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Happy Ag Day!

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.

sunflowers

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.

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.

Learn More

harvest07-5Agriculture 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.

 

Celebrate Ag

Milking a cow at the North Dakota State Fair

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.

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Celebrate Prairie Dog’s Day!

Black-tailed prairie dog, photo by Greg Forcey

Okay, okay.  So we all know it’s actually a relative of the prairie dog that gets all the fame and glory right about now.  Still we thought the holiday was a good reason to call Theodore Roosevelt National Park and check on the prairie dog colonies there and, more importantly, if they’re paying attention to their shadows.

Rangers at TR National Park say the mild temperatures this winter have meant our prairie dogs have been very active, especially on sunny days.  Unlike the groundhog, prairie dogs do not hibernate.  They go into what’s called a “winter sleep” allowing them to continue to burrow and eat during the winter and also scamper on those sunny days.

In the South Unit, the scenic drive loop passes through three large prairie dog towns.  In the North Unit, no dog towns can be seen from the road but there is a one-mile hike from the Caprock-Coulee parking area toward a town.  There are an abundance of wildlife viewing opportunities in the Park and information about prairie dogs and other watchable wildlife is shared online.

Prairie dog town in TRNP, photo by QT Luong

In addition to not hibernating, prairie dogs differ from their larger cousins in another way: groundhogs prefer to live on their own while prairie dogs connect their burrows to huge colonies.  The colonies in Theodore Roosevelt National Park collectively span 11,000 acres! 

Another great place to see the rare black-tailed prairie dog is at Fort Stevenson State Park, on the north shore of Lake Sakakawea.  There is signage directing visitors to the prairie dog colony and explaining a bit about them.  Sully Creek State Park near Medora, has a colony right outside the park.  Colonies can also be found on private land, mostly in south central and western North Dakota.

So that one question remains – do prairie dogs pay attention to their shadows and predict the length of winter?  We invite you to visit North Dakota and see for yourself!

 

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The state’s best pie?

Mathematicians rejoice!  We’re celebrating Pi Day!

Okay … I admit, maybe I’m not really celebrating Pi as much as using the excuse to talk about pie.  But the two are a bit related.  After all Pi (Π) has everything to do with the round shape of pie.  (It’s the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter … just in case you didn’t know.)

I hope I haven’t completely lost you because the point of talking about Pi is really to mention one of my favorite round treats found in North Dakota and an awesome place to get pie.

Kuchen – It’s Kind of Like Pie

Kuchen is technically a German word for cake.  At Lapp’s Bakery in Hebron, they make 30 kinds of kuchen distributed in five states.  (My favorite is pumpkin cheese.)  Thankfully, that rich German heritage in North Dakota can be savored by taste buds too!

The Tower City Travel Center

On Interstate 94, about 40 miles west of Fargo, the welcoming town of Tower City is a popular stop for travelers.  On a busy summer day, the Tower Travel Center will go through 245 slices of pie before 3 p.m.  Some of the favorites are: sour cream raisin, black forest, banana cream, apple, peanut butter and lemon meringue.  Get there early or call ahead to reserve your slice.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Attractions, Events, Just for Fun

 

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Saluting Sakakawea today (and every day)

March is Women’s History Month and today is International Women’s Day.  Arguably one of the most inspiring and influential women in North Dakota’s history is none other than the interpreter and guide Sakakawea who accompanied Lewis & Clark on the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific Ocean.

Sakakawea’s fascinating history can be explored at the North Dakota Heritage Center – the largest museum in the state, located in the Capitol city of Bismarck.  An online exhibit dedicated to Sakakawea is place to whet your appetite.

One of the foremost authorities on Sakakawea, Clay Jenkinson, writes about her in the book “A Vast and Open Plain.”  Jenkinson details what is known about this American Indian icon.  She was probably born among the Shoshone Indians around 1787.  She was captured at about the age of 11.  She spent the next five or six years among the Hidatsas and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived in late October 1804, she was one of the wives of French-Canadian trader Toussaint Charbonneau.

Jenkinson writes that it is certain Sakakawea joined the expedition primarily to interpret among the Shoshones, and her value must have been considerable because she made the immense journey to the Pacific Coast and back again to the Hidatsa villages carrying her infant child, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Today on International Women’s Day, we salute this pioneering woman who truly is Legendary.  Follow in her footsteps along the Lewis & Clark Trail in North Dakota and even enjoying one of the nation’s largest man-made lakes, named in her honor – Lake Sakakawea.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2011 in Events, History

 

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