Panhandle Outstanding Service to Agriculture Award
2013 Winner: Keith Rexroth
A well-known figure in statewide conservation circles, Rexroth has served on the South Platte Natural Resources District Board of Directors since 1993, including a stint as chairman. He has been the NRD’s delegate on Panhandle Area Development District (PADD) and Panhandle Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D). He served eight years on the Nebraska Association of Resource Districts Information and Education Committee, including five years as chair. He was named NRD Director of the Year for Nebraska in 2005.
He was appointed by the governor as advisor for the Three-State Cooperative Agreement on the Platte River. He also served on the Nebraska Natural Resources Commission and volunteered in classrooms for 15 years.
Rexroth also has a long involvement in ag leadership positions, both on the local and state levels. In 1983-84 he received the Outstanding Young Farmer Nebraska award. And he served for 10 years in state management for Outstanding Young Farmer program, during which time there were seven national winners from Nebraska. He served on the Dalton Co-op Board, and in the mid-1990s served two years as the Mid-States Advisory for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Chief Pearlie Reed. He has been Cheyenne County Extension Board Chair and South Panhandle Chair. He served two years on the UNL Chancellor’s Advisory Board, and was vice president and held other offices on the Nebraska Wheat Growers.
Rexroth organized the Tri-State Ag Summit, which included the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the agriculture directors from Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado.
Rexroth has worked to pass on his love and knowledge of agriculture, volunteering in classrooms for 15 years and hiring high-school and college students to work on the family farm, a “classroom without walls.”
The Outstanding Service to Panhandle Agriculture Award is given by Panhandle Research and Extension Center faculty in recognition of a person or group who has provided outstanding service to Panhandle agriculture. Award criteria include value of work done or cooperation with UNL specialists or educators; leadership in agriculture; community service other than agriculture; and level of impact on Panhandle agriculture.
Pictured: Kevin Hall (third from left) with parents George and Jeanette Hall and wife, Vickie.
2010: Kevin Hall: Kevin Hall is a leader in Nebraska’s sugarbeet industry who operates a diversified farming operation near Bridgeport. Hall produces wheat, corn, dry edible beans, sugarbeets, and sorghum. In 2010 he harvested 6,600 total acres of crops, irrigated with 69 center-pivot systems. He is the largest, by acreage, sugarbeet grower in Nebraska with about 2,800 acres annually, and also has a beef feedlot. He has been a leader in agricultural organizations, especially those related to sugarbeets. He was one of the initial committee members to organize the growers’ purchase of Western Sugar; has been on the Board of Directors of Western Sugar Cooperative since its formation; and is currently the board president. He has served on a national committee charged with preserving use of Roundup Ready sugarbeet seed.
He and his wife, Vickie, have three teen-age children. He is a church elder. Vickie is a full-time mother and also partner in the farming operation. Kevin grew up on his father’s farm, rented his grandfather’s farm when he was a senior in high school, and grew the operation from there. Machinery Systems Engineer John Smith, who nominated Hall, describes him as a leader by example in the Panhandle irrigated agriculture community, always willing to try something new if he can be convinced that it has a good chance of contributing positively to his operation. He’s also willing to share his ideas with anyone. Smith said it’s common for other farmers to look to Hall as an example, and many growers visit with him about his operation. Hall was the first Nebraska beet grower in recent times to purchase a European-style, self-propelled harvester, also one of the first in the United States. In the four years since, two other Nebraska growers have followed his lead. The harvester is not just bigger, Smith said, but also reduces soil compaction, harvest cost, and root damage.
Hall has participated with UNL on several projects and has allowed faculty to conduct demonstrations in his fields, including direct harvest of dry beans; field-scale comparison of 18-inch and 30-inch row sugarbeets; and comparison of harvest loss and soil compaction between the self-propelled system and conventional methods. Recently he has switched from 30-inch rows to 20-inch rows, a major system change but a progressive one to improve production efficiency.
2009 -- Lynn Myers: Lynn Myers of Lewellen is a Sandhills rancher who is dedicated to improving pasturelands and sharing what he learns with other ranchers. He ranches in northern Garden County. He works and manages the home place, the Tippet Myers Ranch, which has been in the family for 100 years, and several leased pastures between Ashby, Arthur, and Lewellen. His philosophy is to leave the pastures, rented or not, in better condition than he found them in, resulting in several long-term leases. Lynn has worked closely for years with UNL Extension and numerous other agricultural organizations, including the Nebraska Cattlemen and Nebraska Grazing Coalition. He worked closely with former UNL range specialist Pat Reece and preaches the importance of SanDRIS (a UNL Extension grazing management decision-support tool). He actively shares what he has learned. He started and serves on the Nebraska Ranch Mentor Program (now known as "Cowboy Logic") and has hosted student interns interested in grazing management.
Several years ago, Myers leased a new ranch, the Curry Place, and wanted to develop a technique to monitor the improvement in pasture health and production of the pastures. He called the local extension office. Working with Reece, Extension Educators Cindy Tusler, Jay Jenkins and Bethany Johnston, and NRCS staff, a photo-monitoring technique was developed. An Action Team grant led to a successful program to educate other ranchers on this technique. This program had an impact on more than 150,000 acres of rangeland and 12,000 cows. Immediately following the program, two ranches set up photo-monitoring on their ranches.
Myers also received a grant from Sandhills Task Force for improvements on the Curry Place, including the continuation of monitoring with assistance from Extension staff. Photo-monitoring workshops have been conducted at GSL, Women in Ag Conferences in Kearney and Sidney, Nebraska Cattlemen meetings, NRCS Drought Meeting, and Nebraska Grazing Conference as a result of Lynn's involvement with the various groups. The Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition will continue the efforts, and set up monitoring on 50 ranches in eastern Nebraska and 50 ranches in western Nebraska.
Myers' hobbies include roping Hereford cows, playing the banjo, and gifting colorful hats to friends.
2008 -- Charles Fenster: Charles Fenster is a pioneering researcher who retired nearly 30 years ago but remains active in Nebraska agricultural circles. During a long and successful career with the University of Nebraska, he became nationally and internationally known for his work in conservation tillage systems. His work on conservation tillage and ecofallow is fundamental to the environmentally sound cultural practices used in dryland farming today. Charlie and his wife, Eunice, live in Gering. He holds the title of professor emeritus at the Panhandle Center. He retired from university employment in 1980, but did not retire from an active life. After retirement, he volunteered to help the University of Nebraska Foundation and the University of Nebraska Alumni Association. When the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association could not find qualified inspectors for western Nebraska, Charlie was there to satisfy the need. He worked for NCIA for 12 years inspecting wheat, millet, grasses, dry beans and other crops. He also represented NCIA at grower meetings in the Panhandle. He has successfully nominated a number of Panhandle residents for membership in the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement. He still attends and actively participates in UNL programming.
Charlie and Eunice have generously funded a number of programs for the Panhandle District. They established the first endowed professorship for an off-campus site. They have also been major contributors to the Panhandle Dryland Crops Fund, the Panhandle Alumni Scholarship Fund, the Fenster Fund for Family and Consumer Sciences, and the Panhandle Research and Extension Center Director’s Discretionary Fund. Charlie regularly tells the story of agriculture in the Panhandle to widespread and diverse audiences. He speaks to Nebraska LEAD groups about the history of agriculture in the Panhandle. He has been involved in FARM, the Farm and Ranch Museum, in Gering since its inception, and developed a major display on the development of conservation tillage in the High Plains. An active community member, he belongs to the Kiwanis Club and has been chair of the Gering Parks, Cemetery and Tree Board for many years.
2007 -- Robert Busch is a leader in numerous agricultural organizations in western Nebraska and a respected voice in statewide water policy discussions. He doesn’t stand back and complain when he feels agriculture is getting the short straw from government. He gets active in the political process and educates those who need to know the situation in modern agriculture. Bob, who with his wife, Norma, operates an irrigated farm south of Mitchell, is a long-time member of the Sugar Beet Growers and active in the American Sugar Beet Growers. He has been on the corporate board of the Western Sugar Cooperative.
He has devoted considerable time to educating the general public and policy makers about water issues in Nebraska. He has served as chairman of the water tours of the North Platte System sponsored by the Scottsbluff/Gering United Chamber of Commerce. He sits on the North Platte Natural Resource District Stakeholders Group and also on the Platte River Basin Wide Stakeholders Group, which is concerned with issues of the five NRDs along the Platte River in Nebraska. He has made numerous visits to the U.S. Congress and the Nebraska Legislature to lobby for agriculture interests. He has made as many as five trips during a legislative session. He represents not only agriculture interests but the whole community in several capacities, including serving on the Regional Airport board.
2006 -- Ken Green is a leader in the beef cattle industry in the High Plains and a driving force behind the expansion of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research Feedlot, which increased the number of pens and made numerous other improvements. In addition to advocating the project, Ken has been a major financial donor. As a key figure in the regional cattle industry, Ken recognized the need for research that provided timely, precise, science-based information to allow beef production to continue to become more efficient. Ken’s vision for a profitable feedlot industry supported by a world-class research feedlot was key in the development of over $600,000 in private donations. Ken said his vision is for the Panhandle Research Feedlot to become the center of beef research for this part of the nation, with the just-completed improvements as one step in that process.
Ken is managing general partner of Agra Holdings LP, a liquid feed manufacturer based in Firestone, Colo., with facilities in Minatare, Lexington, and Bradshaw, Neb., Fort Morgan and Lucerne, Colo., Garden City and Scott City, Kan., and Merrill, Iowa. He also is a partner in Finney County Feeders of Garden City, Kan., and Pruvit Cattle Co. He is on the board of directors of Premium Protein, a further possessed meats company which operates a beef abattoir and is highly focused on the international markets. He is a director for Consolidated Beef Producers, the nation’s largest cattle marketing cooperative; partner and director of Valley Bank and Trust; partner and director of Kansas Feeds LLC, a liquid commodity trading company with facilities in Dodge City and Scott City, Kan., and Dalhart, Texas; president and director of Dinklage Feedyards Inc.; partner and director of Premier Cattle Co. of Syracuse, Kan.; president of Evergreen Ranch Inc. of Scottsbluff.
Ken was raised in the Nebraska Panhandle and is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He and his wife, Trish, have two children and four grandchildren. They have raised and shown American Quarter Horses for the past 15 years and have earned seven World Champions.
- 2004: Dan Laursen, Alliance
- 2003: Dennis Strauch, Mitchell
- 2001: Hod Kosman, Scottsbluff
- 25th Anniversary Celebration Founder’s Award: Terry Carpenter, James Massey, John T. (Jack) Selzer, John Weihing
- 1999: Fred & Viola Kriesel, Gurley; Leon & Cheryl Kriesel
- 1998 Harry T. Cullan, Hemingford
- 1997 Cliff Walker, Scottsbluff
- 1996 Gary Darnall, Harrisburg
- 1995 Doug Schmale, Lodgepole
- 1994 Doug Kizzire, Bayard
- 1993 Jim Gran, Gordon
- 1992 Terry Terrell, Hay Springs
- 1991 Virginia Smith, Chappell
- 1990 Connee Quinn, Chadron
- 1989 Jim Irwin, Alliance
- 1988 Frank & Tootie Johannsen, Bayard
- 1987 Merlyn Carlson, Lodgepole
- 1986 Calvin Coulter, Bridgeport
- 1985: L.D. "Lou" Towater, Scottsbluff
- 1984: Fred Ehrman, Gering
- 1983: Robert Gifford, Harrisburg
- 1982: Don Steen, Morrill
- 1981: Cliff Quick, Alliance
- 1980: Louis Knoflicek, Alliance; Jim Laessle, Scottsbluff
- 1979: William L. Siegel, Morrill; Dwight D. Baltensperger, Bushnell
- 1978: Ray Cruise, Lodgepole
- 1977 Jim Numon, Scottsbluff
- 1976: John R. Jirdon, Morrill; Charles Reisig, Scottsbluff
- 1974: J.G. Elliott Building Dedication, Terry Carpenter
- 1973 Cliff Ashburn
- 1972: Memorial to Chester I. Walters; Phil Sheldon, Honoree
- 1971 Lionel Harris - Honoree Dedication of Lionel Harris Building
- 1970 Progress in Agriculture: John R. Jirdon, John R. Jirdon Industries, Inc., Morrill