Three people from the Panhandle are among a dozen new members of the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement.
The three, Nancy Peterson of Gordon, Douglas Olsen of Harrisburg, and Rick Larson of Potter, were elected during a banquet at the Nebraska East Union on UNL’s East Campus. Formed in 1916, the Nebraska Hall of Agricultural Achievement is dedicated to preserving and improving Nebraska agriculture. Each year, the group recognizes at least one honoree and elects new members.
New members were nominated by a fellow member of the hall for their significant contributions to the state’s agriculture industry.
Nancy Peterson is a veterinarian and co-owner of Plum Thicket Farms, whose stated mission is to produce high-quality cattle, forage, and grain with management practices that foster the best stewardship of land, livestock, soil, and human resources. Plum Thicket Farms received the 2016 Aldo Leopold Award for Conservation and also was named the 2016 Commercial Beef Breeder of the year by the Beef Improvement Federation.
Nancy and her husband, Rex, head the cattle operation. They bought Plum Thicket Farms in 1998, after moving from the Colorado Mountains where Nancy had a cow/calf veterinary practice. They built the herd to 300 cows, implementing from the outset, a detailed individual cow record system. Rex and Nancy’s son, Patrick, heads the farming operation. He currently no-till farms 2,300 acres, with a focus on improving soil health and conserving resources.
Peterson has always been willing to share her experience and expertise with college students, interns, other producers, and others, such as Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Nebraska Extension, Chadron State College, and at numerous professional conferences. The Petersons are committed to improving productivity on their acreage by enhancing the quality and diversity of their ecosystems on pastures and cropland.
Douglas Olsen is a cattle producer, farmer and community leader in Banner County, where he manages a large commercial and purebred Hereford herd, with his father, Art, wife, Pam, children, and several employees. Doug, a graduate of UNL Animal Science Department, is an early adopter of new and research-proven technology, using the information and also sharing it with others through personal contact and hosts numerous field days or tours.
Olsen is Chairman of the Board of the Panhandle Cooperative, and also is active in the Nebraska Coop Council, Nebraska Cattlemens Association, American Hereford Association, and National Cattlemens Beef Association. The Olsens are involved in programs designed to improve Hereford genetics and to grow the market for Hereford beef. Doug is a frequent speaker and panel member at cattlemen’s meetings and is involved in numerous local church and community activities.
Olsen Ranches received the 2004 National Beef Improvement Federation (BIF) Commercial Producer Award, and also received the North Platte Natural Resources District Conservationist of the Year Award. Doug’s wife, Pam, is an attorney who is a partner in the operation and an advocate for agriculture. Doug has adopted modern cattle-handling techniques and facilities and has shared his experience and expertise with many others in the industry.
Rick Larson farms and ranches in Banner and Kimball Counties. He and his wife, Diane, grow irrigated and dryland wheat, corn, dry edible beans, and alfalfa. Rick is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in animal science and has served on the Kimball-Banner County Extension Board.
He has served on the Nebraska Wheat Board, including as chairman. He also serves on the US Wheat Board and has worked extensively with the Nebraska Wheat Growers in implementing their mobile baking lab, which is used to educate consumers and connect farmers with consumers through fresh-baked wheat food to show their food comes from. Larson also has hosted several international trade teams on his farming operation. He also has been involved in Banner County Wind Committee and served as grower representative on the National Jointed Goatgrass Steering Committee.
He has been innovative in adopting new technologies in his beef operation. Larson is a past winner of the Panhandle Research and Extension Center’s Service to Panhandle Agriculture Award.
Other new NHAA members of the Ag Hall of Achievement include Barbara Cooksley of Anselmo, Ted Tietjen of Grant, Mary Garbacz of Lincoln, Terry Hejny of Lincoln, Pete McClymont of Lincoln, Richard Rasby of Lincoln, Chuck Burr of North Platte, and Roric and Deb Paulman of Sutherland.
The Hall of Agricultural Achievement’s 2019 honorees were Bob Dickey and Al Svajgr.
Dickey is a third generation farmer raising cattle, hogs, soybeans and corn on his farm near Laurel. As he became more established in farming, he invested in Nebraska agribusinesses, including Specialty Protein Producers in Norfolk, Husker Ag Processing in Plainview and Advanced Bioenergy at Fairmont.
He was director and chairman of the Farm Credit Bank Board, representing Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming. A member of the Nebraska Corn Board for 21 years, he served as its chairman. Dickey worked in many different leadership roles, including president, in the National Corn Growers board and United States Grains Council.
Svajgr is currently the owner of Agrow, feeding approximately 5,000 head of cattle annually. Svajgr is also original owner and board chairman of Darr Feedlot, which markets over 100,000 head of cattle each year. He is director of Waypoint Bank and chairman of Midwest Banco, a bank holding company. Svajgr is a past president of Agriculture Builders of Nebraska and the Nebraska LEAD Board. He has served on the University of Nebraska Foundation Board of Trustees and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Chancellor’s Advisory Board and Animal Science Advisory Committee.