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Field day shows off high quality Sandhills research at Barta Brothers Ranch near Rose.

Curt Arens, Editor, Nebraska Farmer

July 5, 2011

3 Min Read

Field day shows off high quality Sandhills research at Barta Brothers Ranch near Rose.

POINTING THE WAY: The Barta Brothers Ranch research facility is located 20 miles south of Long Pine or about five miles west of Rose in Brown and Rock counties.

I had the pleasure of attending a research field day at Barta Brothers Ranch near Rose in late June. Located 20 miles south of Long Pine and about five miles west of Rose, the ranch consists of 6000 acres, with over 5500 acres of prime upland range and around 120 acres of contiguous subirrigated meadow and over 100 acres of discontinuous subirrigated meadow and wetland scattered across the ranch in Brown and Rock counties. In many ways, it serves as a model ranch for a variety of research studies and demonstrations ranging from feeding distillers co-products on grazing land, grazing systems studies, fly control, intensive grazing meadows, Sandhills rejuvenation and prairie chicken and grazing co-habitation, just to name a few.

Around 150 ranchers attended the most recent field day at the ranch headquarters to hear about the latest projects taking place. A host of talented graduate students, professors and Extension specialists were on hand to discuss what they are learning about the Sandhills and grazing land management at Barta Brothers Ranch.

LISTENING IN: UNL researchers discuss latest grazing systems research being conducted at the ranch.

Brothers, Clifford and James Barta, gifted their ranch to the University of Nebraska Foundation in 1996, and they provided an all-important estate gift to establish a Barta Brothers Fund, a permanent endowment offering ongoing support of ag research in the state.

To say that these gifts were pretty forward-thinking and extremely generous would be the understatement of the year. Clifford (1908) and James (1918) Barta were born to Raymond and Vlasta Barta. They were lifelong ranchers until they moved to a retirement home in Verdigre in 1998. Clifford passed away that same year and James died in 2001.

From what I’ve read from UNL news releases of the dedication ceremonies and history of the ranch, the Bartas doubled the size of their ranch from the 1950s when it ranked as the top producing ranch in the state under their father’s management. Not only did they expand the ranch boundaries during their lifetimes, but they also improved the quality of their land by creating ponds, caring for wildlife populations and planting literally thousands of trees. In many ways, they were model stewards of the Sandhills, and their work is now being carried on at the ranch research facility.

The ranch is considered a perfect compliment to Gudmundsen Sandhills Laboratory, coupling to provide world class ag research in the world’s largest area of grass-covered sand dunes known as the Sandhills.

Kat Shiffer, a student with the UNL School of Natural Resources, wrote last summer that, “Driving big trucks, tearing around on ATVs, walking the Sandhills in all weather conditions, and doing it all in the name of research – just another summer at the Barta Brothers Ranch. Utilized by scientists, extension educators, students and ranchers, the site has been host to many research studies.”

Watch for a future issue of Nebraska Farmer to cover more details on some of the research being conducted this summer at Barta Brothers Ranch. The ranch and the work being done there by researchers seem truly representative of the hard work, beauty, charm, stewardship and dedication to the Sandhills region by all of the folks who call this wonderful section of our state, “Home.”

WATCHING AND WAITING: Even ranch dogs like this one were welcome at the most recent field day at Barta Brothers Ranch. This pooch was patiently waiting as his master was learning more about research being conducted at the ranch.


About the Author(s)

Curt Arens

Editor, Nebraska Farmer

Curt Arens began writing about Nebraska’s farm families when he was in high school. Before joining Farm Progress as a field editor in April 2010, he had worked as a freelance farm writer for 27 years, first for newspapers and then for farm magazines, including Nebraska Farmer.

His real full-time career, however, during that same period was farming his family’s fourth generation land in northeast Nebraska. He also operated his Christmas tree farm and grew black oil sunflowers for wild birdseed. Curt continues to raise corn, soybeans and alfalfa and runs a cow-calf herd.

Curt and his wife Donna have four children, Lauren, Taylor, Zachary and Benjamin. They are active in their church and St. Rose School in Crofton, where Donna teaches and their children attend classes.

Previously, the 1986 University of Nebraska animal science graduate wrote a weekly rural life column, developed a farm radio program and wrote books about farm direct marketing and farmers markets. He received media honors from the Nebraska Forest Service, Center for Rural Affairs and Northeast Nebraska Experimental Farm Association.

He wrote about the spiritual side of farming in his 2008 book, “Down to Earth: Celebrating a Blessed Life on the Land,” garnering a Catholic Press Association award.

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