By Jack Whittier, Director, Panhandle Extension District and Panhandle Research and Extension Center
Thanks, Sandra! Like me, many of you will miss seeing Sandra Hansen around at the ag events across the Panhandle. Sandra announced recently that after 17 years as agriculture reporter for the Star Herald, she has left this role to work closer to home in Torrington.
You may have seen her article in a recent issue of the Star Herald where she reminisced about the many changes she has witnessed in the evolution of production agriculture in this area. I found the article fascinating as she chronicled changes that have occurred in the valley, and enhancements that have kept the North Platte Valley as one of the premier crop and livestock production areas in the region.
When I learned that Sandra was leaving the paper, I had a flashback to when I arrived as Director of the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center and District in June 2014. One of the first things Dave Ostdiek, our communications specialist at the Center, invited me to do, at the invitation of Sandra, was begin writing a regular column in the Farm and Ranch section of the Star Herald.
We came up with the title of “Jack’s Insights”. I readily agreed to contribute this column and have enjoyed the chance each month to share some of my insights with you via this medium. It has allowed me to reflect and report on the activities at the Center and across the Panhandle District. I think it has also helped keep the role and function of the University of Nebraska in the western end of the state visible.
I realize there are many competing technologies in today’s digital world to disseminate news, information and opinions, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, websites and blogs. However, I’m old-fashioned enough to still appreciate the role that a daily newspaper plays in a region like the Nebraska Panhandle. Perhaps you are like me in that even though you may not get every part of the paper read every day, you still enjoy a regular quiet time to read the paper and keep up with the happenings in the valley.
The Farm and Ranch section in the Sunday paper, for which Sandra was the reporter, compiler and overall “make it happen” person, has been a venue for many of our specialists and educators to communicate sound, science-based information to you as readers. I greatly appreciate what Sandra and the Star Herald have done to assist us in “spreading the word.”
I was also pleased that Brad Staman, Star Herald Editor, came to the Panhandle R&E Center this week to sit down with our staff and assure us that a replacement for Sandra will be hired soon. In fact, Brad indicated that he would like to expand ag news into the daily editions as well as maintaining the weekly Farm and Ranch section. Brad noted that the role of agriculture in this community is paramount and that even those not directly engaged in production or processing benefit greatly by the multiplier effect that agriculture has on banks, businesses, and other components in this end of the state. It is nice to have an editor who recognizes and appreciates this.
Now, back to Sandra. I often saw her at an event of some sort talking to a speaker, interviewing a producer, or any other number of activities to gather, synthesize and report the ag news. Her infectious smile was a visible sign of how much she enjoyed what she was doing and the people she was mingling with.
As I said at the outset of this column, thank you, Sandra for your dedication, perspective and hard work you put into your work. Thank you for your friendship and confidence in the Panhandle Research and Extension Center and District. Best of luck in your new pursuits. Stop by and see us anytime.