Dec 2014

Life Outside the City Limits


Winter Livestock Care
By Steve Tonn, Nebraska Extension Livestock Educator

Image of cows in winter.
To stay healthy, livestock need a dry place to escape cold rains, wet snow, and wind.

Rain, sleet, snow, ice, freezing temperatures - winter can be a real struggle for four legged animals.   Most livestock are well adapted to cold weather, but sick, elderly, or young animals and those under unusual stress are more susceptible.

Most livestock can handle wind chills about 20°F without much stress.  But, to stay healthy, they need a dry place to escape cold rains, wet snow, and wind.

While natural protection and windbreaks may be adequate, three sided sheds opening away from prevailing winds are best.  Allow enough room for livestock to lie down safely without being trampled or smothered.  The larger the animal the more room they will need.  Good, clean, dry bedding insulates livestock from the cold ground, which draws away body heat.

High Quality Food
Feeding good quality hay or alfalfa to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas) and horses is effective for body heat production during cold weather.  Body heat is generated when these animals are digesting these feedstuffs.  During cold weather, animals will need to eat more to maintain their body condition.

One of the most important considerations for winter feeding is adequate water.  Water is essential for digestion, which produces heat in fiber breakdown.  Do not assume that livestock can meet their water needs by eating snow - to get enough water eating snow would take most of their feeding time.  Ingesting large quantities of snow also reduces the core body temperature.

Image of horse in winter.
Feeding good quality hay or alfalfa to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas) and horses is effective for body heat production during cold weather.

Water above 40°F is ideal to ensure good consumption.  Automatic water units are best; if that is not possible, be sure to provide water several times a day.  In freezing temperatures, you will need to break ice or provide fresh water periodically if you don't have a tank heater.

Minimize Mud
All too often, where there are animals in the winter, there is mud.  Feeding in muddy locations increases the amount of feed wastage.  Mud makes foot and hoof diseases more likely.  Livestock walking on frozen muddy ground are more susceptible to foot and leg injuries.  With good management and planning, the negative environmental and animal health aspects of mud can be minimized.

The best winter practice is to make sure that your livestock is in good condition before cold weather hits.  Addressing the nutritional, environmental and health needs of livestock in the winter will help to ensure optimal animal welfare and performance.

For more information checkout the following resources.



Winter brings with it the holiday season, with many opportunities for celebrations.  Make sure food safety issues don't put a damper on your gatherings.  Winter is also a great time to prepare for next year's growing season, or work on indoor projects.  One fun indoor project for gardeners is learning how to grow your own mushrooms.  And if you're considering buying your first acreage tractor next year, but don't have any experience with small tractors, take a few moments to learn about how to operate a tractor from Everything Attachments.

Holiday Food Safety - Family dinners and other holiday gatherings where food is served are all part of the holiday season. But gaiety can turn to misery if food makes you or someone else ill. Learn practical food safety tips on preparing holiday feasts safely with this video.

Growing Your Own Mushrooms - Nebraska Extension Plant Diagnostician Amy Timmerman shows us how you can grow your own edible mushrooms with home kits.

How to Operate a Tractor - Tractors are powerful machines that can be intimidating to novice users, Ted Corriher is owner of Everything Attachments and has been a tractor operator most of his life.  He demonstrates the basics on how to get started driving a tractor. Video by

Decorating Naturally
By Bob Henrickson, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum

Image of natural holiday decorations. When the holiday season arrives I look forward to decorating our home and deck with wreaths, arrangements, evergreen boughs and tree decorations gathered from nature's harvest. For me, natural crafts make holiday decorating special, from gathering the berries and branches to the personal touches I add to an arrangement. There is an impressive variety of natural materials available to add a special glow to the holidays. You can gather them in the wild, get permission from a property owner or plant them in your own garden. Plan ahead and make your holiday designs unique using these beautiful plants that can be gathered outdoors.

Evergreen Boughs.  I collect a variety of evergreen branches for holiday decorating, taking advantage of the different textures and various shades of green. Evergreen branches, gathered and bunched together, are fastened with wire to form a fan shape. These fans can be wired on a railing, fence or post, using the next fan to overlap and hide the wire and bare stems. One fan may contain a variety of evergreens, but I usually place the largest needled pines at the base and the finer textures on top. A good fan may have scotch or Austrian pine at the base, with eastern redcedar or juniper branches, blue spruce, concolor fir, Canada hemlock, Douglasfir or Japanese yew. For holiday decorating, evergreen boughs can be thought of as the "filler" in the arrangement.  Pine cones can be added later for highlights.

Jolly Holly. The best evergreen holly to grow in Nebraska for holiday decorating is the meserve holly hybrid, blue princess. This holly, with its lustrous, dark green foliage and abundant dark red fruit, grows well here on the Plains. For fruit set, you need to plant a "Blue Prince" holly for every three or four "Blue Princess." For indoor container arrangements, I push holly stems into wet floral foam along with pine, spruce, dogwood stems or other plants that are being used fresh. Adding water to the foam blocks every day will help foliage last for several weeks.

Bark Brilliance.  Red-stemmed and yellow-stemmed dogwoods provide a nice vertical accent in evergreen arrangements or pine boughs. Try using the bright golden stems of willows or the rich purple-black stems of pussy willow. The peeling bark of river birch or white paper birch makes great wallpaper for ornaments, a stylish birdhouse or for the nativity scene.

A Very Berry Christmas.  Cut branches of fruiting shrubs, trees and vines make great holiday decorations. Dependable choices for wreaths, swags, mantel decorations or outdoor containers include:

  • Crabapples are excellent for containers, slipped into boughs or frozen into ice luminaries.
  • Viburnums have persistent berries.
  • Coralberry has purplish-red fruits clustered on thin arching stems. It lasts a long time in arrangements and is a favorite for wreaths and swags.
  • Rugosa and redleaf roses have long-lasting rose hips.
  • Osage-orange can be cut in half-inch slices, dried and left plain or painted, then fastened with a hanger for the Christmas tree.
  • Black walnut can be glued to garlands or gathered in baskets.
  • Bittersweet looks great combined with evergreens; clusters should be harvested before the fruit opens.
  • Bayberry has fragrant, semi-evergreen foliage and waxy gray fruit clusters that are a natural for almost any arrangement.
  • Acorns, hawthorne, snowberry, sweetgum, hazelnuts, common alder, baldcypress cones, sumac heads, quince fruit, eastern wahoo, winterberry holly and cotoneaster can all add a special touch to any arrangement or decorative bowl.
  • Make your own wreath backing using the long, durable vines of wild grape, Virginia creeper or sweet autumn clematis.

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is a nonprofit that works toward sustainable home and community landscapes through initiatives in education, public gardens and the environment. Plant and landscape resources at


Water and Waste Management When Guests Arrive
By Sharon Skipton, Nebraska Extension Water Quality Educator

Image of household shower.
Ask quests to take quick showers.

When you have your own drinking water well and your own septic system, managing water and waste is important. If you have holiday guests who are not familiar with private drinking water and wastewater systems, spend some time educating them so they will understand the importance of conserving water, spreading out water use, and managing solid waste properly.

Conserving water reduces strain on your well and water distribution system. In addition, it reduces the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated. Distributing water flow to the septic tank over an extended period of time will extend the life of a system. Wastewater should remain in the septic tank long enough, at least 24 hours, for heavy solids to settle out, forming sludge, and light solids to float to the top, forming scum. Except for the period immediately after pumping, however, a septic tank contains wastewater to its full capacity at all times.

As a gallon of wastewater flows into the tank from the house, a gallon of effluent flows out of the tank into the drainfield. If wastewater moves in and out of the tank too rapidly, due to constant flow for extended periods, or heavy water flow at any time, solids remain suspended in the wastewater. This means they may move with the effluent out of the tank and into the drainfield. Solids can clog a drainfield, decreasing its ability to treat wastewater. This can lead to costly repairs or even replacement. In addition, more solids in wastewater will result in more sludge and scum development. This will require more frequent septic tank pumping.

Conserving Water
Take some time to check for leaks prior to guests arriving. A leaky faucet can waste 10 to 20 gallons or more per day. Repairing a faucet may be as simple as changing an inexpensive washer or O-ring. Leaky toilets can waste even more water. To find out if your toilet leaks, put a little food coloring in the tank as long as it will not stain your toilet. If, after 15 minutes without flushing, color appears in the bowl, you have a leak that should be repaired. Often, the leak can be repaired by replacing the flapper that seals water in the tank and allows water to flow into the toilet bowl when you flush.

Ask guests to take quick showers. A quick shower usually draws less water than a bath. If you do not have a low-flow shower head, consider installing one. This reduces the flow rate while maintaining the velocity of the spray. Guests can also turn off the faucet while brushing teeth or shaving.

Spreading Out Water Use
The most important step you can take is to wash one or two loads of laundry a day, rather than three or more loads in one day. In addition, try to spread out showers by having some people shower in the morning while others shower in the evening.

Image of bathroom wastebasket.
Ask guests not to throw facial tissues into the toilet.

Minimize and Manage Solids Going to the Septic System
Ask guests to not flush cigarettes, diapers, feminine hygiene products, paper toweling, facial tissue, or "wipes." Make it easy for guests to dispose of these items with other solid waste. Since toilet paper will be flushed, provide toilet paper that breaks down rapidly. Test by placing a sample in a jar of water, covering the jar opening, and shaking vigorously. The toilet paper should fall apart rapidly when the jar is shaken.

Remind guests to avoid overuse of the garbage disposal. It grinds up food products that settle out in the tank, adding considerably to the sludge buildup and the amount of organic matter that needs treatment. Potato peels and other organic waste should be composted or dispose of with solid waste.

Advise guests to not put grease or oil down the drain. Grease and oils from cooking increase the scum layer in the septic tank.

In summary, conserving water, spreading out water use, and managing solid waste properly will protect your drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, keeping you and your guests happy.


Travel Safety in Winter Weather Conditions
By Ashley Mueller, Nebraska Extension Disaster Educator Coordinator

Image of poor winter weather driving conditions.
Photo, with permission, courtesy of KETV Channel 7

For many Nebraskans, this time of year is filled with holiday socials and family gatherings. These festive events often require travel-sometimes locally and sometimes farther away-and occasionally winter weather conditions can be an unwelcomed guest. Before you hit the road, it's important to make travel safety preparations.

What should I do before I get in the car? Understand the current and possible weather conditions. Watch the local or area news for a weather report. Check radar from NOAA or other news sources for developing conditions.

Download Nebraska Department of Roads' 511 app which is available for Apple and Android devices. The free app has road reports, traffic reports, highway cameras, weather forecasts, and radar. If you are traveling outside Nebraska, Safe Travel USA is a good resource for weather-related travel information.

Make a vehicle emergency kit. Include items like tools and supplies, food, first-aid kit, clothing and blankets, and items for family members with special needs, like formula or medications. Reading material for adults and toys or games for children may be included to pass the time. A car charger for a cell phone should also be included. A large, plastic container is a practical option for supply storage. Be sure the container has a lid so items remain contained and stored easily.

Image of weather warning sign.
Graphic courtesy of NDOR

Make sure your vehicle oil and fluids are full and your gas tank is at least half-full throughout the winter months.

What should I do while traveling? If conditions are unfavorable, call 511 for up-to-date traveler information. Be safe; do not use the 511 app while driving.

NDOR has a list of reminders for driving in winter weather. Seat belts should always be worn, and if children are in the car, they should be in child safety seats. Do not use cruise control in wet or snowy conditions. Turn on your headlights and windshield wipers for additional visibility. Be aware of icy spots, which often occur on bridges or in sheltered areas. If there's ice and snow, take it slow.

What happens if I get stuck or stranded? For your safety, NDOR advises to stay with your car-you won't get lost, and you'll have shelter. If you must stop road-side, turn on emergency flashers. Consider the additional actions:

  • Call local officials to inform them of your situation.
  • Run the car engine 15 minutes every hour. Check the exhaust pipe to be sure it isn't plugged with snow.
  • Keep your feet off the floor when possible.
  • Never go to sleep with the engine running; take turns sleeping. One person in the vehicle should remain awake.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning by opening a window enough for ventilation.

Use your best judgment while traveling this winter. It can certainly be disappointing to miss a get-together, but your safety and the safety of your passengers is much more important. Safe travels this holiday season!

Sources and to learn more about winter weather preparedness:
Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR), Winter Highway Safety Information
Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, Winter Readiness for Your Automobile


Shrubs with Winter Fruits
By Bob Henrickson and Karma Larsen, Nebraska Forest Service

Image of coralberry.
Coralberry produces brightly colored clusters of pink to red berries on long cascading branches, which persist all winter.

For many gardeners the winter months are a time to recover from the busy growing season, and also a time to reflect on the year's successes and failures. Which plants were stars and which ones fizzled in the summer heat?

It's easiest to think about plants for a particular season when you're in the middle of that season, so if you've started making your list (not the "naughty or nice" list but the "gotta get" list), consider adding some plants you might overlook next spring when early-blooming plants take center stage.

For the most part, the garden is dormant now, safe under the blanket of winter snow and cold. But for some particular shrubs, now is the time to shine. The shrubs below can brighten the dull winter landscape with abundant berries, and they are particularly beautiful against a backdrop of soft, white snow:

Aronia or black chokeberry is an easy-to-grow shrub with white flowers in spring, glossy green leaves in summer and clusters of black berries that last all winter-if songbirds don't find them first.

Winterberry holly foliage drops in fall to reveal bright red berries that last all winter. It requires male and female plants for fruit set and performs best with consistently moist soils.

Meserve hybrid holly is a handsome shrub with lustrous dark green leaves that persist through winter. It performs best in rich, organic soil with consistent moisture and should not be planted in sites exposed to harsh winter winds and bright winter sun.

American cranberrybush viburnum is an excellent large shrub with lustrous, maple-like leaves that turn yellow-red in fall and has loose clusters of bright red berries that last all winter. Plant it in a rich, organic soil and keep it consistently moist for best growth. It makes a good screen or informal hedge.

Linden viburnum has flat-topped white flowers in spring that cover the plant in a veil of white. After the handsome foliage drops in fall, bright cherry red clusters of oval berries are revealed. In winter, the fruits look like withered red raisins. It prefers rich, organic soil and grows 8-10 feet high.

Coralberry is a dense, low-growing shrub with long cascading branches. It produces brightly colored clusters of pink to red berries in fall that persist all winter. Lined along the thin arching branches, the berries are beautiful against a backdrop of snow. It's a tough groundcover for full sun to part shade and well-adapted to a variety of soils. It grows to 3 feet high and 8 feet wide.

Snowberry is a native shrub with snowy white fruit clusters from October into early winter. It has a rounded habit, with fine, twiggy shoots and blue-green leaves that remain on the plant well into fall. This very adaptable plant prospers in heavy clay soil and will grow best in part shade. It works well as a filler or in mass plantings and should be pruned in late winter to bring it back to its summer shape. It grows 3 to 6 feet high and wide.

Rugosa rose is a hardy, durable shrub rose with glossy leaves and abundant rose-to-white flowers late spring through summer. Large orange to red rose hips are beautiful in winter on this 3 to 4 foot shrub. A great drought-tolerant choice for hot, windy sites in full sun.

Sumac. Both the native staghorn and smooth sumac tend to form wide-spreading colonies, but they can be kept in check with a mowed boundary. Crimson red berries in pyramidal clusters top the stems in fall and persist through winter, offering a late winter food source for birds after the berries have gone through several freeze-thaw cycles to make them palatable. Sumacs are very hardy and can tolerate dry, sterile soils.

See these shrubs at

The Nebraska Forest Service strives to enrich lives by protecting, restoring and utilizing Nebraska's tree and forest resources.


December Landscape Tips
By John Fech, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Image of 3-part pruning cut techniquePruning Trees & Shrubs
Pruning deciduous trees and shrubs is best done once plants are dormant. Use sharp, clean pruners. Make well-placed cuts being sure to leave the branch collar and branch bark ridge on trees. Avoid leaving branch stubs and do not make pruning cuts flush with tree trunks or large branches. Do not treat pruning wounds with a wound dressing or pruning paint. When pruning shrubs, use a combination of heading back cuts and thinning cuts that remove entire stems near the ground or back to another stem. Most multi-stemmed shrubs can also be pruned by cutting the entire plant near the ground. This severe pruning is typically done with overgrown shrubs.

Mulching Strawberry Plants
Apply a layer of loose, organic mulch on strawberry plantings, to a depth of four inches, in late November or early December after the soil has frozen to a depth of 1/2 inch, or the temperature has dropped to the 20s for three consecutive days.

Do not apply the mulch too early in the fall as it can delay hardening off, making plants more susceptible to winter injury, and increasing crown rot. Suitable mulches include wood chips, pine straw, newspapers, coarse sawdust, straw, clean hay or any loose mulch that will not compact heavily.


Winter Protection for Sensitive Plants
By Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Horticulture Educator

Winter has already made an appearance and we know there's more snow and ice to come. Plants suffer in winter too.  Common problems include winter desiccation, physical damage from a heavy ice and snow load, and salt damage.

Avoid Winter Desiccation
Winter desiccation is a common type of winter injury that occurs when the amount of water lost by the foliage exceeds the amount picked up by the roots. The key to preventing winter desiccation is to keep plants well watered throughout fall and into winter. Periodic watering at times when the ground is not frozen can be very beneficial, especially during a dry winter with little snow cover.

Apply a 3-6 foot diameter ring of mulch around the base of sensitive trees and shrubs, with 3-4 inches of an organic material like coarse wood chips to help conserve soil moisture.

Prevent Physical Damage
Wet snow and ice often results in a heavy load for tree and shrub branches, and can lead to limb breakage. The heavy weight can also cause less obvious internal splits or cracks in trunks and limbs, which pose a risk long after the storm.

Arborvitae and pyramidal yew are two common shrubs benefiting from additional protection.  One method that protects branches from breaking under heavy snow load is tying up each individual plant with heavy 3-strand jute twine. Start by tying the jute twine around the trunk at the base of the branches or to the base of one of the lower branches. Next, wrap the twine spirally up the plant, pulling the branches inward into a tight pyramidal shape, but don't pull the twine so tightly that you break any branches. The tighter conical shape created and extra support provided by the jute twine, helps plants shed snow more easily and prevents branch damage. Remove the twine in spring after danger of snow has passed. As the weather warms, branches will move back to their normal position.

When a heavy snow or ice load does occur, whether the plant has been tied up or not, let the ice melt naturally from tree limbs. If it is safe to do so, gently remove snow from limbs with a broom or rake. Hold onto the limb from below and gently brush off loose snow. Do not hit a branch to knock off snow or ice.  Watch for falling limbs and ice from above. Do not try to dig snow away from shrubs as this leads to damaged limbs.

Protect Plants from Ice Melt Products
Snowblowers and shovels can't always remove compacted snow or ice on hard surfaces, so using a chemical deicer can be helpful.  Common deicing compounds include those listed below.  They may be used alone, or blended together to improve performance or reduce damage to concrete or landscapes.

Products are listed in order of potential plant damage, with the most damaging first.

  • Sodium chloride is the least expensive product and commonly used on roadways.  It has a high burn potential for landscape plants.
  • Urea can harm landscape plants and cause runoff pollution in ponds and waterways.
  • Potassium chloride, also known as muriate of potash, is less damaging than sodium chloride.
  • Calcium chloride is the most effective deicing product at low temperatures, down to -25°F. Will not damage vegetation if used as directed.
  • Magnesium chloride is sprayed on roadways before a snowstorm to prevent ice bonds from forming, making ice and snow removal easier. It causes very little damage to concrete or metal. It's also  gentle on landscape plants and pet safe if used as directed.  It also doesn't track into the house.
  • Acetates can be found in three forms- calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), sodium acetate and potassium acetate.  CMA is a salt-free product and is the safest product for use around pets and landscape plants.  CMA is made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid (the principal component of vinegar). Studies have shown the material has little impact on plants. It also has a ver low level of damage to concrete or metal.

To protect your landscape and pets, look for products like:

  • SafeStep Sure Paws, contains magnesium chloride/potassium sulfate
  • Premium CMA Ice Melt, contains calcium magnesium acetate.  

Also keep on hand products that improve your footing on slick surfaces, like sand, sawdust, or cat litter.  They can be used instead of traditional deicing products, or blended with them to improve traction and limit deicer use.

Protecting Plants
Although salt is applied throughout the winter, most salt damage occurs in late winter and early spring when plants are beginning active growth and excess salts are pulled into the plant.  So it is particularly important to protect plants during this time, and limit salt use in late winter.

Using the smallest amount of product needed to manage ice will also minimize landscape damage.  Avoid piling snow containing salt around sensitive plants, such as redbud, hackberry, hawthorn, crabapple, pin and red oak, littleleaf linden, barberry, boxwood, dogwood, spirea, Viburnum, Balsam Fir, White Spruce, White Pine, Scotch Pine, Yew, Arborvitae and Hemlock.

Note: Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended.  These products are listed as examples only.  No endorsement by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is implied.


 Announcing 2015 Nebraska Master Naturalist Training Opportunities!

Join the Nebraska Master Naturalist revolution and become part of the legacy!  Nebraska Master Naturalist is excited to announce its upcoming 2015 training schedule.

The Nebraska Master Naturalist Program is an adult education program, focused on providing volunteers with hands-on experiences in Nebraska's natural resources.  The Master Naturalist program offers the opportunity to get up close and personal with Nebraska's natural legacy.  Participants will undergo sixty hours of in-depth training, led by experts in their fields.  Learn about Nebraska's Flora and Fauna, native ecosystems, natural resource interpretation, citizen science, and so much more!

Explore Nebraska alongside scientists, faculty and natural resource professionals.

Contribute your time and expertise through exciting & rewarding volunteer opportunities in habitat conservation, environmental education, citizen science, and more.

Most importantly, connect with Nebraskans who share your passion for nature.

Become a Certified Master Naturalist and join a dedicated network of conservation volunteers, discover exciting experiences, connect with Nebraska conservation organizations, and share your passion for the great outdoors.  "Terrific program - NMN rocks!" wrote Tad Leeper, Nebraska Master Naturalist.

Master Naturalists have contributed more than 22,000 of hours of service valued at more than $490,000 in areas such as Interpretation and Outreach, Resource Conservation and Management, Outdoor Skills and Recreation, and Citizen Science Research.

Apply today at or call Matt Jones, Trainings assistant 402-937-8601, for more details.  Individual registration is $150.

2015 Training dates and locations:

  • February 5-7th Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary (Kearney-Grand Island-Hastings Area)
  • April 16th-18th Wildcat Hills Nature Center (Scottsbluff/Gering Area)
  • May 7th-9th Cedar Point Biological Station (Lake McConaughy-Ogallala-North Platte Area)
  • June 7th-10th Nature Conservancy's Niobrara Valley Preserve (Valentine-Ainsworth-Basset)
  • October: Lincoln area facility TBA
  • November: Omaha area facility TBA

What does the Training look like?
To complete the program, a total of 60 hours of in-depth instruction is required. The initial, basic training will consist of 24 hours of hands-on learning, both in the classroom and in the field. Each session will be led by subject-matter experts, who will introduce you to Nebraska's natural legacy at a variety of locations within the state where the remaining 36 hours of "Naturalist in Training" instruction will occur. These Key Areas of Expertise include...

  • Outdoor Skills and Recreation;
  • Resource Management;
  • Interpretation and Outreach;
  • Citizen Science; or
  • a blend of these.

After certifying as a Nebraska Master Naturalist, further elective training in any of the Key Areas of Expertise will be offered for specialized study and advanced certification within the program curriculum.

Upon completion of the training, participants are asked to complete 20 hours annually of volunteer service and 8 hours of continuing education in the natural resources to attain and maintain certification. Certified volunteers will be able to network with other Master Naturalists, find out about new and exciting volunteer opportunities.

For more information, contact:
Matt JonesNebraska Master Naturalist Training Assistant
Buffalo County Extension Office
1400 E 34 Street
Kearney, NE 68847


Free On-site Invasive Plant Survey
By Brent Meyer, Lancaster County Weed Superintendent

Image of leaf spurge.
Leafy spurge, a deep rooted perennial invader can cost 20 dollars or more, per acre, to treat and may have to be done annually until eradicated.

Moving from a small lot in the city to an acreage in the country can be very rewarding, but there are some challenges you may not have considered.  One of these challenges is managing invasive plants. Many times, weed management isn't a top consideration when choosing an acreage.

The rich varieties of habitats found throughout Nebraska are treasured by many residents and visitors alike. These native plant communities are threatened by invasive species and if left unchecked could negatively transform an entire ecosystem and everything that depends on it.  The vast majority of plants in Nebraska are beneficial, but a select few known as noxious weeds can become serious invaders and cause havoc on your acreage. For example: Leafy spurge, a deep rooted perennial invader can cost 20 dollars or more, per acre, to treat and may have to be done annually until eradicated.  This can take many years in most cases. This is something you would want to know before you purchase, to help manage your future cost of operating the acreage.

Lancaster County Weed Authority staff is available to do a free assessment of your plant community to help identify any invasives on your property.  The staff is willing to do an assessment prior to the purchase, if possible, or, we can help after you've already purchased the property. We want to help you develop a management plan to keep your property from being taken over by invaders. The noxious weed history on each property is also available in our data base and can be checked by contacting our office.  This information reflects only the infestations we have in our records. Not every location has been mapped, so an on-site assessment is always recommended.

Nebraska's Noxious Weed Control Act requires each landowner is responsible to control noxious weeds on their property.  There are 12 noxious weeds that are required by State law to be controlled. Lancaster County recently added Cutleaf and common teasel as noxious and these are also required to be controlled by residents on their property. More invasives are arriving all the time and need to be managed to keep from spreading. Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) is the most cost effective way to keep invasives in check. Future generations are counting on us to protect and preserve our natural resources.

Contact the Weed Control office to schedule your free invasive plant assessment. Email: or phone 402-441-7817.

Visit the Lancaster County Weed Control Authority website for more information on invasives.


2015 Growing Farmers Workshop Series
Join the Growing Farmers Winter Workshop Series and learn all about sustainable farming.


Image od CROPS students.
Justin Jones, past CROPs staff, leads a workshop on cover crops. 

Register Here!

The Savilles, 2014 Growing Farmers participants, shared that "Community Crops has allowed us to slowly become immersed in the farming world without the large initial expense required when starting a new business. Crops has also been a great resource for organic growing information and networking opportunities. They have given us a multitude of educational opportunities and without them we would not be in our first year of business."

"We were able to get our ideas off the ground by attending the classes, and it helped us put steps in motion to save the family farm," said one participant from the 2010 workshops.

A 2012 participant said, "Do it! You will never regret spending the money, if you are serious about farming."

Do you dream of starting your own small farm? The Growing Farmers workshops will help you learn the planning and production skills you need to start a market farm business. Learn from experienced growers, Extension Educators and business experts about sustainable vegetable production.

Image of CROPS grower at farmers market.
Enriqueta, past graduate of the Growing Farmers Training Program, selling at the farmers' market.

Tentative Dates

We will begin the workshops January 17, 2015 and end April 18, 2015. February 7th and February 28th will be off weeks. This class series is on Saturdays from 9am until 4pm.

Some of the planned topics

  • Seed Starting
  • Functional Business Planning
  • Crop Planning
  • Different Market Opportunities
  • Farmers' Market Focus
  • Marketing 101
  • Planning for Profit and Managing Your Risks
  • Field Management
  • GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) and Food Safety

We will also have 4 farm tours at sustainable, small scale farms.

Scholarships Available!

Registration for 2015 is just $450 -- for a course valued at over $1200! Scholarships are available for all who need them. A couple or two farm partners can register for $600.

Register On-Line Here!

Prefer to mail in your application? You can print a copy here.

For more information please contact Kirstin or you can call her at 402 474 9802.

Partnership with the Center for Rural Affairs

This workshop series is a partnership with the Center of Rural Affairs. The workshop series will be simultaneously occurring in Crete in Spanish. If you would prefer a Spanish language experience please contact Erin.

Funding for the Growing Farmers Training Program provided by the USDA's Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program.


Farm Beginnings 2015

Farm Beginnings® is an educational training and support program designed to help people who want to evaluate and plan their farm enterprise.  Farm Beginnings® participants engage in a mentorship experience and network with a variety of successful, innovative farmers; attend practical, high quality seminars, field days and conferences.  Classes begin January 3, 2015, and conclude on April 25, 2015.  They will be held at the Douglas/Sarpy Extension Office in Omaha.  For more information about the class and how to register can be found in the brochure at:

Farm Beginnings Brochure

Applications are also available online. 

Gary Lesoing
Extension Educator
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension
Nemaha County
(402) 274-4755