The family of William Kelley pose among the rows of their celery field. The Keller’s farm was located six miles west of Kearney on an island in the Platte River. Nebraska Photographer Solomon D. Butcher captured this photograph in 1904. At that time, Butcher had a studio in Kearney.
Nebraska farmers have long experimented with alternative crops. Joseph H. Black was likely Nebraska’s first celery grower. By 1898, there was an estimated 100-150 acres of celery grown in the Platte Valley near Kearney. The Kearney Hub newspaper praised the “superior quality and nutty flavor” of the locally grown celery.
Most of the Nebraska celery was shipped by rail to commission houses in Omaha and Kansas City. When the national companies which bought Platte Valley celery started raising crops on their own land, production in the Kearney area gradually stopped.