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Elsmere rancher named Northeast’s Agceptional Woman of the Year

Elsmere rancher named Northeast’s Agceptional Woman of the Year

NORFOLK, Neb. – An advocate for agriculture in Nebraska has been recognized for her contributions to the industry.

Anita Keys, Elsmere, was named 2022 Ag-ceptional Woman of the Year during Northeast Community College’s Agceptional Women’s Conference recently on the Northeast campus in Norfolk. The announcement was made as part of a video tribute that was played during the opening session of the 14th annual conference. The video was sponsored by Farm Credit Services of America and produced by the Northeast Agriculture Department and District 25 Productions, LLC. 

A special selection committee made up of professionals from agricultural businesses and operations is assembled each year to select the winner from a competitive group of nominees.

“I am humbled and honored to get this award, and to receive it from your peers is something extra special,” Keys said in accepting the award. “It’s one thing to get an award for best yield or best whatever, but this is very special.”

Keys was raised on a farm in Wayne County. After graduating from high school, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) where she met her future husband, Kerry Keys. The couple, who operate a ranch near Elsmere in southeast Cherry County, has two adult daughters who have become successful in their own careers. Stacey Keys is a 4-H extension assistant for UNL Extension in Burt County while Amanda Keys is employed as an accountant in Broken Bow. 
Keys was nominated for the Agceptional Woman award by Karen Grant, Meadow Grove, who was bestowed the honor in 2015. She said Keys is deserving of the recognition.

“Elsmere may be a tiny town out west, but Anita is big on educating about life as a farmer or rancher from her own home to all parts of the United States and the world,” Grant said. “She has connections and is willing to go above and beyond to spread the word of agriculture.”

Keys was a member of the Leadership Education/Action Development (LEAD) 17 program with content focused on economics, government, human relations, communications, international trade, sociology, education, the arts, social-cultural understandings as well as agriculture. She has utilized the knowledge she gained from her experiences with LEAD with others.

Keys is a member of Common Ground Nebraska which is described as, “a group of farm women having conversations about food and how it’s grown and produced.” She also uses social media to explain life on the ranch and discuss how and what they do with their livestock. 

“(Anita) can speak with knowledge because she is involved on the ranch helping wherever she is needed,” Grant said. 

Keys is also active with IFYE (International Four-H Youth Exchange), which focuses on bringing young people ages 18-25 to the United States to live with up to three families to learn their customs and lifestyles. Students from the United States may also travel to other countries as part of the program. Keys assists in matching farm and ranch families with individuals from other countries in the program. She serves as a substitute teacher and works with 4-H. She chaperoned 4-H members to Life Challenges held in June at the UNL East Campus, an activity she has done for many years. 

The Agceptional Women’s Conference is northeast Nebraska’s premier event for women in agriculture, attracting over 400 women annually who come together for a full day of networking, professional development, and personal growth opportunities. This year’s event featured over 20 speakers who discussed issues related to creating predictable profits in an unpredictable industry, nitrates and public health, dedicating one’s life to service, hemp in Nebraska, smartphone photography for the farm or ranch, keys to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and growing intuitive eaters, among many more options.

To learn more about the conference, visit


                                                                                                       PHOTO CUTLINE 

Tara Smydra, dean of science, technology, agriculture, and math at Northeast Community College, presents Anita Keys, Elsmere, with the 2022 Agceptional Woman of the Year award during the College’s Agceptional Women’s Conference recently in Norfolk.