Sunday, July 20, 2008

North Platte Valley Agriculture

“The Valley” of western Nebraska refers to the relatively lush, irrigated region that lies along the North Platte River in the southern Panhandle. And it was a favorite region for German-Russians seeking their livelihoods, first from sugar beets – and later from a variety of other agricultural pursuits.

Jack R. Preston of Lyman, Nebraska is among the presenters at the 2008 International Convention of Germans from Russia opening next week at the Parkway Plaza Hotel and Convention Center in Casper, Wyoming. Opening ceremonies will be at 8:30 Thursday morning, July 31st. The event is expected to lure as many as a thousand attendees and will run through Sunday morning, August 3rd.

Preston lives on the ranch where his family has resided for the past 120 years. It is located on the south side of Wildcat Hills near Scottsbluff, Nebraska. His great -grandparents homesteaded ranches located two miles apart, arriving in 1888 and 1889, respectively.

Jack’s vocation is ranching, but his avocation is history. The United States Bicentennial spurred his interest in history. First, he began by researching his family, and that evolved into researching land and agricultural history. His published articles include “Heyward G. Leavitt’s Influence on Sugar Beets and Irrigation in Nebraska,” in Agricultural History, and “The History of Electricity in Rural Goshen County: The Wyrulec Company,” in the Annals of Wyoming.

Currently he is working toward publishing a book based on his thesis entitled “From Ploughman to Cowman: The Transference of British/Welsh Agriculture and Social Values to the High Plains, 1840-1940.” The book will show his family’s relationship with agriculture. Jack has ties to the University of Wyoming, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in History. As one of the founders of the Farm and Ranch Museum in Gering, Nebraska, he spends much of his time on the history of High Plains agriculture.

Preston’s workshop, Germans from Russia and North Platte Valley Agriculture, will be presented at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, August 2nd, in Ballroom B at the Parkway.

The Casper convention is a joint affair of two organizations: American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska; and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society, which is based in Bismarck, North Dakota.

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