Rural Rockstar: Dan Hromas, Veteran Beginning Farmer, Receives Sustainable Agriculture Award

Dan Hromas of York, Nebraska, is the recipient of the Center for Rural Affairs’ 2014 Bob Steffen Pioneer Award. It honors his integrity, leadership, and extraordinary efforts in sustainable agriculture.

This beginning farmer exemplifies service to his community of veterans and neighbors. He returned from duty after 20 years of service in the military, and decided he wanted to farm and work for himself. But he couldn’t afford land or cows, so he started with chickens.

Dan now owns Prairie Pride Poultry, a free-range flock of about 300 on 3 acres of land in York, Nebraska. He sells his eggs to restaurants, grocery stores, and direct to customers in southeast Nebraska. He’s used creative marketing techniques like free community omelet gatherings so folks could taste his eggs.

His belief in sustainable agriculture, animal husbandry, and a sense of community have guided him. When beginning his operation, Dan chose to buy everything (from the wood for his chicken houses, to the eggs that he hatched) locally. He believes there should be equal access to real, fresh and healthy foods for all, and makes this evident by his connections through affordable and local retail markets, farmers’ markets, schools and other institutions.

Dan is an extraordinary example of being motivated to do the legwork of getting started. He took the advice of others to locate financing, land, advertising materials, and new markets. He is also passionate about sharing his experience to help other veterans get into farming. Dan has served repeatedly as a spokesperson for us when he advises other new farmers on where to find the resources he used to start his operation.

In 2014 Dan applied for a USDA Value Added Producer Grant and received funding to improve his capacity to sell his eggs at several farmers markets. Dan’s award was one of 247 farm businesses selected nationwide.

Always humble, Dan gave credit to others. "I have received help from lots of people as I created this [egg] business,” he said. The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, and Nebraska Vocational Rehabilitation, a connection the Center for Rural Affairs helped make, were all particularly helpful.

“I have tried to help others get started, too,” added Dan. He also addressed military veterans in the crowd, thanking them for their service and providing encouragement.

The Bob Steffen Pioneer Award is given out each year to someone who has made an extraordinary contribution in innovation, stewardship, or community development. Bob Steffen was a pioneer in sustainable agriculture, organic farming, and biodynamics. He helped found the Nebraska Sustainable Ag Society and was a founding member of the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors. He made a mark in Nebraska and beyond.

Feature image: Dan, pictured far left, was with us last October when then-Governor Dave Heinemann proclaimed Nebraska Farm to School month. Inset image, Dan accepts his award at a Center for Rural Affairs banquet at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.