Lancaster County covers an area of 864 square miles of rolling loess hills in east central Nebraska. The population of the county is about 230,000 people with 195,000 living within the city limits of Lincoln, Nebraska's state capitol and second largest city. The remaining population resides in one of fourteen small towns and villages in the county or they maintain an independent rural residence.
The Roca Grain Elevator is the chief business of Roca. Located on Roca’s Main Street on the western side of Roca alongside the railroad tracks. Farmers from all around the rural community bring in their crops each season.
There are over 400,000 acres of farmland in the Lancaster County. The county's rural area is a unique mix of commercial and residential farms engaged in various agricultural enterprises. In spite of its urban character, Lancaster County leads the state of Nebraska in the total number of farms with nearly 1500 farm units. (To be counted as a farm by the Census, the owner must report at least $1,000 in annual farm-related income).
Interspersed amongst the commercial farms are approximately 3,500 acreage, which are essentially residential in nature. Predominant crops reported by the Nebraska Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) a division of the Nebraska State Department of Agriculture in 1994 included:
- Forage crops (89,000 tons)
- Corn (9.8 million bushels)
- Sorghum (10.5 million bushels)
- Soybeans (4.3 million bushels)
- Winter Wheat (1.1 million bushels)
The market value of these crops was estimated at over $74.4 million. Other farms produce a variety of fruit and vegetable crops for the farmers market and U-Pick trade as well as sod farms, Christmas trees, and horticultural nursery stock. Unfortunately, market value of these crops is not reported by the NASS.
The NASS reported county inventories of all cattle and calves on January 1, 1997 of 31,000 head and all hogs and pigs on 12/1/96 of 57,000 head. There were 1300 dairy cattle in 1994 producing 18.6 million pounds of milk. Inventory numbers were not available for sheep and poultry production on a county by county basis in Nebraska but people engage in these enterprises in Lancaster County.
Some farms and acreage specialize in the production of exotic species such as bison, llamas, emus and ostriches. Raising and boarding riding horses and other domestic animals also contribute to the animal industry in the county. The 1992 Census of Agriculture reported total livestock sales of $26 million in 1992.
Agricultural industry is well represented in Nebraska's second largest city. Food processors including Gooches, Fleming Foods, Weaver Potato Chips, Fisher Foods and many others make their home here. They rely on the areas rich production of grain sorghum, corn, soybeans and wheat.
Post secondary education is an important part of the character and economic base of the county. Lincoln is the home of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). Other schools based in Lincoln include:
- College of Saint Mary
- Lincoln School of Commerce
- Nebraska Wesleyan University
- Southeast Community College
- Union College
The University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County is a valuable resource to area residents and integrally associated with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and IANR.
A comprehensive set of web pages dedicated to Agricultural Producers and Acreage Owners have been developed by the staff of Lancaster County Extension to provide useful information to the varied interests of commercial sized and smaller farm operations in Lancaster County and the surrounding area.