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THREE CHEERS — Hip Hip Hooray!
This column salutes REAP businesses that are finding ways to increase their success.

Unique Enterprise Blend Supplements Agriculture for an Orleans, Nebraska Family
Converting a pasture to a higher-return recreational enterprise is one way this family is coping with agriculture’s uncertainties.

Keith and Sue Roberts of Orleans, Nebraska, are prime examples of the innovative entrepreneurial drive shown by rural residents in Nebraska. In the midst of declining family farm income due to drought and poor prices, the Roberts own 188 acres of ground and help Keith’s folks on their farm.

To create enough total family income, Keith and Sue are blending outside employment with agricultural and non-agricultural small business enterprises. These include an active and successful recreational business, Twin Creek Paintball in Orleans.

This enterprise is a clear example of taking an agricultural resource, native pasture, and converting it to a higher net income from a non-agricultural use. They are also initiating a meat goat enterprise on their farm. Keith and Sue both maintain outside employment. Sue is the Director of Nursing at the Arapahoe Good Samaritan Nursing Home, and Keith is a substitute school bus driver for Orleans.

The couple also owns the Sappa Creek Trading Post in Orleans, which features t-shirts, collectibles, upholstery, working furniture, etc. Keith mows lawns at two area cemeteries. Their two boys, Caleb and Cody, and their daughter Courtney provide help in some or all of the family’s entrepreneurial efforts.

Twin Creek Paintball is their oldest and most lucrative venture, with an 8-year history and steadily increasing volume of revenue and net profitability. The Roberts have used two REAP peer loans to help this enterprise expand and grow in net returns.

As resourceful and steeped in the work ethic as they are, the Roberts illustrate why Nebraska ranks #1 in the number of jobs held per person in the U.S. As Keith states, “You have to have a lot of things going these days to supplement ag income in order to make a decent living.”

The Roberts are charter members of the South Central Business Development REAP association (SCBDA) in Phelps and Harlan County. Keith is the current chairperson. He has generously donated time to speak out on behalf of small rural business.

He served on panels at the Women in Agriculture conference in Kearney, at a South Platte United Chamber of Commerce meeting this summer, and as a panel member at a Curtis, Neb. meeting on alternative agriculture enterprises.

Keith and Sue Roberts own several businesses in rural Nebraska.
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Center for Rural Affairs -- Rural Enterprise Assistance Project
145 Main St.    PO Box 136    Lyons, Nebraska  68038
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