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LK31 SESSION RECAP: Ag, Energy, and Environment Day

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

We began our day at Birdies and Brews with breakfast provided by Billy Jack’s Pizza Pub.

Lonnie Linder, owner of Birdies and Brews, discussed the challenges of starting a new business and the importance of listening to customers. Lonnie and his nephew developed the business concept and have made adjustments for it to be a place for individuals and families to spend time together and enjoy a fresh pint while playing simulated golf.

Billy Winberg, owner of Billy Jack Pizza Pub, discussed the importance of treating employees well to retain them and the need of thinking outside the box in building a relationship with each employee. Billy has opened several Billy Jack’s Pizza Pubs in different states in modeling those businesses after the Kearney location.

Justin Gould, presented on Black Hills Energy’s history in providing reliable energy to Kearney and the expansion of energy needs as Kearney’s population continues to grow. He discussed the company’s growth and future plans to provide energy to the communities they serve. Stan Clouse, Major of Kearney, talked about current projects with Nebraska Public Power District and the process of expanding electricity services.

Nick Haack, Nebraska Farm Bureau’s South-Central Regional Manager, discussed the bureau’s importance in supporting the farming industry and the reach of its membership with over 58,000 members. They work to enhance Nebraska agriculture from advocating for farm friendly legislative policies to educating people on the needs of the ag industry to reliably feeding Americans.

At Sprout House and Sweetwater Hemp, Brett Mayo discussed the family ran businesses in rural Buffalo County just north of Kearney. Sprout House was founded in 1995 to grow hydroponic tomatoes and later transitioned to 12-14 employees growing fresh herbs, such as basil, chives, mint, dill, sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves and a poultry blend to Walmart’s in several states in the region. Sweetwater Hemp opened in 2018 licensed to extract hemp oil using ice water. They provide wholesale for businesses to access their products from ointment, gummies, and oil.

At Ward Labs, Dr. Ray Ward, Chairman of the Board and Nick Ward, President provided a tour of their family business. They test water to ensure it is safe for people to drink and dirt sample to help the farmers understand nutrient composition and what to apply to their fields. Starting with only a couple of employees, the business has grown each year to where it is now provides international testing.

At the City of Kearney’s Wastewater Plant, Clint Smith provided a tour and discussed the changes happening with the wastewater plant in them beginning to build a new facility.

Torry Seiter gave a tour of Butler Ag, which was founded in Grand Fork and Fargo North Dakota in 1955. There are currently 18 locations in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. As leaders in agriculture and heavy equipment, their mission is to build long-term relationships, founded on trust, creating mutual growth and success.

Cody Warner of Iain Nicolson Audubon Center at Rowe Sanctuary, which is located in rural Buffalo County by the Platte River, provided information about crane season and gave us a tour of the bird watching blinds. Rowe Sanctuary focuses on conservation of the Platte River ecosystem and the birds that rely on it.

By Jodi Richards

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