Nebraska Regional Food Systems Initiative Newsletter

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Welcome Food &
Agriculture Friends.

The dog days of summer are certainly upon us - the heat index is sitting at a steamy 107 degrees as I write this - and yet our gardens and fields are overflowing with the season’s bounty of squash, peppers and tomatoes. One of the aspects of working in the food system and production fields that I love the most is peak season when every meal consists of juicy tomatoes fresh from the vine. They never get old! And while we continue to survive the heat, we know the time for earthy fall vegetables, all things apples, and crisp weather are just around the corner.

And yet amidst the season’s abundance, the world is facing increasing food insecurity due to the Covid-19 pandemic, weather-related disasters, and international conflicts. The western half of the United States is facing a catastrophic drought, including many parts of Nebraska. We are reminded amidst this drought and pandemic that the actions we take impact far more than just our immediate surroundings, and furthermore why we do the work we do here in our communities across the state of Nebraska. Our actions have great impacts— and we must make choices wisely and consider others before ourselves

Be well,
Katie & the Nebraska Regional Food Systems Team



Local Food Leader is an innovative program that builds core knowledge about local food system sectors, civic engagement, relevant policy, equity, and evaluation. Participants will also grow their skills for supporting food systems through facilitation, building trust, and leadership. To learn more about the Local Food Leader program or to sign up for a training, please contact Vanessa Wielenga at


November 9-10, 2021
The Nebraska Specialty Crop Conference & Trade Show provides a platform for producers to gain new knowledge and practices, grow their businesses, and expand their markets through educational presentations and connecting with industry professionals and other producers.
Learn More


Virtual Learning Series will take place now through October, covering Pest Problems & Solutions and Vegetable Gardening Beyond Basics. All sessions start at 12:10 pm CT. Join us by registering for one or all of the sessions at

  • Aug 23 | The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Pest Control - Part II with Kyle Broderick
  • Sept 13 | Season Extension with Katie King and John Porter
  • Sept 27 | Thinking Ahead: Uncommon Vegetables + Culturally Significant Crops with Kathleen Cue
  • Oct 11| Backyard Garden to Market Garden with Katie King

Listen Up!


A live weekly interview and discussion focused on vegetable production challenges and opportunities in the midwest and Great Lakes regions brought to you by the Great Lakes Vegetable Producers Network. We grow more together.

Broadcasting live via Zoom at 12:30 ET/11:30 CT every Wednesday from the first week of March to the first week of September.

Click here to join live, or listen to past episodes at

Nation Nourishment Program

The Nation Nourishment Program is a tribal food sustainability program designed to create local tribal food producers on the Umonhon Nation to grow food for their families, communities and commercial venues to create economic development. This program is a partnership between Nebraska Indian Community College, the Center for Rural Affairs, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Tribal Extension Program. The Umonhon Nation community members will become food producers for their families and communities. Participants in this program will be reconnecting with their traditional foods and the traditional methods of growing it. They will create commercial venues with their produce through community farmers markets, and they will be keeping community dollars in their communities.

For more information, contact Ted Hibbeler at 402-922-1562 or

Seasonal Recipe

Fresh Panzanella Salad

If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of the beautifully juicy heirloom tomatoes at the farmers markets this time of year. Try this take on a panzanella salad, or add your own variations. Have fun with it! And just a tip- a grilled Nebraska flank steak tastes delicious right over the top of this salad! - Katie

  • 2 large slicer tomatoes, cut into 1-2” pieces
  • 1 cucumber, cut into chunks
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • ½ red onion (more or less depending on personal preference)
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 1 small-medium loaf of sourdough, ciabatta or french bread, cut into 1 ¼” pieces, toasted
  • ⅛ C Red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Add chopped produce and bread to a bowl and mix to combine. Combine red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the rest of the ingredients. Toss & enjoy immediately.

Tell Me Something Good!


By Tara Dunker

If you would’ve told me on day one of my Extension career that I’d become an advocate for local food, I probably would’ve thought you were nuts.

Not because I opposed supporting local food growers and makers, but because I felt completely out of my depth whenever the subject came up.

Luckily, shortly into my time here in Gage County I stumbled my way onto a University of Nebraska-Lincoln team doing work to create more resilient food systems across our great state.

Cue COVID-19, and suddenly the scenarios we’d been discussing as hypothetical became a fast reality—large processors and distributors unable to meet demand while keeping employees safe, empty store shelves and rising prices for staple items, and neighbors struggling to put food on the table.

My hope is that everyone reading this feels certain about how they’ll feed themselves and their families again, and with that certainty you’re ready to get back to the fun of food—especially local food.

While I still consider myself a novice when it comes to supporting local food growers and makers, I have learned a thing or two over this past year I’d like to share with you.

Veggies taste even better when you know your grower. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I promise it’s true.

By helping out at the Beatrice Farmers Market this season and signing up for a weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, I can tell you my entire family has enjoyed a feeling of community and connection that we wouldn’t get if we bought all our produce from a big box store.

While big box stores have their place in a resilient food system, I can’t text the big box store a picture of my roasted rainbow beets or thank them in-person for the tasty locally roasted coffee beans. And I guarantee the big box store won’t be sending me fun farm update emails with storage tips and recipes anytime soon.

It’s these types of connections that make food fun in entirely new ways, and we all need an extra dose of fun and connection these days.

At the very least, I hope you consider shopping your local farmers markets or local farmer websites for holiday and special occasion gifts for loved ones—honey, coffee, snack mixes, baked goods, and more. I’ve found it almost always makes for the perfect, unexpected surprise.

If you’re ready to take an even deeper dive into the local food scene, be sure to work your local farmers market into your weekly shopping schedule. You’re guaranteed to find seasonally fresh produce of all kinds, baked goods you didn’t even know you wanted, and a lot of friendly faces.

And if you’ve made it this far, I truly hope you look into signing up for a weekly CSA box. This is a subscription that some local farmers offer where you pay a fee up front to support their purchasing of seed and other necessities.

Once they begin harvesting, you receive a weekly box of assorted produce (via pick up or delivery) plus the fun of being part of their community of supporters. So, get out there and support local—you won’t be disappointed.


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