Cozad Chamber Honors Burkholder As Farm Family
World War II was drawing to a close when West Liberty, Ohio resident, Ervin “Burky” Burkholder began looking for a place to relocate his alfalfa dehydrating business.
Burky took trains around the Midwest and Great Plains searching for just the right place and finally settled on Dawson County. He moved his wife, Grace, and their two sons, Dave, then 2 ½ and Ervin, 1, to Cozad.
Seventy years later Nebraska Farm Products is an integral part of the Cozad agribusiness community, as well as Will Feed, the family feedlot launched in the early 1960s.
As a result of this legacy Dave and Ann Burkholder were honored Tuesday night by the Cozad Chamber of Commerce as the 2015 Farm Family of the Year. They were recognized for their family’s contributions to agriculture in Cozad, Dawson County and Nebraska, as well as their community service locally, state and nationwide.
“Dad always said he was afraid he was too late getting his foot in the door. I believe he was either the third or fourth dehy in Cozad,” recalls Dave Burkholder.
But Burky needn’t have worried. With his brother-in-law Harold Zook as the builder, Nebraska Farm Products (NFP) took shape, joining the string of dehys in Dawson County that at their peak included five in Gothenburg, four in Willow Island, seven in Cozad, five at Darr, four in Lexington, one at Josselyn and two in Overton.
As the 1950s dawned major changes were occurring in the alfalfa dehydrating industry. “Dad bought the first pellet mill in 1952,” said Dave. “Before that alfalfa meal went into 100-pound burlap bags, which meant there was a lot of hand work back in those days.”
Burky, Kenny Morrison and Pat Robertson from Lexington formed Consolidated Blenders (CBI) and shipped the pelletized product from Dawson County to Fremont where it was stored in upright silos filled with inert gas to preserve the vitamin A and marketed from there.
During the mid-1950s the family started purchasing farms in Dawson County, trading the interest in the family’s Ohio homestead to buy land here.
With more alfalfa at their disposal the dehy business continued to grow, so that by the time Dave was in high school NFP was shipping out 10,000 tons of product a year. Then his father bought half interest in plants at Darr and Willow Island and the tonnage grew to about 30,000 tons a year.
“In 1961 Dad decided to start feeding cattle at a place he’d bought just west of Willow Island. I’m not sure why, as no one in the family had any livestock experience,” commented Dave.
Burkholder graduated from Cozad High School in 1961 and four years later from Grinnell College in Iowa with a degree in economics. He went on to study at Stanford and graduated with a MBA in 1967. “I was not planning on coming back here,” he recalls.
He interned one summer at General Mills and had interviewed with various firms such as Ralston-Purina, Chase Bank and Cummings Engines. After some time in Southern California he decided he didn’t like the traffic and came home.
Dave’s first adventure following his return to Nebraska was managing the feed yard his father started in 1961. “It was a steep learning curve,” he noted, as he had left for college about the time the feedlot was purchased and had no experience with cattle.
On Dec. 28, 1968, Dave married Ann Kosman of Scottsbluff. A 1961 graduate of Scottsbluff High School, Ann went to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) where she majored in English education. Following her UNL graduation Ann taught junior high English and French in Colorado for two years before moving to Westside High School. She and Dave met on a blind date arranged by friends.
About 1970 Will Feed moved to a new location just east of the original lot. One of the reasons for the move was to deal with new environmental laws that had just been passed by the Nebraska Legislature. Since it was a new program and the newly created Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) was just developing their regulations, it took over a year to get approval for a permit for the lot. Will Feed Inc. has the fifth permit issued in Nebraska.
With things so intertwined at Willow Island with the feedlot and dehy, Dave and his father decided he should buy the Willow Island dehy plant. One year later Kenny Morrison bought National Alfalfa and offered Dave the two dehy plants in Cozad and Willow Island. “The note was for $300,000 and I paid $50,000 down for the two plants,” recalled Dave.
When Congress passed the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) word came down from Washington, D.C. that dehydrating plants would come under EPA scrutiny. “I bought a new large drum, which allowed us to consolidate production by retrofitting one plant for EPA compliance, instead of four,” said Dave.
One of the biggest changes in the alfalfa industry came when the Arab Oil Crisis caused the price of natural gas to dry the alfalfa to skyrocket. The industry went from direct cutting to cutting in windrows, said Dave.
But even more profound changes occurred in the 1980s and they caused Burkholder some of the hardest struggles of his life. “I can remember when I became president of CBI, I spent four or five years closing one plant every spring and one every fall. I had to go and tell plant managers and employees we were closing their plants. We started the 1980s with 25 plants and by the close of the 1980s we maybe had 10,” said Dave. “That wasn’t a fun job to do.”
The 1970s also brought change for the young Burkholders. They built their current home in 1970 and a year later welcomed son, Matt, and in 1975, daughter Lara. Matt graduated from Cozad High School in 1990 and Lara in 1993.
Throughout their lives, Dave and Ann have provided community service in a variety of ways. Ann worked in the sheltered workshop at the “State School” and later was on the board of South Central Development Center and is still on the Human Rights committee there. She also served as a substitute teacher.
Ann’s most significant contribution has been serving on the Cozad Community Schools Board of Education for many years and her work with the Cozad Area Arts Council, which she founded in 1986. She is the group’s president and jokes she probably will be for life. She also is active in St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Cozad and is a member of PEO.
Dave has continued to learn throughout his agricultural career. In 1981 he was a member of the first Nebraska LEAD class and the two-week international tour to China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan broadened Dave’s and other LEAD fellows world perspective.
Burkholder also became involved in beef industry organizations and causes. He started in Dawson County as a member of the T-Bone Club and worked with other younger members to affiliate the club with Nebraska Livestock Feeders. Dave took an office with the Livestock Feeders and became an advocate of the merger of the Nebraska Stockgrowers and the Nebraska Livestock Feeders. The merger finally occurred in 1988 resulting in formation of the Nebraska Cattlemen’s Association. After serving many years on the Nebraska Cattlemen Tax Committee, Burkholder moved up the leadership ranks serving as NCA President in 2002.
In 2001 he was honored by the Dawson County Cattlemen by being inducted into the Dawson County Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame.
Not only did Burkholder contribute leadership in the cattle industry, he also served leadership roles in the alfalfa industry as well. Burkholder served as president of the Nebraska Alfalfa Processors Association several times and was president of the American Alfalfa Dehydrators three times.
With only three alfalfa mills left in Dawson County, the industry has evolved yet again. “Alfalfa has gone from a commodity that bought its way in and out of a feedsack to very much a specialty feed. We’ve been producing half of our pellets as organic with 50-60 percent of that half getting sold at a premium,” said Burkholder.
He notes one of the high points of his career has been transitioning out of running the business. When Matt was at Dartmouth he didn’t think he was coming back to the farm after college. But in 1994 after completing work on his bachelor’s degree, he had a conversation with Dave about learning the ropes and he spent a couple of summers working for Dave while he was studying for his masters.
During his time at Dartmouth Matt met Anne, a 1993 graduate of Cardinal Newman High School in Florida. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1997.
Matt and Anne were married June 15, 1996, and after some serious discussions decided that Nebraska might be the place to put down roots because they liked the rural lifestyle. Dave admits he about choked on his coffee the day in the fall of 1996 when Anne and Matt met with him about Anne working in the feed yard.
“But I got out of the way because I’ve seen too many people not get out of the next generation’s way. I told them they were not coming back to work for me - they were coming back to work for themselves, although my wife still thought I didn’t help Matt out enough the first couple of years,” said Dave.
Matt bought the dehy plant from his father in 1998 and he has been operating it since. “There have been gradual transfers of ownership with the farm and responsibility. I run the day-to-day operations, but Dad is still the major stockholder,” noted Matt.
As for the feedlot, Anne started learning about the industry while working there one summer and by attending her first NCBA convention in February of 1997 and then learned the business from the ground up. Notes Matt, “For the last 10 years it has been Anne’s lot to run and Dad is the major customer.”
That transition has allowed Dave and Ann time to enjoy their family. Lara and her husband, Bryan Hertweck, live near Blacksburg, Va., with their daughter Meredith.
After returning to Dawson County in June of 1997, Matt and Anne became the parents of three daughters, Ashley Grace, Megan and Karyn, so the Burkholders now have four granddaughters activities to keep up with.
Cozad VFW Post Presents Colors At Ft. McPherson
Getting a chance to honor and remember those who have served the United States was the Grant Cook Jr. VFW Post 890 of Cozad during the Spirit of ‘45 70th Anniversary Celebration of the end of World War II that was held at Fort McPherson National Cemetery near Maxwell on Sunday.
The Cozad VFW Honor Guard members that participated in the event were: Jon Kloepping, Mike Schmeeckle, John Grinde, Dan Niles and Scott Schmidt. They presented and retired the flags and performed Taps during the celebration that involved many patriotic messages.
Mr. Jim Griffin of the Lincoln County Historical Museum was the keynote speaker to go along with many musical selections that were performed by the Nebraska Pride Sweet Adeline Chorus.
Mrs. Traci McKeon performed the National Anthem along with Chaplin Gary Smith of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department addressing the crowd during the Invocation and Benediction.
STANDING AT ATTENTION is the Cozad VFW #890 Honor Guard that includes (from left) Jon Kloepping, Mike Schmeeckle, John Grinde and Dan Niles during the Fort McPherson National Cemetery’s memorable celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War II.
Cozad Set To Host Hay Days Celebration Sept. 11-12th
Getting your game on will be featured throughout Cozad during the Annual Hay Days Celebration that will be held on Friday and Saturday, September 11th-12th.
The return of the Pets on Parade event to Veterans Memorial Park will start at 5:15 p.m. with registration beginning at 4 p.m.
The always popular DC Lynch Carnival that will be set up in downtown Cozad will shine their bright lights starting at 4 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, there will be a Pancake Feed at the Cozad Christian Church from 7 -10 a.m. just prior to the Hay Days main event.
The Annual Parade will start at 11 a.m. with many events to be featured after the grand march down eighth street.
There will be a great variety of food to satisfy your hunger that will be available at the Elks Club’s Buffet and at Chipper Hall on Saturday at noon.
The Knights of Columbus will be hosting an Ice Cream Social from 12-6 p.m. at Chipper Hall as well.
What has become a very popular event, the Greased Pig contest will start at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Cozad Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting ‘Water Fights’ at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
If your looking to get inside out of the heat, you can play Bingo at the Grand Generation Center on Friday from 7-10 p.m. and Saturday from 2-6 p.m. and then on Saturday evening from 7-10 p.m.
The annual Alumni Banquet for Cozad High School will be held at the Elks Club from 7 p.m. until 12 a.m. on Saturday evening.
The Cozad Airport will be hosting the ‘Sweet Water’ Band from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. on Saturday evening as well.
Community Action Partnership Of Mid- Nebraska Expands Health Outreach Services
Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska (Mid) is expanding rural health outreach services through a two year grant from the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity. Mid was awarded $286,965 for the 2015-2017 Minority Health Initiative Project in Buffalo, Dawson, Kearney, Phelps and Webster counties that began July 1st, 2015 and continue to June 30th, 2017.
Mid has hired full-time Community Health Workers that will promote healthier lifestyles among adult minorities who may be at risk for or have chronic health conditions such as pre-diabetes, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Community Health Workers will partner with health systems and community resources in the five county area, working with Head Start, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs, Mid’s Immunization Clinic, the Help Care Clinic in Kearney, Plum Creek Medical Group in Lexington and Two Rivers Public Health Department in Kearney and Phelps county. This grant is a great addition to the Dental Care Community Health Worker and will help better meet the needs of underserved people.
For more information please contact Ruth Maldonado, Community Health Worker for Dawson County at 308-325-4869.
TeamMates/Cozad United Methodist Women Luncheon
TeamMates, a nationally acclaimed mentoring program, is the theme for the Cozad United Methodist Women luncheon at noon, Thursday, September 3rd at Camp Comeca.
Founded by University of Nebraska-Lincoln football coach, Dr. Tom Osborne, initiated the TeamMates program at the Methodist Church in Lincoln.
From those early beginnings, the program has expanded throughout the nation, with mentors volunteering to serve youth.
Cozad has one of the largest programs in Nebraska, with Marcie Kostrunek and Tim Hansen serving as co-directors.
The luncheon, hosted by the Cozad United Methodist Women, will feature keynoter Suzanne Osborne Hince, daughter of Coach Osborne and Executive Director of TeamMates.
Claude Berreckman Jr. will serve as Master of Ceremonies, with Leach Circle hosting.
Tickets for the guest day event are $15 per person. Reservations are made by calling UMW President Marilyn Peterson at 308-784-3794. The deadline is August 17th.
Commissioners Hold Emergency Meeting Monday
The Dawson County Board of Commissioners met for an emergency meeting on Monday, August 17th, 2015, at 1 p.m.
The sole purpose of the meeting was to solicit and present bids to the board for approval for the repair and/or replacement of the key card security system for Dawson County buildings.
Platte Valley Communications, Kearney; Control Masters, Omaha; VVS, Cozad and Kidwell, Lincoln, submitted bids.
A motion was made and seconded to accept the bid from Platte Valley Communications and to authorize Chairman Dennis Rickertsen to sign the quote.