Staff spotlight: Deborah Solie strives to save the rural way of life

Small Towns

Deborah Solie’s first job in high school was helping with the wheat harvest on an agronomy research farm in Oklahoma. The work was messy and hot, but it inspired her love for agriculture.

She went on to study agricultural communications and worked in higher education, promoting agriculture as a career. From there, she worked in fundraising, alumni relations, and more.

Deborah now joins the Center for Rural Affairs as a project associate, working alongside those focusing on farm and community.

“I believe the Center is doing vital work in rural America through its direct outreach and support to communities, farmers, and small business owners,” she said. “This position allows me to build on my past personal and professional experiences to make a difference in communities like my own.”

Anna Johnson, Farm and Community manager with the Center, says Deborah brings a diverse set of skills that will help support the Center’s efforts.

“Deborah joins us after working on disaster recovery efforts in Nehema County, as well as supporting establishment of a rural grocery store there,” said Anna. “We’re looking forward to her joining us, working on a local foods project in Kearney, Nebraska, and supporting our new local foods project in southwest Iowa.”

Deborah’s father farmed in Nemaha County, Nebraska, where he met her mother in her hometown of Brownville. After they married, he decided to pursue teaching and research in agricultural engineering, which led Deborah’s family to Stillwater, Oklahoma.

She grew up there, attending one-fourth scale tractor pulls and watching her father conduct experiments in the field. Every holiday they visited her mom’s family in Brownville or her dad’s family, which eventually relocated to the same area. They grew field corn and soybeans and raised cattle.

“Rural Nebraska became my second home, and eventually, after retirement, my mom and dad took over the family farm,” said Deborah. “I moved to Nebraska to be close to my parents, to be part of a rural community, and help others who love this life and want to preserve it for the future.”

One of Deborah’s projects is in Buffalo County, Nebraska, where she is working to improve local food access through the Kearney Area Farmers Market. She also strives to increase usage of SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks in that area.

“I love meeting with teachers, community leaders, and farmers to ensure local foods are accessible to the public and farmers are able to sell their products,” Deborah said. “Building relationships in communities and providing opportunities to learn about agriculture, local foods, and small business development, like rural grocery stores, is an important part of why I’m passionate about my position with the Center.”

Her enthusiasm for rural America can be seen in her work, as can her desire to help people.

“Rural America reflects my life, my family, my values, and my belief in the power of community,” said Deborah. “I want to build relationships in communities and with farmers to help them maintain the way of life they love—a way of life that I love too.”

Deborah’s home office is in Brownville, Nebraska, and she can be reached at 402.870.1133 or