With over 100 years of history serving producers in eastern Nebraska, Frontier Co-op has deep roots in the communities where their patrons and employees live and work.
As a local agricultural retail owner of Land O’Lakes, Inc. and through the Land O’Lakes Foundation member match program, Frontier has received grants to support everything from local agriculture education efforts like FFA and 4-H projects, to volunteer fire departments. This year alone, they have already funneled thousands into community programs using matched grant funds from Land O’Lakes.
While operating as an essential business through the pandemic, Frontier innovated remote solutions for employees and customers, improved accessibility for farmers with their new business app, and even collected food and donations for five local food banks for neighbors in need.
And most recently, Frontier partnered with Land O’Lakes and Nextlink Internet for a Microsoft Airband Initiative to expand broadband internet.
Frontier joins ranks with many organizations taking broadband into their own hands in the effort to boost connectivity for surrounding residents and commercial businesses, especially in rural areas.
Founded on co-op values of collaboration and community service, Frontier jumped on the opportunity to help advance technology in the areas where most of their patrons and employees live.
“In an increasingly connected world, high-speed internet is a necessity to help connect the farm, the family and the community,” says Frontier CEO Jeremy Wilhelm. “Two of our core values at Frontier are to create opportunities and make a difference — and I think this project aligns perfectly with that focus, and we are proud to work with Land O’Lakes, Microsoft and Nextlink to support our rural communities.”
What starts with faster internet connection leads to more efficient remote learning and employment, increased telemedicine and health care resources, and economic development in rural areas. While it may seem like a big leap for a local ag co-op to make, broadband access is just one of many ways Frontier is helping their communities connect.
Broadband issues: 'It’s personal for us'
“Who would have thought a local co-op could help bridge the tech gap?” says Linne Vavrina, Marketing Director for Frontier.
Vavrina has a unique perspective on the co-op’s evolution having filled the first marketing position on Frontier’s staff about nine years ago. Following the broadband program announcement, she received an influx of messages from excited patrons. And having grown up in a small rural community much like the areas Frontier services, she knows about weak broadband connection.
“We all have known connectivity problems for our rural areas had been a challenge well before the pandemic, but it came to light even more once the pandemic forced schools to shut down last year ahead of schedule. There was a lot of bandwidth-sharing going on in households that created additional challenges. Furthermore, farmers and farm families were already needing additional technologies and connectivity to run their operations.”
“It’s personal for us. This is an ongoing challenge for rural communities that the pandemic made worse,” adds Ryan Meister, VP of Digital Transformation at Frontier, who works one-on-one with Airband partners throughout the installation process.
To build the infrastructure, Meister partners with wireless providers to survey land and the surrounding market’s needs, and then identify or build the vertical assets needed to feed fibers into those areas. Following the program’s launch in early 2021, the process is expected have a rolling schedule of go-live dates by region over the next few years.
As excitement grows among Frontier employees, patrons, and surrounding neighborhoods, Meister says, “we’re proud to be a part of the solution that connects our communities to the digital age.”
“Co-ops are the economic engines of their communities and Frontier is no exception,” says Tina May, vice president of Rural Services and Chief of Staff, Land O’Lakes, Inc. “Frontier is a leader in so many areas including philanthropic efforts, with sustainability initiatives such as our new carbon program, and now in providing broadband access for their communities. We’re proud to partner with them in this work to close the digital divide. Our future is stronger when we work together.”
This project is part of ongoing efforts by Land O’Lakes and Microsoft to close the rural broadband gap across the United States. Frontier Co-op is part of the Land O’Lakes member network and a Microsoft Airband Broadband Initiative partner. You can learn more by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Frontier Cooperative
Frontier Cooperative is a full-service, member-owned agricultural cooperative operating primarily throughout eastern Nebraska. Frontier offers products and services in Grain, Agronomy, Feed and Energy and has been proudly serving local producers for over 100 years.