Gerry and Shari Kraus of Keith County, Nebraska
Gerard Kraus grew up on the family farm north of Madrid, NE. In 1971, after graduation from the University of NE at Omaha, Gerry returned to his Dad’s (John Kraus) farm in Perkins County. In 1973, Gerry married Shari Dodson of North Platte. They both had teaching degrees but continued to farm with his Dad until 1975, when Gerry took a job with Sisco Fertilizer, where he helped develop some of the first no-till corn crops in the area. In 1978, the family (now with two daughters), moved to a farm-job south of Paxton. In 1980, they had the opportunity to buy some dry-land cropland in Perkins County, which was then converted to center-pivot irrigation. In 1981, they moved four miles east of Ogallala and rented farm land from Robert Lute.
Paul & Janet Heinrich of Paxton, Nebraska
Paul and Janet Heinrich began their farming career upon returning home from college in 1978. They now reside in the family home, south of Paxton, built by Paul’s parents in 1950. The Heinrich family currently raises corn, soybeans, and wheat, but has raised crops as diverse as alfalfa, sunflowers, popcorn, kidney beans, pinto beans, milo, barley, rye, and millet. While greatly honored to receive this award, much of the credit goes to Paul’s parents, Benjamin and Ruby, as they made efforts to be good stewards of the land by practicing methods of conservation that available equipment and technology would allow.
Most Farms of Ogallala, Nebraska
In 1950 following his high school graduation, Don Most began his career of farming and ranching on the family farm southeast of Ogallala. In 1951 after the death of his father, Don took over the farm. In 1955 he purchased the home place and married Anita Gengenbach, and they have resided there ever since. Two children were born to Don and Anita; Melanie and Samuel. Sam joined the family farm in 1982 following his graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in Agricultural Economics.
Grapes Farms of Brule, Nebraska
In 1934, Ivan Grapes and his brother, Bill Grapes, moved to this part of the country. In those first years living on a farm 15 miles northwest of Brule where the north table dropped down to the North Platte River, there were very few conservation practices being utilized. That changed with the drought of the thirties, and the need to stop the north and west winds on one of the highest elevation points in Keith County. After only one year of surviving the elements, Ivan’s brother Bill and his wife left for California. Ivan remained on the farm and began planting trees to provide shelter. He was on his own until 1938 when he married Tiny. Together, Ivan and Tiny continued to plant more trees for protection against abrasive storms. In both 1956 and 1957, Ivan and his son Ron planted several more windbreaks with bareroot trees, utilizing a Tree Conservation Program with the Halsey National Forest in Halsey, Nebraska. The trees were all hand plants, with replacement trees being taken from the pasture.
Harms Inc. of Brule, Nebraska
The Harms Family came to Brule, Nebraska in 1909. The youngest son of the Harms family, Evert, farmed north of Brule. Evert entered into a rental agreement with his son Milan to farm the land and to share rangeland from 1955 until Evert’s death in 1960.
The farm was incorporated and named Harms Inc. Milan then became a full time partner with his mother Margaret, until purchasing Harms Inc. in the late 1970’s.
Geisert Family Farm of Ogallala, Nebraska
Soil conservation has always been a big part of this farm operation. Even though primitive efforts were made in the early years, improvements began with some of the first terrraces in Keith County under the newly formed Soil Conservation District. These terraces, which have been built with a John Deere A and a two bottom plow, were seeded to grass and are still in existence today. Currently, 20 miles of terraces have been installed and rebuilt at various times.