Agricultural advocates take action

Words sometimes aren’t enough to do farming and ranching justice. Sometimes you just have to show people. That’s what several individuals and groups in North Dakota and South Dakota did recently to promote agriculture.

In South Dakota, the state agriculture department arranged to have 18 legislators ride along with farmers in their combines this fall. “This is a chance for farmers and legislators to develop relationships and heighten the awareness of agriculture,” said Walt Bones, South Dakota ag secretary.

“Many of the legislators grew up on a farm, but things have changed so much during the last decade that it’s great to show them the new technology we use in combines.”

Key Points

Some great advocating for ag projects took place in the Dakotas.

Legislator ride-alongs and Mom’s Tours were held in South Dakota.

Seventh graders toured a farm; college students picked produce in North Dakota.

Agriculture United of South Dakota had an excellent Mom’s Tour in the Sioux Falls area this summer, too. About 40 women from the city went to dairy, hog and swine farms. At the stop I attended, the women peppered Doug VanDuyn, Colton, S.D., with questions about what he did to keep his feedlot cattle comfortable in the heat and how he kept animals healthy without shooting them full of vaccines.

VanDuyn didn’t pull any punches. He said he uses medicine when necessary and a growth hormone, too. In the end, several women gave him — and everyone who feeds cattle as he does — the ultimate compliment. They wanted to know how they could buy his beef.

Tour and more

In North Dakota, Shane Sharpe arranged to have seventh-grade students from a private Lutheran school in Fargo visit the farm that he operates with two brothers-in-law near Georgetown, Minn. School tours are not unusual, but this one was special.

Students from Oak Grove Junior High got to climb on and ride in tractors and combines. They saw how the family was using GPS, computers and other technologies. “I guess I never realized so much goes in farming,” one student said.

In a separate event, the Fargo public school system held its 10th annual Pride of Dakota School Lunch Day. Menu options included low-sodium hot dogs from Cloverdale of Mandan, N.D., oven-baked fries from Cavendish Farms of Jamestown, N.D., and milk from Cass Clay of Fargo, N.D.

And in Valley City, N.D., Dan Faust, a 76-year-old retired pastor who also farms, donated 57,000 pounds of produce (mostly squash, onions, pumpkins and carrots) to the Great Plains Food Bank. About 200 students and faculty from Valley City State University helped him pick and box the vegetables. The project generated some good news coverage and cast farmers in a good light. Bridget Walsh, a freshman at VCSU from Big Stone City, S.D., said Faust was “amazing” to have grown all the food.

We need more stories where farmers come out looking amazing. So let’s do more ride-alongs for civic leaders, more farm tours for adults and kids, and more food bank projects for the hungry. A farmer or rancher in every school district in North Dakota and South Dakota ought to have seventh graders out for a visit next year.

But don’t wait for a commodity groups or ag departments to set up visits or start projects. Pick up the phone and do it yourself. The payoff may be that one more person will reach the same conclusion as young Noah Norby did after his field trip to the farm.

“If there were no farmers,” he told a Fargo Forum newspaper reporter at the event, “there’d be no food, and the world would be dead.”


MOM’S TOUR: Women get a close-up look at a dairy near Sioux Falls as part of tour for urban women sponsored by Agriculture United of South Dakota this summer.

Photo: Agriculture United for South Dakota

This article published in the November, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.