Picture an idyllic small Nebraska town with friendly, hard-working neighbors, a thriving economy rooted in agriculture and plenty of wide-open spaces for children to play. Welcome to Fairmont, Nebraska, a small town of fewer than 600 residents that is aptly named for its scenic setting.
“Fairmont is a classic Nebraska small-town farming community surrounded by corn and soybean fields – exactly what most who have never visited Nebraska would imagine,” says Shelia Carlson Lauby, who moved to Fairmont more than 15 years ago to teach at Fillmore Central High School, which serves the communities of Fairmont and Geneva.
“Almost everyone in our community has a direct tie to an agriculture-related job.”
“What most visitors to our town do not immediately see is that our town is rich in history, housing our county museums as well as the historical Fairmont Air Force Base, which is a special part of World War II history,” she says. “Fairmont has an active and progressive fire and rescue unit, an amazing library, a terrific daycare and nursing home, as well as a fabulous school system.”
Fairmont, Nebraska’s Agricultural Roots
Fairmont’s agricultural heritage runs deep, with many agribusinesses providing jobs for local residents. They include Flint Hills Resources (an ethanol production facility), C.P.I. Lansing LLC (a large grain and supply cooperative), Andersons Grain & Ethanol (a corn processing facility that makes corn tortillas), Circle Five Beef Inc. (a commercial cattle feeding operation) and many others.
“It’s impossible to dismiss the agricultural component of our community. Almost everyone in our community has a direct tie to an agriculture-related job,” Lauby says. “Knowing our community benefits from a strong agriculture presence provides a sense of pride. During harvest, nighttime drives down the highway are illuminated by the headlights of the equipment harvesting crops. It’s an awesome thing to watch. Harvest in Nebraska is an exciting and beautiful time.”
Jeff Neiman, who has lived in Fairmont his entire life, manages the Circle Five Beef Inc. feedyard.
“My dad was a signal maintainer for Burlington Northern Railroad, but he also had an interest in a small cow-calf operation south of Fairmont by the air base. My brother, Brice, and I were able to help with chores there,” Neiman says. “When I was 16, the manager of Circle Five Beef Inc. offered me a part-time job at the feedyard. I worked there through high school, and in 1994, I returned and took a full-time position. My teammates at Circle Five are great people, and local farmers are always great to work with and willing to help the community.”
Fairmont: A Close-Knit Community
Neiman and his wife, Peiper, enjoy living in Fairmont in part because it’s an ideal place to raise their three young children, Finn, Lux and Lark.
“People look after one another, and it’s a safe, small-town atmosphere,” he says. “Fillmore Central Public Schools is a good school district with dedicated teachers and administration.”
City Board Chairman Don Moses agrees. He moved to Fairmont from South Dakota in 1996 with his wife, Wanda. Their sons, Alex and Riley, grew up there. Alex came back to Fairmont after college to teach science in the local school district. Riley is a sophomore in high school.
“Fairmont is a clean, friendly community with little crime,” Moses says. “A lot of work has been done to improve the town since the ethanol plant came (in 2007). We’ve been able to use tax revenue to repave Main Street and install new street lights and new waterlines.”
The Fairmont Community Club recently raised $80,000 to improve and update equipment at the popular Pool Park, and many of the donations came from agriculture- based companies, local farm families and other local donors.
“Fairmont is filled with amazing citizens,” Lauby says. “This project proved that community members are willing to work together for the betterment of our community.”