Rural Prosperity Nebraska

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Helping Nebraska's Rural Communities Thrive

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Now recruiting students and communities!

Rural Prosperity Nebraska is currently accepting applications from students and communities who wish to participate in the 2021 Rural Fellows program.

Apply Now
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We harness boots-on-the-ground efforts of Nebraska Extension professionals working in six focus areas; the capacity-building of SourceLink, the rural scholarship of faculty members from across the University of Nebraska system; data from the Nebraska Rural Poll and the Nebraska Thriving Index; service-learning projects that Rural Fellows carry out in communities across Nebraska each year, and more.

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Thriving Index

The Thriving Index is an interactive comparison tool for benchmarking, identifying and analyzing trends in rural Nebraska.

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Rural Fellows

Through Rural Fellows projects, students live and work in communities across Nebraska helping them solve problems and address important issues.

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Rural Poll

The annual Rural Poll surveys rural Nebraskans, asking questions about their perceptions on quality of life and policy issues.

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The Sourcelink® Nebraska connects Nebraskans with programs and services for entrepreneurship, business, community and economic development.

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Market Maker

Nebraska MarketMaker is the place to source local food, find customers for your food products and to connect Nebraska’s food chain, from farm to fork.


A team of Nebraska Extension professionals across the state will work hand-in-hand with local, regional and state leaders, as well as with NU students and faculty, to advance rural communities. This work will fall under six main pillars:

Community Engagement

Community Engagement

When communities come together to dream and to define a vision for their future great things happen. Rural Prosperity Nebraska Educators want to engage with you on your journey. We bring facilitation skills, engagement and development tools, and connections to resources that will help you define and achieve your community goals. We stand as a ready resource for Nebraskans in building vibrant communities where businesses thrive, all community members are engaged, and everyone has an equitable opportunity to succeed.

contact: Rex Nelson | 402-873-3166

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People Attraction & Retention

A thriving community depends on the people who live there. People are behind the energy, culture, and personality of our villages, towns and cities. Their needs and vision drive the services, businesses and amenities that make up the local economy. Retaining residents and attracting new ones is key to the future of our communities and their ability to thrive.

contact: Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel | 308-632-1230

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Leadership & Community Capacity Building

Community capacity is the ability of a community to take on its own development. By building capacity, a community becomes better able to envision, engage in and sustain smart and robust community economic development that ultimately leads to greater prosperity. Central to community capacity building is community leadership. Empowered and effective leadership can help a community optimize its potential, stretch its vision and mobilize resources necessary for investing in itself. Our field work supports the view that there is massive potential to increase the capacity of communities to undertake and sustain development.

contact: Kurt Mantonya | 402-367-7410

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Economy & Entrepreneurship

Every community must grow a vibrant, competitive, and resilient economy. Our evolving portfolio of tools and programs can be tailored to a community’s assets and aspirations. Our belief is that by helping communities help themselves, communities build a foundation for long-term sustainability and grow into destinations for new residents, new businesses, and renewed vitality.

contact: Marilyn Schlake | 402-472-4138

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What gives a community its charm? What makes it unique? It may be a vibrant downtown, a strong sense of shared history or cultural heritage, beautiful parks, a thriving arts scene or a community’s embracement of diversity. These elements can make a community a destination, and embracing and cultivating what makes your community unique and welcoming can help drive future success.

contact: Kim Wilson | 402-472-5149

Regional Food Systems

Regional Food Systems

The Regional Food System team is poised to assist all Nebraskans to become better acquainted with their food system and to work with communities across the state to embark on building a food system that meets the needs of everyone. We do this through grant making, education, convening and facilitating.

contact: Vanessa Wielenga | 402-472-0361

Community leaders can use these and other resources to design vibrant futures for their hometowns, which in turn will lead to a vibrant future for Nebraska.


We believe vibrant and successful rural communities are foundational to the future of rural Nebraska and are critical to the success of our state as a whole. Strong rural communities drive our strong agricultural economy and vice versa. Our rural communities embody the ingenuity, strong work ethic, resilience and grit that collectively define Nebraska.