Supporting Rural Nebraska

Supporting Rural Nebraska

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Michael J. Boehm
Michael J. Boehm

The past several months have brought many challenges to the people of our great state; from severe weather and widespread historic flooding, to an irrigation canal tunnel collapse denying critical irrigation water to the panhandle’s fields, to excessive moisture during harvest. As I reflect over what Nebraska has endured this year, I’m certain that 2019 will be viewed as a defining year in the history of our state. The grit of countless Nebraskans was tested over and over and their resilience—their ability to bounce back—was conspicuous.

At IANR, we exist to serve and partner with the entrepreneurial and innovative producers and processors of Nebraska as they sustainably grow and produce the food, fuel, feed, and fiber needed for a growing world in a manner that ensures the resilience of our water, soil, and air the economic prosperity and vitality of our people, families, and communities.

The dedicated professionals within Nebraska Extension deserve a great deal of praise for their efforts this year. They were right there on the front lines helping Nebraskans, oftentimes their own neighbors, protect and salvage their homes, ag operations and communities. I’ve always known Nebraska Extension was a leader in many capacities, but their efforts to help our state this year have been beyond exemplary and on full display. And their desire to increase their relevance—their connectedness—to all Nebraskans continues.

Over the course of the past 18 months, Extension has engaged in a collaborative effort designed to take something that is already best in class around the country and elevate it to become even more connected with the people of Nebraska. Nebraska Extension is currently organized into five districts, and after thoughtful and strategic reorganization, these five districts will become 11 engagement zones as we roll into 2020. This reorganization will help foster stronger relationships within each engagement zone and will allow Extension—indeed the University—to better engage Nebraskans to co-create our futures.

In an effort to further explore how the university can better support the state’s rural communities, in July IANR launched a rural community prosperity working group. The working group conducted a thorough review of successful approaches to rural community prosperity as reflected in best practices in Nebraska and elsewhere. The group also hosted listening sessions to offer Nebraskans opportunities to share their best ideas on how NU can help rural communities position themselves for economic success. Moving forward, we will use their findings to shape how the University can take action to boost our rural areas to enhance partnerships, increase economic prosperity and enhance the vitality or our communities.

This issue of Growing outlines the many ways that IANR is actively addressing challenges that are at the forefront of minds in today’s society, including disaster recovery, global trade, health and food safety, and workforce development. The Institute is uniquely aligned to work in such varied spaces given the breadth of our expertise.

To make advancements in these areas requires the support and partnership of forward-thinking Nebraskans. A prime example of how we’re partnering to benefit the state is the Northeast Nebraska Agriculture and Natural Resources Education Compact. The College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources has partnered with six other institutions in the state to address workforce and talent development needs of northeast Nebraska through teacher preparation, seamless education pathways and more. Read more about the educational compact.

As evidenced by the compact, IANR is taking unique approaches to find solutions to issues facing Nebraskans. If you have ideas on how IANR can help support our state, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with me. Send an email to

And as we enter the holiday season, from all of us at IANR to each of you, we wish you a safe and joyous holiday season and a very happy new year!

Michael J. Boehm, Ph.D.
Vice President, Agriculture and Natural Resources
University of Nebraska

IANR Harlan Vice Chancellor,
University of Nebraska–Lincoln