Fifteen years ago then-Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns visited Norm Krug and his Chapman-based popcorn company that was just getting off the ground.
"You kind of looked around and said to yourself, 'where does this go from here?'" Johanns, now one of Nebraska's U.S. senators, recalled on Tuesday.
Johanns says it's gone far, as Preferred Popcorn and others have helped Nebraska become a leader in U.S. popcorn production.
"The reliability of irrigation I think is a lot of the reason Nebraska has moved into the number one slot as far as acres of popcorn produced in the United States," says Krug, Preferred Popcorn's CEO.
Krug says 25-30 containers leave Chapman on a truck every week, bound for 55 countries. Each container holds 900,000 servings of popcorn.
"Nebraska just provides an ideal climate with the hot days and the humid nights," says Krug. "It's really one of the best places in the world to raise popcorn."
Krug says when they got started they had more popcorn than they knew what to do with, but today, with increased trade and a growing movie theater market in China, they need more growers.
"We're glad and excited but we've opened up a big door and actually now we're requesting help from other local farmers to raise popcorn," he says. "It's a great way to add value to a Nebraska product."
With more growers can come more export, but officials say the playing field abroad isn't always level.
"Unfortunately, in ag products, it's still a very problematic area to sell our products worldwide," says Johanns. "We still have a lot of trade barriers out there."
But Krug says with trade missions and help from people like Johanns he thinks Nebraska popcorn can keep growing.
Preferred Popcorn will be celebrating 15 years and a new office building with an open house on February 28 from 1 to 4 p.m.