of Native American product,” stated Bruce BonFluer, director of Lakota Hope. “Consumers will be able to see their faces, hear their voices, and understand the significance and individuality behind their designs and concepts.”

More artwork and products along with success stories are to come, so keep checking out GROWNebraskaNative.org on a regular basis.

This project is made possible by funding from the SBA NAMEBS grant and USDA Rural Development. To find out more about the GROW Nebraska Native project call GROW Nebraska at 308-962-6767, or e-mail info@grownebraska.org.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Organic Grains are the Stars at Grain Place Foods

Article by Betty Sayers, Nebraska Rural Living

March brought chill winds and gray skies, but the Rural Foodies wrapped up in fleece and headed down the road to Marquette, Nebraska, to glean facts about organic grains at Grain Place Foods. The north wind pushed us through the door and into the corporate office located at the Vetter farm, south of Marquette. Our senses were bombarded with the homespun smell of fresh grains. We were standing near the grain processing machines where tons of grain pour through cleaning, sorting and packaging machines in preparation for shipping to national and international markets. The warehouse smelled like a bread basket.

David Vetter, the executive director of Grain Place Foods, Inc. was solving a packaging problem in the warehouse when we arrived, and I noticed a print-out of the Grain Place Foods mission statement on the entry wall: The Grain Place provides ecologically sustainable grain products that benefit the long-term health of our clients and our planet because how your food is produced does matter!

The Rural Foodies whole heartedly agree with this statement because we pursue pinnacle experiences regarding food grown in rural Nebraska by chefs who smoke, grill, pickle, stew, sauté, bake and serve Nebraskans’ favorite foods or invent value-added food businesses like Grain Place Foods.
Organic growers are relatively few in number in the Corn Belt so when our friends Tom and Linda Schwarz, organic growers near Bertrand , Nebraska, mentioned meeting Vetter at an organic conference, we knew a Rural Foodies story was in the making.

I first spotted Grain Place products in 2007 at The Back Alley Bakery in Hastings, where chefs prepare fresh, locally grown and always full of flavor lunches often incorporating Grain Place organic grains into their breads and salads. Learning more about these grains, cooking with them and meeting the principals behind Grain Place Foods were on my wish list.

Farming the organic way
Vetter built Grain Place Foods into an international business for buying, cleaning, sorting, testing, marketing, and shipping organic grains as well as securing organic certification for his 280-acre family farm. On the farm, his family grows organic grains, beef and pigs for local, national and international wholesale markets. The Grain Place also offers products direct to the consumer via their online store.

Organic grains cleaned, tested, packaged and sold at Grain Place Foods include barley, flaxseed, wheat, millet, rolled oats, white and yellow popcorn, long grain brown rice, quinoa and spelt. Check out their website for a complete listing of their products and photos showing the grains and flours.

Vetter, the scientist, farmer, marketing and mechanical mastermind who leads this prospering company holds a degree in Agronomy and Soil Science from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and a Master of Divinity from the United Theological Center in Dayton, Ohio. I expected the Agronomy and Soil Science degree for an organic grain grower, but I asked why a Master’s of Divinity.

“We practice stewardship of the soil, water, land, plants and animals here, and our farming and theology are related in all ways,” Vetter said with certainty.

Science and farming work together organically
Vetter’s conversation about farming the organic way was sprinkled with the words “relationship” and “association” like sugar on gingersnap cookies. They go together. The science and practice of organic farming is intimately associated with the microbial and insect life in healthy soils.

“We apply our best methods of renewal and resilience to manage soil fertility,” he said. “We pay attention to the associations between the soil microbial community and the plants because information is exchanged between microbes in the soil and the roots of a growing plant that helps the plant.”

“The relationships of the pollinators and the birds and wildlife on the farm also improve the fertility of the soils and the growing condition for plants,” he added.

The Vetter farm pastures cattle, and the varieties of grasses and legumes growing in the Grain Place Foods pasture indicate a well-managed prairie grassland for the cattle and another benefit to farming the organic way. He also introduced us to his healthy herd of pigs that eat the leftover grains swept up from the floor of the cleaning room. All things in Vetter’s world seem to be speaking to one another and in association.

In addition, the Vetter family values its associations over the years with organic farmers, leading agronomists in the burgeoning organic industry, and the value-added organic food makers and distributers across North America and worldwide.

“The worldwide demand for organic grains and other organic produce outpaces the supply,” Vetter said.

Vetter and Grain Place Foods were featured in the December 2016 issue of Acres, a monthly magazine publishing real-world sustainable and organic farming news and facts.

So now we cook 
Why cook with whole organic grains? They require time to prepare and who has the time? I agree, preparing and cooking Kamut wheat, barley, oats, quinoa, farro, millet and others take time, and we want our food fast and ready-to-eat. Culinary grains fit the slow-food movement.
I justify the time because number one, the results taste fabulous. They also feel good in my stomach and satisfy my hunger because they pack a lot of flavor and fiber. Being well and feeling good are my second, third and fourth reasons for cooking and eating organic whole grains. Medical research on wellness advises us to include whole grains in our weekly menu plans. See this 2017 study by the American Medical Association.

So now we cook, and we recommend the recipes on the Grain Place Foods website, as well as a recipe from my mother’s recipe box for whole grain bread — easy to make and a beautiful canvas for the kamut wheat to show its flavor of the earth and sky.

We hope you will try a few of these recipes and learn to love organic whole grains as much as we do. Grain Place Foods is all about introducing more of us to the wonders of organic whole grains and the people who produce them.

Grain Place Foods has been a member of GROW Nebraska for many years and continues to set a great example for other members. Visit www.buynebraska.com to shop their great product, and check out their website www.grainplacefoods.com to learn more about this wonderful company.

About GROW Nebraska:
GROW Nebraska is a not-for-profit organization based in rural Nebraska.Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides market access, education and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska's educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors. For more information, please visit www.grownebraska.org.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Our Story | GROW Nebraska Member, Simply Sunflower

Article by Sierra Forrest, Direct of Marketing & Sales, Simply Sunflower

So many people ask, "how did Simply Sunflower begin?" That has to be one of my favorite questions to answer. I am extremely proud of our excellent product, but that doesn't compare to the pride I feel for my family - the roots which grew this company! We're a family business and family is right where our Simply Sunflower story began.

From a humble beginning, my dad, Alan Koelling or Farmer Al as some people call him, started driving a tractor as soon as his feet could reach the pedals. His dad owned a farm and ranch near Ord, Nebraska that had been passed down from his father. The Koellings had come as immigrants from Germany and settled in Nebraska thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862. The original land and farming business has been in the Koelling family for the past 120 years! The soil is rich in history and heritage and our family has always been filled with pioneers and innovators.

My dad, his brothers, and sister grew up in the same beautiful farmhouse that my Grandma Elinor still lives in today. My dad helped my Grandpa Orel on the farm and ranch sunup to sundown....with taking some breaks to attend Ord High School. After graduation, Farmer Al moved to the big city of Lincoln, Nebraska where he received his Agriculture Education Degree from the University of Nebraska. That's also where he and my mom Jeanette fell in love. They got married, moved back to Ord and began life together on the Koelling farm.

Fast forward several years, my sister Carissa and I were born. We lived the typical farm girl life, filled with 4H projects, bucket calves, and new baby kittens each summer. Living life in Mira Valley was a lot like Little House on the Prairie...only with electricity and ATVs. My favorite part of growing up on the farm was summer afternoons riding on the back of my dad's 4-wheeler. We would get absolutely soaked driving underneath the pivot as it shoots out water onto the cornfield. That was playtime amidst the work. My dad was always working and researching new ways of productive farming.

To be a better steward of the environment, Al began using sunflowers as a renewable energy source on our farm and ranch. He started in 2010 with a small crop of sunflowers growing outside his kitchen window. The sunflowers were extremely healthy for the soil in his crop rotation. Through research, my dad discovered the many health benefits of sunflowers - rich in Vitamin E and antioxidants, high in beneficial fats, and cholesterol & trans-fat free. He decided to also use his crop as a direct source for sunflower cooking oil. Thus, Simply Sunflower All-Natural Oil was born.

Our company now includes a large farm operation, two production plants in Chambers and North Loup, Nebraska, and offers products across America. Today, Simply Sunflower is one of the only farm-to-table sunflower oil producers in the United States. What began as a simple environmental friendly idea continues to grow and expand – enabling customers daily to make a wise choice for their health.

When I was younger, I dreamed of living in town, close to my friends and wished my dad had a normal 8-5 job. Then, we wouldn't have to drop our Sunday afternoon plans to go get the cows in and we'd be able to enjoy fall weekday family dinners instead of reheating food for dad after he'd come in late from harvesting into the night.

Now, I'm thankful. I'm thankful for my upbringing and life on the Koelling Farm.

My dad was born to be a farmer and rancher. His wisdom has led our family through peaks and valleys. His ingenuity amazes me as I watch a farmer in rustler jeans with a handkerchief in his back pocket hand-design a manufacturing plant filled with state-of-the-art mechanical engineering. There is so much more than meets the eye when you look at Farmer Al.

I'm tickled pink to work for my dad and contribute to Simply Sunflower - our entire family is! It's our family business and we're so thankful that this is our story.

Simply Sunflower has been a member of GROW Nebraska for many years and continues to set a great example for other members. Visit www.buynebraska.com to shop their great product, and check out their website www.simplysunflower.com to learn more about this awesome company. 

About GROW Nebraska:
GROW Nebraska is a not-for-profit organization based in rural Nebraska.Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides market access, education and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska's educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors. For more information, please visit www.grownebraska.org.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Top Good-For-You Brands You Should Know

GROW Nebraska member, Pacha Soap, from Hastings, Nebraska was recently featured in an article in the Huffington Post on February 25, 2017. Pacha Soap was started in a college apartment and has steadily grown from there. Pacha's main goal is to raise awareness of handmade goods, especially cold-process soap made with all natural ingredients. They have designed and built most of their equipment used in the production process. The name ''Pacha'' means ''earth'' in the quechua language native to the Andean people of South America. The inspiration for handmade, natural products was taken from them. Pacha Soap has been a member of GROW Nebraska since 2009. Help us in congratulating Pacha Soap for the wonderful promotion!

Huffington Post article –
In 2017, good-for-you brands are becoming a dime a dozen. But which one's are actually good-for-you? We wanted to find out. We looked through ingredient lists, compared products and found the best ones that you should have in your bathrooms.

Pacha Soap products are created and driven with a mission in mind, provide clean soap worldwide to those in need. Their bar soaps are the real deal with scents that will stay with you for hours. With organic and ethically sourced ingredients, you can believe in Pacha Soap to clean.

Follow this link for the full article –>

Shop online 24/7/365 for Pacha Soap at BuyNebraska.com, or visit one of GROW Nebraska's retail stores and pick your favorite scent at the Hilltop Mall in Kearney, or the Conestoga Mall in Grand Island.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Handmade Nebraska Product, Ogallala Bay Rum, featured in Parade

Ogallala Bay Rum started when John Marquis (a long-time Bay Rum fan) found it increasingly difficult to find bay rum that had the scent he remembered as a kid going to the barbershop. After receiving what was reported to be among the best bay rums for Christmas 2005, and becoming disappointed in the scent after opening the bottle, it became clear there was a need for a bay rum on the market that had the familiar scent of yesteryear. What started as a company with one product in early 2006 has turned into a company with a variety of products.

GROW Nebraska member, Ogallala Bay Rum, was recently featured in Parade's article Made in America: Gifts From Each of the 50 States

This holiday season, Parade has compiled unique gifts from every state to celebrate the artisans in our local communities. Continue the article here to see the top picks from each of the 50 states.

That refreshing scent from yesteryear is back with the largest selection of Bay Rum fragrance products you'll find anywhere! You can shop for Ogallala Bay Rum products in GROW Nebraska stores at the Conestoga Mall in Grand Island, or at the Hilltop Mall in Kearney. You can also shop online 24/7 at BuyNebraska.com!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top 10 Reasons You Should Shop Local This Holiday Season

Become part of a movement!

10. Keep our dollars circulating in our local economy where it has a multiplier effect. Research has repeatedly proved money spent with a local business has three times the impact as the dollars spent on a national retailer.

9. Strengthens the local labor force. Local businesses often enjoy family-like relationships with their employees. It’s a unique advantage that creates loyalty in their employees and can make this type of job very attractive.

8. Small local businesses have more specialized product knowledge.

7. Smaller carbon footprint. Less long distance shipping cuts costs and emissions.

6. You know the people you’re dealing with. A warm throwback to simpler times.

5. Feeds our longing for quality hand crafted items that demonstrate the flavor of our local culture.

4. The Maker Movement, Google it! A perfect remedy for consumers numbed by generic, mass-produced, made-in-China merchandise. It lifts our spirits!

3. The stories! Small Nebraska businesses are breathed into existence by entrepreneurs like the members of GROW Nebraska. They are passionate, creative and often exceedingly philanthropic!

2. You can be a locavore! (It was the 2007 Word of the Year for the Oxford American Dictionary! Look it up!) It’s someone who eats primarily foods raised or made within 100 miles of home. Very on-trend.

1. The majority of Millennials have a highly developed social consciousness and prefer to buy local. We love you, Millenials.

And plus, it’s just cool. It’s hip. Admit it, we all want to be cool, right? Be a part of the Shop Local movement! Come see us at both GROW stores; in Kearney at the Hilltop Mall and in Grand Island at Conestoga Mall. Bonus: you can be hip and cool plus comfy and savvy! Shop local in your jammies 24/7/365 at www.buynebraska.com.

About the Author: Betty Streff is the Coordinator of GROW Nebraska store in Kearney. You can read more about Betty here.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Heartland Gourmet gives a whole new meaning to Flour Power

I had the nicest chat with a long-time acquaintance and colleague in the food and gift industry recently and it was a delightful trip down memory lane! I first met Susan Zink from Heartland Gourmet in the previous millennium when we were both young and “wet-behind-the-ears” Nebraska women in business. She and I served on the original Nebraska Home Based Business Advisory Board way back in about 1992 when the sleeping giant of marketing Nebraska-made products first began to wake up. It was an exciting time.

Susan has been a prominent voice promoting Nebraska products for many years. Back in the “big hair and shoulder pad” year of 1994, Susan and her husband Mark bought the company. It was called Raising Dough back then, a clever name for a company that sold mixes and food products for fund raising activities. In 1996, the Zinks began manufacturing and over the years, the business has evolved into large scale operation which supplies products for both wholesale distribution and private labeling.

The 54,000 square foot factory (yes, you read that right!) in Lincoln, Nebraska is a virtual bee hive this time of year, bursting at the seams with activity. The fifteen full time employees are joined by a host of seasonal workers to meet the holiday demand. The holidays call for lots of food for parties and for gift-giving! For Heartland Gourmet, it means full speed ahead, the machines are humming to fill the cupboards and shelves!

Heartland Gourmet joined GROW Nebraska in 1998 which gives them the distinction of being a tenured and highly valued member of GROW. It has been gratifying to watch the company grow, diversify, and prosper over the years! Today, the company has five unique divisions. The original Heartland Gourmet has been joined by Wanda’s Organic Mixes, Cobblestone Kitchen, Gluten Free Mama, and the newest member of the family is Cooper’s Best, Nebraska’s favorite pancake and waffle mixes!

I asked Susan about some of their best sellers and which areas have grown most quickly. Her gluten free products have seen huge increases in sales as awareness of gluten intolerance has increased. One of the most popular gluten free products is a red velvet cupcake mix! Yum! Heartland Gourmet is certified in organic and gluten free manufacture and will soon be adding a kosher certification.

The holidays are rushing toward us. Gifts of specialty foods are always a hit, always fit and are perfect for those people who leave you stumped every year. Products from the Heartland Gourmet family of goodies are available at both GROW stores; in Kearney at the Hilltop Mall and in Grand Island at Conestoga Mall. You can even buy them in your jammies, 24/7/365 at www.buynebraska.com. Don’t miss out!

About the Author: Betty Streff is the Coordinator of GROW Nebraska store in Kearney. You can read more about Betty here.