I’ve just learned that its Ag Day 2013 which has inspired me to get back to blogging. I’m sorry for the long lag!
Being a North Dakotan who was raised rural, I often forget that others don’t have a familiarity with the beauty of agriculture and the enormity of farm production. I’m from the Red River Valley, an area known for its fertile farm lands. To me, there’s nothing more beautiful than miles of plush, green fields, for as far as the eye can see. Visitors to North Dakota frequently call the Tourism Division and ask about the types of crops they’re seeing in the state. Whether its fields of blooming purple flowers (flax), small yellow flowers (canola) or those photogenic sunflowers, we love to help our visitors learn more about the scenery they’ll find here.
Agriculture is North Dakota’s #1 industry. According to research at North Dakota State University, it contributed $7.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2011. And North Dakota leads the nation in production of sunflowers, barley, dry edible beans, pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, lentils, dry edible peas, durum wheat and spring wheat.
So I’m sharing a bit about North Dakota’s agriculture today and there are three tourism-related spins that I want to put on this #1 industry: 1) how to enjoy the beauty; 2) how to enjoy the production; and 3) how to learn more and experience agriculture.
Enjoy the Beauty
Knee high by the 4th of July? This is my family, in the Red River Valley, late June, 2012.
Agriculture, including ranching, is everywhere in North Dakota, covering approximately 39.2 million acres. Any spring, summer or fall trip through the state and you’re guaranteed to see the land in some phase of production. Most spring planting occurs in April and May, with harvest spanning a wide time frame, depending on the crop. Harvest takes place anywhere between July and November. Visitors can journey throughout North Dakota and also make stops at specific farms and gardens, such as Dakota Sun Gardens near Carrington and Black Leg Ranch near Bismarck – where you can even saddle up for your tour. Photo opportunities are plentiful!
Enjoy the Production
THIS is where agriculture gets yummy! Consider for a moment the Red Barn and Berry Farm near Kindred. Here you can pick raspberries and even nibble as you go – without fear of being weighed on your way out! Farmer’s Markets can be found in cities large-and-small, like the Town Square Farmers Market in Grand Forks – taking place Saturdays mid-June through September. And check out the North Dakota products marketed by Pride of Dakota! You’ll find everything from delicious Dakota Growers Pasta to lotions made of honey.
Agriculture in North Dakota has history. Visitors can relive farming on the prairie at Bonanzaville in West Fargo or experience what a northern “plantation” was like at the Bagg Bonanza Farm near Mooreton. And if ranching is more your interest, there’s no better place than the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in Medora. Not just a hall of honorees! This museum celebrates western heritage and culture.
Interested in the scientific side of agriculture? Visit the Langdon Research Extension Center or the North Central Research Extension Center of Minot and see how tests are being done to maintain and improve the industry.
If you really want to get your hands dirty, North Dakota has opportunities for that too! GardenDwellers Farm of Esmond has classes, events and “group play” in production of herbs. Sheer sheep and spin your own wool at Wooly Girls, near Wales. Get your feet dirty at the Red Trail Vineyard Harvest Festival and Grape Stomp.
Milking a cow at the North Dakota State Fair
Okay … I’m going to throw in a fourth way to enjoy agriculture in North Dakota and that’s in celebration. Here you can find festivals for rhubarb, chokecherries, apples, sauerkraut, lefse, ribs, turkeys, watermelon, sunflowers, corn, potatoes and even lobster. The North Dakota State Fair has competitive exhibiting (and great entertainment). There’s also a huge annual event called the Big Iron Farm Show that draws more than 80,000 people.
Agriculture and tourism blend together brilliantly in North Dakota. In fact, we have an AgriTourism program helping connect travelers to all these ways to experience the industry and helping producers expand their businesses by offering tourism components. Learn more online.