Free Samples Lead to New Business Venture

The Nebraska State Fair opened up new doors for Great Plains Honey Farms of Grand Island who have been a proud GROW Nebraska Member since 2010.

Gold Dust Honey Farms and Kettle Corn Sampling at the Nebraska State FairOwners Mike Lagsding and Rhoda Shurigar gave free samples of their all-natural honey to thousands of shoppers at the GROW Nebraska State Fair Store, and those samples increased their sales dramatically.

Then, a visit to the midway sparked an idea for a new product.

“After we sampled honey, we went out on the midway, and there was a kettle corn vendor for Arizona, and we saw the amount of kettle corn that was sold,” Rhoda said. “It was astronomical.”

They decided to research kettle corn as a new product.

Rhoda said the original goal was to incorporate Great Plains Honey into the kettle corn. However, they learned that honey makes the kettle corn too sticky and doesn’t make a good crust. After many trials and errors, they developed an all-natural kettle corn that has the flavoring popped into the popcorn instead of adding it later as a coating. They produce it using a special premium style mushroom style popcorn developed in Nebraska.

They offered free samples of their new Gold Dust Kettle Corn at the 2017 Nebraska State Fair, and it was a hit. They also sampled nearly 25 pounds of Great Plains Honey portioned out into tiny cups with miniature spoons.


Health Benefits of Honey

Great Plains Honey Farm

 “It helped us get the word out to thousands and thousands of people every day,” Rhonda said of their State Fair experience. “We also use it as an educational tool to tell people about all the health benefits of honey.”

Rhonda said many shoppers are surprised to learn that honey, in addition to being a healthy food, also works as a healing agent when applied to wounds on animals and humans because bacteria can’t grow on it.

It’s important to Mike and Rhoda to continue to offer products that are all natural. Their bees are never medicated, they don’t use pesticides, and they don’t pasteurize their honey.

And, everything is grown right here in Nebraska.

Rhoda said some larger beekeepers send their hives to California, Florida or Texas during the winter to pollinate. Great Plains Honey Farms bees always stay in Nebraska during the winter.

“I think they are healthier by not moving them around,” Rhoda said.

Beekeeping Turns Into Business

Mike started beekeeping as a hobby in 2010 after taking a beekeeping class. He built his own hives and discovered a passion for working with bees. He started selling honey from the hives in 2013. He continues to multiply his hives to create more honey.

Great Plains Honey Farms joined GROW Nebraska in 2010. Rhoda said she is grateful to GROW for giving them advice on business insurance, kitchen licensing and other steps to get started with this business, including the opportunity to market their product at the State Fair.

This year at the State Fair pop-up store (August 24-September 3 in Grand Island), they will give free samples of their newest product – Cinnamon Toast Kettle Corn.

In addition to the State Fair Store, Great Plains Honey and Gold Dust Kettle Corn can also be purchased at the GROW Nebraska store in Kearney and on GROW Nebraska’s eBay store, GROW’s Amazon store and on Buy Nebraska.


Other GROW Nebraska businesses who will be sampling products at the Nebraska State Fair pop-up store include: HR Poppin' Snacks, Small Town Famous, Sterling Emmer Wheat, Herbal Gatherings, From The Heart Creations, Award Keeper, Ely Farms, Oh Yeah Seasonings, Big Daddy Salsa, Mystic Rhoads Productions Inc., RCK Creations, Pacha Soap Company, Sandhills Natural Water, Ranch Rags, Rustic Milling & Craft LLC, Rowdy's, Roger Safranek Ministries, Nebraska Life Magazine

We’d also like to thank our 2018 State Fair sponsors:
Great Western Bank
Lundeen Isaacson Insurance
LIPS Printing 
A Touch of Class
Dorothy Lynch
ATC Communications
GROW Nebraska is a nonprofit membership organization, serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses. The organization provides marketing opportunities, education, and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska’s educational programs and scholarship opportunities are funded in part by federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors. For more information, please visit

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