Rural People Recognized

On the eve of the MarketPlace: Opening Doors to Success conference held in Columbus, Nebraska on February 27, 2008, the Center for Rural Affairs honored several rural citizens for their efforts, integrity, and leadership. We’re proud to briefly introduce these outstanding folks to you.

A group of awardees is pictured, including those from the Center for Rural Affairs' REAP program. Pictured l to r, back row, Gary & Mary Cwach, Bev & Chuck Henkel, Merlin Fick, Lance Hedquist, and Greg Brokaw. Front row, Rina Orellana and Becky Wyatt. Photo courtesy of Rhea Landholm of Sheldon, Iowa.
7th Generation Award – Chuck and Bev Henkel
Chuck and Bev Henkel from rural Norfolk, Nebraska, received the Seventh Generation Award. Center for Rural Affairs supporters for over a decade, the Henkels have been pioneers in raising and direct marketing grass-fed cattle, sheep, and poultry livestock.

“We are truly honored to be considered let alone given this prestigious award. Chuck and I have been living on this land since 1976. It was farmed by stewards of the land prior to us. We have changed some of the practices, but feel a connection to the previous owners and certainly feel connected to the future and leaving the land as healthy as or healthier than when we came on it,” said Bev Henkel.

The Henkels were instrumental in persuading USDA to develop a label of integrity for grass-fed beef – instead of one that was easily manipulated. “To have Bill Sessions from the USDA walk our pasture and see firsthand a grass based system encouraged me to tell our story,” reflected Bev.

Bob Steffen Pioneer Award – Gary and Mary Cwach
Gary and Mary Cwach are recipients of the Bob Steffen Pioneer Award. They have farmed near Yankton, South Dakota, for 30 years. Gary grew up on this farm and has purchased most of it from his father, who still helps out.

“We are deeply honored and it’s a very gratifying experience to be recognized by the Center for Rural Affairs. We’d like to express our appreciation to the Center and we will continue to strive to keep up our pioneer spirit and do our part to revive our rural economies,” commented Gary Cwach.

Alternative approaches are common on the Cwach farm. Gary raises and sells ‘natural’ cattle to several meat companies and to local customers. A local pioneer for alternative crop nutrient management, he is now converting his farm to organic production. He and his oldest son are planning to add fruit and berry crops to provide more income streams to allow the sixth generation to join the farm.

Bob Steffen was a pioneer in sustainable agriculture and organic farming. He also helped launch the Center for Rural Affairs.

Citizenship Award – Greg Brokaw
Greg Brokaw received the Citizenship Award. Greg and his wife Mary Kay live near Ashley, North Dakota, where they raise and train horses.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized by a great organization such as the Center for Rural Affairs. It was an inspiration being in the company of so many good people that are working every day for Rural America,” commented Greg Brokaw.

A real catalyst in agriculture, Greg has served in many local and state leadership roles in farm and rural organizations. He has long advocated for progressive farm bill and livestock market reforms and has become renowned throughout North Dakota for his advocacy of sustainable wind energy development.

Entrepreneur Award – Jose Lopez
Jose Lopez received the Entrepreneur Award. “There are not enough words to describe how much I appreciate receiving this award. I have been working my whole life and never got any recognition. Thanks for the great work you’re doing and for helping small entrepreneurs,” said Jose Lopez.

Looking for better working opportunities, Jose came to Nebraska from California 11 years ago. In 2003 he opened Lopez Auto Sales, a used car dealership located on Highway 30 in North Bend, Nebraska. When he saw the opportunity to buy a building and relocate his business to the Schuyler, Nebraska area, Jose contacted the REAP Hispanic Business Center. He received help with his business plan and packaging the loan, and was able to purchase the building.

Jose’s businesses are growing, and he has plans to expand. He resides in Schuyler with his wife and three children.

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