Monday, March 23, 2009

The Benefit of a Silver Creek

The following are the accounts from one family member in attendance at the Kevin and Mary Robb Family Benefit held March 21st in Silver Creek, Nebraska.

I wanted to send out a quick email about the events from Saturday evening. To start off with it was an amazing sight and event to attend. I do not believe I would be exaggerating if I said over 2,000 people attended. Do the Math and that is all of Genoa, Monroe, Duncan and Silver Creek (roughly) (not sure about those towns ask Dad). Crystal and I walked down at around 5:00pm with the food to be served at 6pm. There was already about 30 people there. The place quickly filled up and soon the food was served. We quickly got in line and got some food. And a good thing to the line was about 200 people deep for the first 2 hours. People just kept coming in. I am sure we broke several fire codes, but hey they kept saying that we were not going to run out of beer! The power of this rural community was very evident. Overhearing some remarks a few things stood out. The surrounding communities saw a family in need and a family in crisis and rallied to support them. This is the benefit of a Silver Creek, NE. Community support and unselfish ethic. They had an auction, both a live and a silent one. The hot ticket items were all Nebraska items. We were after all in the heart of Cornhusker country where guys named Bo and Tom and Bob are revered and needless to say those items went for well over $800.00. Another interesting tidbit, just to show you how much items were going for. Afterwards at my Grandpa's house we estimated the total brought in to be around $35,000 to $40,000 which might seem like alot if one did not know how much cancer treatment cost, so it was a meager amount to offset the cost. But dollars had little to do with the event. A family in need and a community benefit to lift them up did!

The benefit of a Silver Creek, NE. Another great advantage of rural communities in Nebraska. The power, the values, and the selflessness displayed all lend to an ideal of character no book can define. These communities are tied to the land and hence tied to the people. As a farmer is tied to his or her land so to is a rural community like Silver Creek tied to their people and to their farmers. This attitude is most recognizable when a family such as the Robb Family is in need. In need of support, in need of salvation, and in need if being picked up, time and time again! It is with this thought that I am proud to have participated and attended the event!

This picture was taken several years ago.
From left to right standing: Grandpa Powers, Brandon Robb, Uncle Kevin Robb, Katie Robb (in front of Kevin), William Powers (holding the cake), Aunt Lorna, Uncle Bob, Aunt Mary Robb, Aunt Francis
Sitting: Sam Robb and Crystal Powers

Up date: Kevin and Mary Robb are the Aunt and Uncle of William Powers. Kevin was recently diagnosed with cancer while Mary has been battling breast cancer for a while.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Feeding Omaha: Getting Organized Around Good Food

Feeding Omaha: Getting Organized Around Good Food

February 24th, 2009 By William Powers


Omaha is a quintessential Midwestern metropolis. It is a bustling city nestled among a sprawling rural landscape. However, if you look you will find something changing and growing. It is the local food movement!

Early in 2005, Michael Braunstein had an itch. He wanted to provide West Omaha access to healthy, safe and humanely-raised local food. He made contact with several area farmers, and soon West Omaha had its own market at the Village Pointe Shopping Center. But would it be successful? Would people literally “buy” into this local food scene for the benefits of health and stewardship?

The Village Pointe Farmer’s Market was established to elevate community awareness of the importance of sustainable, local, family-owned farms, the wholesome food that comes from them, and its importance to our social, environmental and personal health. You won’t find any arts and crafts, and the vendors, while not required to be organic, are encouraged to practice natural, chemical-free, non-GMO and sustainable agriculture.

On opening day in 2006, farmers displayed their fresh produce and all-natural meats. With an estimated 35,000 vehicles entering the Village Pointe Shopping area on Saturdays, the customers soon would be there. Slowly and purposefully, shoppers trickled in to see what was happening. For one young mother, that purpose was to “buy healthful foods and to meet the farmers.” Another remarked, “Now I don’t have to drive so far to get awesome food! Locally grown foods are fresher, more nutritious—and you learn about the food from the person who grows it. When you shop at a real Farmers Market, you are getting the best food you can for your table.”

Braunstein believes that the food chain starts with sustainable, family-owned farms and that leads to healthy people and a healthy planet. He is a backyard gardener and is proud that, for many meals on his table, he can name the farmer that provided each item on the plate.

One of the vendors, Beulahland Farm, is a small family farm located near the town of Lyons, Nebraska. A major component of the farm is the Certified Naturally Grown process. An alternative to the USDA Certified Organic Program, it is only open to family farmers who market and sell their products to local areas. Certified Naturally Grown is recognized nationally and internationally by environmental groups, health organizations, and agricultural groups.

Victor Novak is the owner of Beulahland Farms. The farm produces a variety of fruits and vegetables and Novak is proud of the eco-friendly, diversified, sustainable agriculture on the farm. The livestock are on his farm are raised using no medicated feeds, antibiotics or growth hormones. Novak is also contented that his land is farmed with family labor.

Beulahland Farm sells their products to the Nebraska Food Coop, Wild Oats Market and Village Pointe Farmers Market. Through the years, they have seen the demand for locally and sustainably produced foods grow in Omaha. “Access and demand have contributed to the movement, and it is gratifying to see the movement grow and expand,” said Novak.

Brian O’Malley is a chef-instructor at the Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College. As President of the Heartland Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, Coach of the Junior Culinary Competition Team, Board Member of the Nebraska Food Cooperative and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS), father of two, and muse extraordinaire for the Institute for the Culinary Arts’s student bistro, called Sage, O’Malley spreads his passion for local and sustainable cuisine liberally throughout the Omaha community.

I first met Chef O’Malley at the annual Healthy Farms conference, held February 2008 at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha. He was frantically setting up the meals for the conference while also conducting several breakout sessions on food and specifically on making cheese. I found it utterly amazing that, in the middle of all this, a food delivery from a farmer showed up and Chef O’Malley stopped everything to chat with him for over 10 minutes. I asked him about it later, and he simply said, “He is my farmer and he cares passionately about his product.” When asked why he prefers local sustainable foods over processed, O’Malley simply says, “It is just better: better quality a better product and better for your health.”

The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of organic farmers who recognized the need to foster and facilitate growth in both sustainable and organic agriculture. NSAS is active in collaborative projects that support rural communities and the environment. These projects offer mentoring opportunities for beginning and experienced farmers, and opportunities for on-farm research, demonstration and education. NSAS offers opportunities for non-farmers to participate in a food system and network with sustainable Nebraska farmers as well as attend workshops and link with all our projects. It is through NSAS that these three stories intersect.

Michael Braunstein approached NSAS to gather information, research potential farmers and network with current markets and businesses interested in growing the local foods movement in Omaha. One of the first farmers to commit to the Village Pointe Farmers Market was Victor Novak, who also is a member of the Board of Directors for NSAS. Chef O’Malley has seen the quality of the food he prepares increase as a direct result of buying locally sustained products from farmers such as Novak. All three are active participants in a swelling food movement in the heartland of the United States. They have seen the demand and the opportunities increase as more and more residents of Omaha are recognizing the difference and the choice they have in selecting the very best food Nebraska has to offer. They have realized that food comes from sustainable family farms.

It is the result of these collaborative efforts that are enabling the local foods movement in Omaha to gain a foothold. The intersection of the consumer, the chef and, most importantly, the producer is vital. NSAS has played a pivotal role in bridging this gap through programs such as Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska, Slow Food Nebraska, the Nebraska Food Coop, and the Nebraska Local Foods Network.

Photo: farmer Victor Novak

William Powers is the executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. NSAS promotes agriculture and food systems that build healthy land, people, communities and quality of life for present and future generations. He and his wife hope to create their own diverse family farm based on the native prairie ecosystem, which will incorporate native and heritage species including Guernsey Dairy Cows.

(Originally posted for Civil Eats at )

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


"A watered-down version of Nebraska's strict corporate farming ban that was struck down by the courts in 2006 is being considered by lawmakers. A public hearing on the bill (LB593) from Sen. Cap Dierks of Ewing was held before a legislative committee Tuesday.

To comply with the court decision, the measure wouldn't keep out-of-state individuals or family corporations off Nebraska farmland. Only nonfamily corporations would be blocked. But up to five unrelated people would be able to have a limited liability farming venture in the state. All of those involved in such a venture would have to be involved in the day-to-day operations, including manual labor.

A similar measure fell flat in the Legislature last year."

This was the article posted on KolnKgin's website this evening. Take what you want from it. I was at the hearing today and I can tell you this much, the proponents of the bill outnumbered the opponents of the bill 3 to 1. I can also tell you from sitting between two opponents, that the corporations do not think to much of this bill or its chances for success.

The hearing began with a passionate plea from Chuck Hassebrook about the values and the merits of the family farming culture in Nebraska and the affects these Mega-corporations have had in the sustaining of these farms. Benjamin Gotschall also spoke on behalf of the bill discussing landownership as well as the limited opportunities for new farmers, young farmers and beginning farmers againest these corporations. One of the senators tried to corner Ben with talks of "Getting Out," or basically the idea that Ben would eventually become a landowner, build his operation and sell it for a maximum profit.

Ridiculous! This completely misses the entire point of the family farm movement. It is about succession, about building a quality way of life for current and future generations. Not for some immediate profit that is tangible and limited. A family farm is the basis of life in Nebraska and will continue to be as long as advocates such as Hassebrook and Gotschall stand up for what it right, but they must not do it alone! Anyone who cares about Nebraska and "The Good Life", or who cares about the food they eat and the health of their children and their childrens children, and for the environment and for the land must join in the cause. Contact your Nebraska State Senator, contact your local governments, get involved join movements on Facebook or NSAS. This is immediate and it is dire!

Nebraska State Legislature