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Dates to Remember

Tree  Planting  Awards

Jensen Ranch, 2019

Arthur County

The Twin Platte Natural Resources District is excited to present the 2019 Tree Planting Award to this year’s recipient, John and Shari Jensen. Jensen Ranch has a long history of excellence in conservation, having planted over 2,800 trees in the past 16 years.  The planting of trees as windbreaks in the sandhills serve many purposes and have endless benefits to the land as well as the livestock.  John’s father, Lewis C Jensen, homesteaded the Jensen Ranch in 1913.  In addition to the day to day ranch operation, Lewis hauled freight from the railroad at Lemoyne on the North Platte River, raised hogs, and fed cattle to make ends meet.  In 1926 he married Ruth Hawkins and they made their home on the homestead, and had two children. Lewis continued to make improvements on the ranch as well as adding sections of land as the years went on. In 1943, Lewis passed away as the result of a fatal accident. Ruth took care of the property until 1960, when John graduated from college and was able to return home and manage the ranch.  Through the years there have been additions to the original 640 acres. The ranch operation currently covers 10,360 acres in Arthur and Grant Counties. In 2015, the Jensen Ranch had the honor of receiving the Nebraska Pioneer Farm Award from the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation and the Nebraska Farm Bureau. This award is given for agriculture operations which have existed for 100 years.  The first tree planting was done in the 60’s, but came with many complications as there was no weed barrier when the trees were planted.  This site was not accessible to water and seemed to take forever for the trees to grow into a usable protection for the livestock.  The annual replant program finally re-established and is now a very impressive windbreak that works efficiently.  John Jensen served on the board of directors for the TPNRD from 1984 until 1996.  During this time TPNRD began offering weed barrier with all new tree plantings. Since then, the Jensen’s have designed and planted four more plantings with the weed barrier and the success rate has greatly improved.  The protection that these windbreaks provide and the wildlife that inhabits them have made the efforts very much worthwhile.

Alex Brown & Sons, 2017

Lincoln County

The Twin Platte Natural Resources District provides technical and cost-share assistance to encourage landowners and land managers in the conservation of our natural resources, which are so valuable to all of us.  Our continuing partnership with the farmers and ranchers in the District will help ensure that we reach our common goals.

The first 100 established trees planted on the Alex Brown & Sons LLC Ranch were from the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, called the “Charles E Bessey Nursery.”   Trees were made available to farmers and ranchers at little or no cost, under the Clark McNary Act of 1924.  These 100 trees were planted in 1966 by Bud Brown and his parents, Bill and Dorothy Brown.

In the years to follow, 200 to 400 trees were hand planted on an annual basis in several locations by Bud and his parents.  Years later, trees were planted by Bud and his wife Mary Jo, and their children Chad, Julie, Kylie, and Emily.

Trees were planted over the years for homestead, cropland, livestock, and wildlife protection.  The first machine planted trees were planted around dryland crops on ground purchased in the early 2000’s.  Hand planted trees were planted in established windbreaks throughout the ranch operation, and at the home place south of the South Platte River.
Assorted trees planted include Eastern Red Cedar, Native Cottonwood, and Burr Oak.  Shrubs planted include Common Lilac, Manchurian Apricot, Chokecherry, and Sandcherry.

The North Platte Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Twin Platte Natural Resources District helped with programs throughout the years to make this tree planting journey successful.

Bud and Mary Jo, with the help of their children Chad Brown and family and Emily Allison and family, help with the operations of the ranch.

Bud Brown comments that “trees planted for windbreaks provide tremendous protection in the operation of the ranch.”

armstrong Family Farm, 2016

Keith County

The Armstrong Family Farm began planting trees for conservation and wildlife shortly after purchasing the farm in northern Keith County in 1991.  Some of the first plantings were through the Game and Parks Living Snow Fence Program.  The plantings of trees included: Easter Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Juniper, and a variety of shrubs for wildlife. Windbreaks were planted around the buildings and in pivot corners for livestock protection and wildlife habitat.

In 2010 a fire driven by 40 mph winds burned across the farm and destroyed four of the mature tree plantings. The following year, trees were re-planted by machine in three of the groves. Stumps of the burned trees were sheared off at ground level, and 1,375 trees were planted in between the existing rows along with 9,900 feet of water conservation mulch.  Since purchasing the farm there has been 5,325 machine planted trees with 17,500 feet water conservation mulch, and 1,150 trees planted by hand.  Mike Armstrong of Armstrong Family Farm, has two daughters; Sarah Armstrong of Fort Collins Colorado, and Lisa Eakins of Elgin, Oklahoma.

Frimann Family Farm, 2014

Lincoln County

Steve and Sharon Frimann began planting trees a few years after purchasing their home and rangeland in northeast Lincoln County. The initial planting of 560 trees and shrubs were planted under the Twin Platte NRD Conservation Trees Program in 1998. A combination of Austrian Pine, Jack Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, and Rocky Mountain Juniper were added to existing Cedar windbreaks as additional rows. Shrub plantings included Cotoneaster, Sumac, Sand Cherry, Choke Cherry, and Lilac. All trees and shrubs were planted into a prepared bed with water conservation mulch and drip tape installed under the fabric.

Steve used his own mulch layer with a drip tape attachment to lay the 4700 feet of mulch. Looking for a better way to protect young seedlings, the use of 30-inch tree tubes on 100 American Plums in 2010 proved successful. The peach colored tubes act as a miniature green house to protect young trees and shrubs from rabbits, and extend the growing season. In 2011, the Frimann’s tried a more ambitious project by planting an American Plum thicket around a quarter section of grass along with two rows of Eastern Red Cedar.

The Twin Platte NRD machine planted 1850 trees and plums along with 25,700 feet of water conservation mulch. Drip tape is used on all trees and shrubs to insure survivability. This phase was spread out over two years, with the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service providing cost share. The end result creates a two-mile perimeter of shelterbelt. All of the plums are protected by the shorter grow tubes, while two additional rows of deciduous trees on the north side are in five foot grow tubes to stop the deer from browsing them down. It turns out that deer won’t browse above five feet – who knew. The deciduous trees include Honey Locust, Black Locust, Hackberry, Bur Oak, and Black Walnut. A single high tensile wire has been placed over the top of the plums to discourage the bucks from rubbing the shrubs into the ground, and so far this has seemed to work.

Three years later the benefit to wildlife is already apparent with grouse, pheasants, and the occasional quail spotted in the trees and plum thickets. They seem to prefer to hang out in the young shelterbelt, even nesting under the young cedars. With adjacent food plots and a pond in the interior of the quarter section, food and water are plentiful year around. Steve and Sharon would like to thank the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service for their help in planning the projects and assistance with cost sharing programs that make improving wildlife habitat possible.

spurgin Family Farm, 2013

Keith County

Elias and Lillie Hanna Spurgin homesteaded in this area in 1884. Their son, Abraham and his wife, Ella, also homesteaded on the same section. Since then, five generations of Spurgins have been involved in agriculture and passed on their love of the land. The Spurgin family farm is owned and operated by Gerald and Janice Spurgin. Gerald and Janice have three sons: Jeremy and wife Caroline, and children, Ali, Kepler, Andi, and Ty; Jonathan; and Jacob; and one daughter Jocelyn, and all are involved in the family farming operation.

The farm includes a cow/calf operation and a crop rotation of corn, wheat, soybeans, sunflowers, and peas. In 1986, the removal of old trees around buildings began. The family replaced the deteriorating trees with oak, maple, ash, hackberry, fruit trees, evergreen trees, and a variety of fruit bearing bushes. They began planting windbreaks around the farmsteads’ in 1997. Soaker hoses were utilized for supplemental watering of the newly planted trees. The windbreaks have provided shelter for livestock and enhanced the habitat for wildlife. They have also provided protection for the farmsteads’ buildings, as well as made the homes more energy efficient.

Approximately 2,300 trees were planted in pivot corners in 2006. The trees planted include eastern red cedar, rocky mountain juniper, hackberry, honey locust, and various bushes. The Spurgin family utilized a 1,000 gallon water tank and hose to water the trees when they were newly planted due to the dry conditions. For three years the family hand planted trees that died. The result was a high rate of survival. Pivot corners were also put in CRP and “Corners for Wildlife” programs. Over 4,000 trees with seven miles of water conservation mulch have been utilized by the family. Approximately 3,000 trees were machine planted and 1,000 trees were used for hand plants.

It is the goal of the Spurgin family to take care of the resources that God has given them. Planting and nurturing trees are a great legacy to pass on to the generations to follow. The Spurgins’ appreciate the help from the TPNRD, NRCS, and FSA to accomplish their goal.

SPURGIN FAMILY FARM MISSION STATEMENT “We strive to maximize profits, take care of our gifts, and enjoy the journey.”

Whitewater Ranch/Stewart allen Family, 2011

Lincoln County

Whitewater, Inc. operates ranching interests in the Sandhills of Arthur and McPherson Counties. The ranch was established in 1884 and is owned and operated by Stewart and Kathy Allen, Mark Allen, Matt and Audra Allen, and their children Kegan, Kaleb, and Kirsten. Stewart and Kathy manage the business headquarters in Lincoln County. Matt and Audra live at Three Mile Ranch and their children represent the seventh generation of the ranching family. The ranch maintains a cow herd, and the majority of the calves are sold as yearlings.

A registered quarter horse operation provides working horses for the ranch and horses to be sold as working and performance horses. A conservation tree planting program was implemented in 1978 to establish windbreaks for livestock protection. With the help of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District, tree strips were planted in areas where winter feeding and calving took place. The first tree projects had only marginal success and limited survival rates. Drip systems were incorporated in additional plantings in 1989 and 1990, and the survival rate and health of the trees improved tremendously. Additional tree strips were planted in 2010 and 2011 to help reduce wind erosion on the fragile soil, and expand wind protection in the calving areas. These projects were the first to incorporate both water conservation mulch and drip irrigation. The results of using this combination produced superior results in the difficult growing environment of sandy, highly erodible soil.

The addition of mulch fabric reduced competition from weeds and lessened the moisture requirements of the trees. Although a variety of tree species have been planted over the years, the tree strips planted in eastern red cedar have become the most impressive. The benefits of establishing windbreaks far outweigh the cost and labor involved in the projects. The addition of water conservation mulch and drip irrigation increases the cost of tree planting projects, but also produces superior results. The introduction of the tree strips has increased calving survival rates and feeding efficiency during the winter months.

Shelter belts provide extra protection for livestock during severe weather events, and mediate the effects of wind erosion in the sandy soil. The tree plantings both enhance the landscape and provide desirable habitat for wildlife. The Allen family appreciates the technical expertise and cost sharing assistance provided by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District in the development of the tree planting program.

krajewski Family Farms, 2010

Keith County

David Krajewski began planting trees for conservation in 1992, with his first 240 machine planted trees under the Twin Platte Natural Resources District Conservation Trees Program. Ten years later in 2002, David and the rest of the Krajewski Family Farms which includes his wife, Diane, and sons, Dan, Dustin, Dean, and Darin, once again planted trees under the Tree Program with another 3,852 machine planted trees. Since 2002, the farm has continued annual tree plantings through the NRD, NRCS, and FSA tree programs.

Since 1992, David Krajewski and Krajewski Family Farms, along with the help of their families, have planted 19,230 trees (15,505 machine planted and 3,725 hand planted) with the installation of 27 miles of water conservation mulch. Although the majority of the trees were planted over the last eight years, many of the benefits are already noticeable throughout the land and environment. The immediate benefits of the land include protection from the wind, prevention of soil erosion, wildlife enhancement, and the aesthetic enrichment of the land.

Other benefits of tree planting that are difficult to observe but are important to the nature of the farming community, include the protection of water and air resources which in turn combats greenhouse gases to balance the potential air quality impacts from the farming operations. Many of the 19,000 trees were planted in arid locations adjacent to both irrigated and dryland fields. In many of these locations, it is difficult to maintain suitable vegetation, control noxious weeds, and control soil erosion and storm water runoff from the cropland. The trees planted in these areas have provided an immediate improvement to each of the concerns.

During times of more arid climate over the past years, some tree irrigation was necessary by pulling a water tank alongside the tree rows for irrigation application by water hose (other methods included praying for rain, rain dances, and rain mantras or chants). In addition to the cropland, Krajewski Family Farms currently operates cattle on some of the land that has benefited from the program. The most recent 1,100 trees planted in 2010 provide windbreaks for the cattle. One of the immediate noticeable tree planting benefits on the property is the natural enhancement of wildlife habitat and the enrichment of the landscape. When the properties were purchased in the 1980’s and 1990’s, most of the land, not including the irrigated cropland, was dry with little or no vegetation and virtually no trees.

The 1,600 acres of this arid land provided little wildlife habitat. In the last eight years, there has been a noticeable increase in wildlife including a number of migratory birds, small animals, game animals, and other wildlife that make western Nebraska their home. The latest tree planting project taken on by the Krajewski Family Farms is the fully drip irrigated rows of Colorado blue spruce and Austrian pine trees. The water for this project comes from an old box spring that is pumped by a solar powered 12 volt pump. Although this tree planting project is being pursued outside of the conservation tree program, it is in line with the family’s tree planting goals and supplements the overall goals of the program.

These tree planting programs provided by the NRD, NRCS, and FSA, have provided the farm with windbreaks for livestock, effective environmental controls throughout the property, and excellent habitat for wildlife. The trees also provide a vision of endless hours of recreational fun, including bird watching, nature viewing, hiking, and trail running.

Jk Acres, 2007

Keith County

In 1997, with the help of fellow farmer Dave Washa, Tom Kalkowski rented a few hundred acres of crop and accretion ground from the Brown Family Trust. Later, with the help of Mr. Gerald Brown, Tom purchased the ground he had been farming. Sheila and Jerry Jorgensen joined the farm in 1999. Years of grazing on the accretion ground had decimated the existing quail and pheasant populations. The eggs (and a few chicks that did hatch) were easy prey for predators since there was little cover to protect them.

In an effort to reverse the quail and pheasant declines, the trio planted trees and grasses in two pivot corners in 2000. Looking back, 2000 wasn’t the best year to begin planting trees. There was little precipitation to help the newly planted cedars. To keep the trees alive, Tom and Jerry used a 1,000 gallon fertilizer trailer filled with water and hooked to two garden hoses. This was a time consuming and labor intensive process. The next year, a 1,000 gallon tank equipped with a three-inch ball valve was used to water the trees. It made watering a one person operation; more water could be applied and it was faster.

The following years were quite dry but additional trees, bushes, and shrubs were planted anyway. The on-going drought required watering to keep the trees alive. To date, with the help of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District, some 9,000 trees and shrubs have been planted. The District has also cost-shared with approximately 11 miles of fabric mulch. Today these patches of trees and grasses provide nesting, food, cover, and escape to a diversity of wildlife. A 120-foot wide strip of western wheatgrass, switchgrass, little bluestem, and other grasses now border the south side of the accretion.

With the help of timely rains in 2007, the chokecherry shrubs produced their first fruit. This year the trio enrolled most of the accretion acres in the Wetlands Reserve Program. In the coming years, about two miles of wetlands will be restored. Special thanks go to Mary Reece and all of those who helped to carry this WRP project to completion. With the help of a restocking program, the quail and pheasant populations have rebounded. The benefits provided by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District to the wildlife, both resident and migratory, and our environment cannot be over-emphasized.

Hopefully this habitat will be enjoyed by generations to come. Sheila, Jerry, and Tom would like to thank the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and the Natural Resources Conservation Service for making these programs and cost-sharing available. Without their help and expertise, none of this would have been possible. We heartily recommend these programs to anyone who is looking to improve the wildlife habitat on their farm or ranch.

John & Maureen Childears, 2008

Lincoln County

In 1992, John & Maureen Childears purchased farmland in northeast Lincoln County. That same year, they repaired the 1954 irrigation well (concrete casing) and repaired/replaced two pivot systems. In the spring of 1993, two pivot corners (Valentine Sand) were planted to trees and shrubs, with fabric mulch for the trees but not the shrubs. These plantings were assisted, guided, and cost-shared by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District. In addition, one corner was placed in a 10 year contract with the Nebraska Game and Parks. This corner included seeding to warm season grasses and native wildflowers, Rocky Mountain Juniper, and a variety of shrubs. Both 1993 and 1994 were very wet years. Plenty of rain and two hand weedings each year resulted in an excellent survival rate. However, the shrub survival without mulch was only two-thirds successful.

The second 1993 corner utilized Juniper, Ponderosa Pine, Jack Pine, and Honey Locust with mulch. This corner included Brome grass, so the shrub planting without mulch had little success. It was also proven that Whitetail deer (dearly) love to pull Ponderosa Pine from the earth and place them (gently) on the mulch. They also enjoy destroying any young tree during mating season. Missing trees were replanted by hand for several years resulting in nearly a 100% stand. After 16 years, the original trees are now about 15 foot tall.

From 1993 through 2000, free trees from the Nebraska Arbor Day Foundation and from the Nebraska Game & Parks were hand planted. These trees were used to fill in older, existing windbreaks. In 1998 with assistance from sons Jarid and wife Pam and Justin and wife Ashley, a new windbreak was established north of the buildings. A good, but less successful result was obtained in spite of the mulch for water conservation and weed competition.

This site included very soft sands, and an over-population of both cottontail rabbits and voles. Many hand replants have been necessary. For several years, individual trees have been planted with hand installed mulch to fill in older windbreaks that protect the buildings. In 2003, another pivot corner was planted to Junipers in a three row triangle, including fabric mulch.

Again rabbits and voles have caused a significant amount of hand replanting. This corner was planted in the Pheasants Forever program administered by the Twin Platte NRD. In 2007, two multi-row windbreaks were planted to Rocky Mountain Juniper. These were placed to provide storm protection in the southeast corner of a calving pasture, and on the west side of the calving barn.

Rocky & Diane Hoffman, 2005

Lincoln County

In 1978, Rocky and Diane Hoffmann purchased an acreage 10 miles south of North Platte. The tract was part of the old Hunter property, and a neighbor remembers planting corn with a horse-drawn planter on the site in the late 1920’s. Later, during the dust bowl years, the fields that he had worked with horse and planter blew into a huge sand dune. In the late 1930’s, Hunter planted a few rows of Cottonwoods he had pulled from the South Platte River to control the blowing sand. Most of those Cottonwoods had died by the time the Hoffmanns had moved onto the acreage, but remnant survivors of that original planting symbolized hard work with a shovel and a bucket to conserve the fragile soil. Those old Cottonwoods triggered a plan for a new planting. The wind blew constantly during July when the house was being constructed, and the Hoffmann’s were determined to temper the harsh environment.

In the fall of 1978, Rocky and Diane pulled winter dormant Cottonwood trees from the South Platte River and planted them around their new house. Rocky’s father, who provided much of the tree planting inspiration, carted trunk loads of American Elm, Black Walnut, Silver Maple, Raspberries, Nanking Cherries, Sour Cherries, Grapes, Apricot, Apple, and Pear trees from his hobby arboretum in the eastern part of the state. In the spring of 1979, the Hoffmanns hand planted the perimeter of their property with Red Cedar and Rocky Mountain Juniper. Pines and Plums were also planted that year, and other trees were constantly added from any source available. In 1980, the Hoffmanns cost shared with the Twin Platte Natural Resources District and hand planted 400 more trees.

They continued to plant trees through 2001, most years cost sharing with the Twin Platte NRD, while constantly deriving trees from other sources as well. Too many horses placed on the small plot by a previous owner had resulted in badly damaged topsoil with little cover. Native grasses were restored through an inter-seeding project conducted by the Twin Platte NRD.

In the early 1980’s, hand cultivating and watering of trees by trailer and water tank pulled by a 9N Ford tractor provided summer diversion for the Hoffmann kids, Deb and Chris. In 1996, the Hoffmanns hung up the hoe and laid down 3,600 feet of conservation mulch for a 475 tree machine planting, again cost shared with the Twin Platte NRD. Every year, a few trees were planted and still are today. The property supports Ponderosa, Scotch, Jack, and Austrian Pines, Hackberry, Russian Olive, Autumn Olive, Cotoneaster, Skunkbush, Sumac, Sand Cherry, Sour Cherry, Pear, Apple, American Elm, Black Walnut, Green Ash, Honeylocust, Red Cedar, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Cottonwood, Silver Maple, Ginala Maple, Cutleaf Birch, English Oak, Burr Oak, Mulberry, and Catalpa.

Winter and summer environments have been changed dramatically and continue to change as the trees mature. Deer, quail, pheasants, and prairie chickens find cover in the plantings from the heat and cold, and winter bird feeding produces a diversity of species.

wayne & Joan Hansmeier, kingsley cattle co, 2004

Keith County

Wayne and Joan Hansmeier, owners of Kingsley Cattle Company, purchased their Keystone, Nebraska ranch in 1987 from Terry and Chris McGinley and Bill and Jane Walker. With the help of the cost-share program with Twin Platte Natural Resources District, the Hansmeier’s have planted trees almost every year since purchasing the property. During the first few years, they planted trees and used water conservation mulch to build a windbreak for livestock. It became a struggle to get this windbreak established due to drought and rodent damage, so the Hansmeier’s shortened the grove and transplanted some of the trees.

In 1999, they planted Rocky Mountain Junipers around an irrigated pivot circle, using water conservation mulch and the end gun from the pivot to water the trees. When Wayne and Joan’s son, Harry Coble, moved to the North place, they tore out an old grove of trees and replaced them with new Rocky Mountain Junipers with water conservation mulch and a drip system, and also planted native grass between the rows of the new trees. The following year they planted another windbreak south of Harry’s house, which also included water conservation mulch and a drip system. Over the years, the Hansmeier’s have planted approximately 4,000 trees which have been cost-shared under the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Program (NSWCP) and the Twin Platte Natural Resources District.

An old grove of Chinese Elm trees directly north of Wayne and Joan’s house were removed and replaced with Junipers, again using the water conservation mulch and drip system. The Hansmeier’s have discovered that in this sandy soil, a drip system for new trees is essential for a healthy windbreak. Wayne and Joan rely on two couples to help them maintain the tree windbreaks. Larry and Karie Young and Doug and Sherrie Dunham do most of the transplanting of the trees and keeping the area free from weeds in exchange for hunting privileges near the river. Wayne and Joan would like to say thank you for all of their hard work in helping Kingsley Cattle Company in their conservation efforts.

Skip & Eileen Marland & Schaeffer Family Farms, 2002

Lincoln County

In the fall of 1979, Skip and Eileen Marland purchased a half section of sandhills valley land from Levi and Amelia Powell, approximately nine miles northeast of North Platte. This was in conjunction with a full section of land selling at public auction that Mr. and Mrs. Powell had owned from 1947 to 1979.

A farming relationship began with the Schaeffer Family Farms from Stapleton, Nebraska, to assist the Marlands in developing this half section to center pivot irrigation, eventually powered by a three-phase REA from the Custer Public Power District. The Marlands and the Schaeffers were very methodical in the development of this half section in an effort to focus on conservation measures, such as laying topsoil back down on areas where soil was excavated to accommodate center pivot irrigation. The Marlands and the Schaeffers have enjoyed an excellent working relationship, farming together in a landlord/tenant posture for 24 consective years.

Both the Marlands and the Schaeffers attitude has been to use every conservation practice practical and to “give back” to the land more each year than what “is taken off”. Through the years, practices such as liming, manure, and even valley topsoil have been added to the weaker areas of the approximate 260 acres. The farm has been in an alfalfa/corn rotation for several years. The soils are considered sandy, with the principle soil makeup being Valentine Sand, so farming practices have always been critical. Last years yields for the farm were in excess of 176 bushel per acre average for corn, and slightly less than six tons per acre yield average for alfalfa. Skip Marland has been quoted as saying “if it were not for the Schaeffer’s excellent farming practices, we would have little opportunity for these kinds of yields”.

In the spirit of conservation, as well as livestock protection and wildlife enhancement, a tree planting campaign of Eastern Red Cedar trees was started in 1986. Eventually, five tree groves were established, with 100% Eastern Red Cedars from the years 1986 through 1997. During this time, over 3,500 trees were planted and cost-shared under the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Program administered by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District. Skip Marland said, “We chose to plant only Eastern Red Cedars as they are indigenous to this area, and are much like the eight major species of sandhill grasses that can survive on very little moisture and in a soil with a low fertility rate”. Care and due-diligence was taken to replant any trees that had died through the years, so the end result are five groves of trees that are relatively consistent and picturesque.

The trees are now tall enough that they afford substantial livestock protection as well as a wildlife enhancement for deer, grouse, and some pheasant. On occasion, a large flock of Sandhill Cranes have landed to rest and feast on the cornfields.

An interseeding of 13 acres was planted with native grasses in two pivot corners in 1995, which is now well established. This practice was also cost-shared with the Twin Platte Natural Resources District. The 13 acre site had been grazed so hard that nearly all of the original native grasses had long since perished prior to the farm’s purchase in 1979.

Schaeffer Family Farms have been an important part of this farming operation since the beginning. Schaeffer Family Farms consist of Steve and Sally Schaeffer and their children, Rod and Pam Schaeffer and their children of the Stapleton area, and Gary and Linda Schaeffer and their children who live north of Thedford and manage the cow/calf enterprise of the Schaeffer Family Farms. The second generation of the Schaeffer family is now working into the operation, as two of Steve and Sally’s sons, George and Matt, help with operation of the farm. Other Schaeffer family members have also helped from time to time through the years. The operation of the farm has always been on a sharecrop arrangement between the Marlands and the Schaeffers. This arrangement has been a testament that farming is not for the faint at heart.

The trees have made enjoying the farm a little extra dimensional. Every year comments have been made on how the trees have grown. The five groves are approaching 8 to 10 feet in height. They were planted in a northwestern design so that cattle would naturally gravitate to the respective tree belts for protection.

Skip Marland has some quiet advice to anyone wanting to plant trees: Focus on the trees that are native to this part of the country. Eastern Red Cedars fall into that category and offer excellent protection. Next is spending the time and the effort for the second and third years after the initial planting to replant the trees that don’t survive. Tree planting is for someone who has the discipline, the energy, and the commitment to strive for a successful project. People say that planting trees is a selfless act which benefits the next generation. We can only hope that the next generation takes care of them as well as the prior caretakers.

Newman Family Farm, 2001

Keith County

Dick Newman owns a farm approximately 20 miles southwest of Ogallala, Nebraska. The property was deeded as the “Lone Tree Ranch” due to the fact that only one tree stood on the entire ranch and surrounding area. The original owner was Cyrus McCormick, who purchased the land in 1885 from the Union Pacific Railroad via a government program to help fund the railroad project.

Both of Dick’s great-grandfathers, Frank Dodge and Charles Kuskie, came to Keith County, Nebraska to farm. The property was purchased by Bert C. Kuskie, Dick’s grandfather, in 1945, and farmed continuously for six years until 1951 when he sold the land to Dick’s parents, William Newman and Evelyn Kuskie Newman. They operated the farm until 1996, at which time they retired and turned the land over to Dick.

After acquiring the farm, Dick placed approximately 1,000 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program. Since this time, 4,563 trees and shrubs have been planted through the Twin Platte Natural Resources District cost-share program. In addition to the cost-share program, Dick has personally planted 400 more trees and shrubs.

The trees planted on the Lone Tree Ranch include the Eastern Red Cedar and Rocky Mountain Juniper. A variety of shrubs planted consist of American Plum, Sumac, Chokecherry, Buffaloberry, Sandcherry, and Honeysuckle. Maintenance and care for the trees have proven to be an extensive job. Dick hand waters the trees and shrubs by hauling water in a 300 gallon tank mounted on a small trailer. The trees and shrubs have a high rate of survival and have thrived with substantial growth.

Dick has completed several other conservation and wildlife habitat projects, including the construction of 13 dams which have prevented soil erosion along with providing water for abundant wildlife. Two springs were also developed, and waterfowl nesting sites were built along with several game bird shelters.

Dick has two children, Mike and Cindy. Mike and his wife Cindy have one son, Logan, and Cindy is married to Joe Rieken.

Dave & Denise Manary, 1999

Lincoln County

Dave and Denise Manary operate a ranch 10 miles northwest of North Platte. Ranching is not their primary business, as Dave has been a dentist since 1971, practicing in North Platte for 21 years. Denise is a Certified Dental Technician with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition, and has worked in their dental office for the past 18 years. Dave’s grandparents ranched near where Dave and Denise now live, and a portion of that ranch now belongs to Dave and Denise. When Dave was a youngster visiting his grandparents ranch, he frequently admired the nearby ranch of Fred and Nellie Jackson. The Jackson property was especially appealing to Dave because of the numerous trees and the six acre spring fed pond. The pond is the headwaters of the White Horse Creek. As a young man, Dave hoped to someday own the Jackson place, a goal he never forgot.

Dave and Denise bought the Jackson’s original home and quarter section from the heirs of Fred and Nellie, completing the transaction in the winter of 1984. Fred had died many years earlier. After Fred died and Nellie aged, she was no longer able to maintain the property and it fell into serious decline. The pond had accumulated 50 years of silt and was choked with water lilies. The condition of the water in the pond was suitable only for common carp. The carp were so numerous that there was little oxygen left for game fish and minimal food for water fowl. The numerous carp kept the water constantly muddy.

Many of the trees Dave had admired as a child were now dead and most of the remaining trees were in advanced stages of decline. Access to maintain and upgrade the old trees was blocked by dense dead fallen trees, large piles of discarded cans and bottles, collapsed buildings, numerous junk tractors, cars and parts, collapsed fencing, and a variety of other discarded materials. An old dump truck that Dave and Denise purchased from Les and Eloise Weil was very useful in the removal of the debris on the place.

At first, Dave and Denise wondered if they had acquired a bigger job than they could manage. Their task seemed enormous and they wondered where to start. Dave’s dad, Chub Manary, gave them some excellent advice. He thought the first thing they should do was to plant a new windbreak. This seemed like a good idea and they went to work.

Dave and Denise have planted trees every spring since 1985. That spring they planted 685 Eastern Red Cedars through a Twin Platte Natural Resource District cost-share program. Dave and Denise installed a drip irrigation system for watering the trees. The next year they repeated this with another 347 cedars. In 1987, 525 trees of several varieties were planted and drip irrigated through the Twin Platte Natural Resources District cost-share program. In 1996 another 1,069 trees were planted through the Twin Platte Natural Resources District program and the U.S. Forest Service Stewardship Incentive Program. Dave and Denise also had 8,200 feet of water conservation mulch installed on the trees. Over the years they have planted 4,223 trees and shrubs. They have planted a large variety of species, but cedars, junipers, honeylocusts, and cottonwoods have been the most successful. Numerous berry producing shrubs have also thrived.

Dave and Denise have had a high rate of tree and shrub survival. They attribute this to several key factors including, irrigation, water conservation mulch, pest and disease control, species selection, regular replanting, timely and correct pruning, and fencing that excludes livestock. Dave and Denise have made their tree and shrub program a high priority and devote considerable time and effort to it each year.  Dave and Denise have completed several other conservation and wildlife habitat projects. The six acre pond was dredged and the existing dam was restored. A second dam was constructed creating a water fowl pond of about three acres. All work was completed with the appropriate permits from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and the State of Nebraska. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assisted in the construction of the second dam, and provided Rotenon to remove the carp from the entire White Horse Creek head waters. The State of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission assisted by providing manpower, technical assistance, and many of the replacement fish and frogs. Dave and Denise restored the old dam and dredged the pond at their own expense, doing most of the dredging and restoration labor themselves. They also purchased many of the fish.

The resulting condition of the water is much improved for wildlife. The water is now deeper and extremely clear, encouraging aquatic plant growth which provides oxygen for the fish and frogs, and provides food for innumerable ducks and other waterfowl. Dave and Denise fenced about 10 acres surrounding the old pond to prevent grazing and to create more wildlife habitat. They have also fenced an additional 30 acres of pasture and marsh as part of the Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program. (WHIP)

Dave and Denise would like to express their gratitude for the valued help they have received. Dave’s parents, Chub and Tressa Manary have assisted in every possible way. Without their help, much of what Dave and Denise accomplished would not have been possible. Denise’s parents, Dave and Delores Kaufman, lived in Lincoln but they also helped in as many ways as they could. Denise’s father died in July 1998. Dave and Denise consider themselves extremely fortunate to have such supportive parents. Denise’s brother, David Kaufman, also contributed some time and effort.

Dave and Denise commented that the people employed by the Twin Platte Natural Resources District have been very helpful in all aspects of establishing the new trees. They say that they would not have planted nearly so many trees without the help of the Twin Platte Natural Resources District. Dave and Denise report that the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission have repeatedly provided valuable guidance and assistance and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service have also been very helpful.  Dave and Denise want to thank their many loyal dental patients. Their patronage over the years has made it possible for Dave and Denise to accomplish many of their goals. The hard working and loyal office staff employed by Dave and Denise have made it possible for them to have a successful practice.  Meghan Manary, Dave and Denise’s daughter, was born on January 26, 1997. Dave and Denise planted 1,069 trees and shrubs after they found out they were expecting Meghan. They want to thank Meghan for the enthusiasm and hope for the future that she gives them.  A tree is a precious gift from God. The Manary’s have greatly enjoyed nurturing these special little gifts that have grown into something so beautiful and beneficial.

Greg & Peggy Gade 1998

Keith County

The Gade Ranch is located nine miles east of Lewellen on Highway 92. Greg’s parents purchased the land several years ago. Greg moved there after graduating from high school in 1980, and began ranching full-time with his father.

In 1983, Greg married Peggy Stockey. They made their home on the ranch and have lived there for the last 15 years. They have a 12 year old daughter Tara, and a 10 year old son Blake.

Through the years, the Gages have been involved in the planting and nurturing of 2,281 trees, including plum, cedar, juniper, caragana, ash, Austrian pine, and honeylocust.

Methods used for maintenance of the trees include 4,100 feet of water conservation mulch, a drip irrigation system, and hand-watering and replanting as necessary. Greg also poisons gophers on a yearly basis. He feels it is very important to get rid of gophers before you plant trees, to ensure a better survival rate.

Gades started planting trees for livestock protection and wildlife habitat. They also feel the trees have greatly increased the value of the land, as well as creating a beautiful landscape for the ranch.  Greg’s father, the late Clinton Gade, and his wife Velma played an important role in making the establishment of trees possible.  Greg, Peggy, and their children are active members of the United Methodist Church in Lewellen.

Ray & Anita Hengen, 1997

Lincoln County

Ray and Anita Hengen are involved in a farming operation eight miles northeast of North Platte. Ray’s dad, Clarence Hengen, purchased the farm in the mid 1940’s. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the Hengen family began hand planting 500 Eastern Red Cedar trees for windbreak establishment. The family’s ultimate goal was to provide protection for their livestock, as well as providing protection for the farmstead. Upon Clarence’s death in 1988, Ray and his mother, Ella, assumed the responsibility of ownership and operation of the farm. After years of improvements, the Hengen’s own and operate 800 acres, consisting of 85 acres in the Conservation Reserve Program and 715 acres in rangeland.

Examples of conservation work, which have been or are being utilized, include proper grazing management practices by using a 30 day grazing rotation in a lease operation for 40 cow/calf pairs, which also includes proper water distribution for the livestock. The Hengen’s also have an overflow water system which supplies water to a dam designed specifically for the wildlife.

Through the years, the Hengen’s have been involved in the planting and nurturing of 3,700 trees and shrubs, including Eastern Red Cedar, Green Ash, Honeylocust, American Plum, Caragana, Chokecherry, Cotoneaster, Silver Buffaloberry, and Sandcherry. Maintenance and care for the trees includes hand watering by using a tank to haul the water, and an extensive job of gopher control by applying gopher bait through a pull-type burrow builder gopher machine.

Ray and Anita Hengen reside in North Platte, where Ray is an employee of the Union Pacific Railroad and Anita works at Ace Hardware. Anita is a member of the First Lutheran Church of North Platte.

Denny & Rona ANsley, 1997

Keith County

Located in Lemoyne, NE, After years of improvements, the Ansleys own and operate 3,200 acres consisting of 135 acres of alfalfa and oats under pivot irrigation, and 3,065 acres of rangeland which supports a 250 cow/calf operation. Examples of conservation work which have been or are being utilized include: proper irrigation management practices by using minimum tillage and low energy pressure on an irrigation pivot system; proper planned grazing and range rotation; three miles of livestock pipeline to include five tanks; and one windmill and two miles of cross fencing.

Through the years, the Ansleys have been involved in the planting and nurturing of 2,330 trees, including Cedar, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Hackberry, Honeylocust, Silver Buffaloberry, Sumac, and Chokecherry. Maintenance has included 9,920 feet of water conservation mulch installed on their trees, as well as the installation of drip irrigation on 500 trees for better survivability.


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