Bonus Ranching Seminar provides useful information

MULLEN, Neb. – Over thirty people attended the Bonus Ranching Seminar held at the State 4-H Lodge near Halsey, Neb., on Dec. 17, 2010.

The first speaker was Jim Lees of the Ox Yoke Ranch who is a partner with Northwest Nebraska High Country. Northwest Nebraska High Country is an organization of more than twenty ranchers and farmers who are offering their private property for tourism in the Pine Ridge area of Nebraska. He gave a presentation on “Ranchers Working Together to Develop Enterprises.” Lees stressed that enterprises such as these are selling a slice of their own lifestyle. “We are selling them country roads, night sky and beautiful sunsets,” he said. “We want to show them we are not just another motel, we want to grab them and keep them as long as we can and show them a good time.”

Lees stated that NW Nebraska High Country group works together to make their operations successful, “We all feed into each other’s business.” He stressed that the internet is the best place to advertise and that their group is heavily involved in community events. “We are like a rural chamber of commerce,” he added.

Mike Kesselring, of High Plains Homestead near Crawford, gave a humorous talk on “Can I Run a Second Business with My Wife and Still Live with Her?” The Kesselring’s operate a successful business which includes a mock frontier town complete with cook shack and cabins. Kesselring stressed the importance of pleasing the guest. “You have to have your guests feel like this is the best place to stay in their entire life,” he said. He gave important tips on how to survive running a business with your spouse or partner. “You have to understand the dynamics of power struggles,” he stated. “Trust your partner to make right decisions and share your expectations with each other.”

“If you go away with anything from this seminar,” said Karen Kollars the next speaker at the seminar, “Go away with this … education is so important. Create an experience for your guest.”

Kollars is the Development Consultant for the Nebraska Division of Travel and Tourism in Agri-tourism. She spoke of how important tourism is to small communities in rural Nebraska. “The dollars spent in your communities make a big impact,” she said. “Tourism also helps to create jobs in your area.” Kollars informed the participants on the many ways the Nebraska Division of Tourism is available to help with private enterprise, “We are here to help market you,” she added.

Kirk Nelson, the Western Region Manager for the Nebraska Game & Parks, was also on hand to provide additional information on agri-tourism. “There are great partnership opportunities with the parks,” he said. “Get to know your Nebraska Parks people; we are all in this together.” Opportunities such as fishing, hunting and birding were among some of the ways he said an entrepreneur could partner with Nebraska Game & Parks. “We are looking to collaborate and be friendlier than ever,” he added.

In the afternoon sessions, Sioux County Rural Extension Educator Jenny Nixon gave an interesting presentation on “Getting Your Project on the Web.” She spoke of how important social networking is in promoting a business. “Being online is the first step to getting found online,” she said. Nixon provided a useful video promoting the importance of social networking.

Twyla Witt of Thedford, the Scenic Byways Consultant for the Nebraska Division of Travel & Tourism, gave many excellent suggestions on how to get a tourism business listed in various magazines and websites for free. She also stressed the importance of joining local chambers, byways and regional groups, “The main reason to join these groups is because it is so effective for networking and getting referrals from one another. It is important to remember you are not each other’s competition.”

Scott Cotton, the UNL Extension educator in Chadron, organized the Bonus Ranching Seminar and was pleased with its success. “The interesting part of all this is if we just get four or five people to start a business through a seminar like this it adds so much to our rural communities,” Cotton said. “Seminars like this give the attendees opportunities to learn, ask questions, stay informed and hopefully stay sustainable.”

Tom Witt president of the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway, agreed with Cotton. “I thought this workshop was an excellent opportunity to help people who were considering diversifying their ranch income. I was extremely pleased with the number of attendees and from where they came, including Dunning, Brewster, Thedford, Stapleton, Mullen, Hyannis, Ainsworth and Broken Bow. I hope that at least a few of the attendees will have found it worthwhile enough to move forward with their ideas.”

The seminar was sponsored by the UNL Extension, Nebraska Department of Economic Development, NW Nebraska High Country, Sandhills RC& D and the Sandhills Journey Scenic Byway.

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