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Finding Friends In North Dakota

A few weeks ago, I had a chance to go on a trip to North Dakota, and I learned a very valuable lesson about agriculture. No matter where you travel in this country, farmers can strike up a conversation with other farmers and find common points of interest on any subject. You might call it a special fraternity.

I accompanied a group of Southern farmers on a tour of North Dakota farms and ag businesses, and I saw this concept beautifully illustrated. The trip was part of the National Cotton Council’s Multi-Commodity Education Program sponsored by John Deere and Monsanto. The program was started five years ago, and its goal is for Southern and Midwest farmers to exchange information – all in an effort to foster a better understanding of common problems and issues.

Of the 14 farmers who traveled on this trip, all but one grew cotton. So, there were plenty of opportunities to hear how the crop is doing in nearly every region of the Belt. The best part was that nearly all of the cotton farmers in our group also grew corn, soybeans and wheat. You name it, and there was somebody who had dealt with every imaginable kind of crop problem during the year.

Initially, I had some apprehension about whether our group would be able to appreciate North Dakota agriculture, but that was disspelled on the first day. We split our time evenly between visits to ag processing facilities and corn/wheat farming operations. Everywhere we traveled our group was inquisitive and never hesitant about asking questions. And it seemed as if our North Dakota hosts relished having this kind of dialogue with their Southern visitors. Even though North Dakota is many miles from where cotton is grown, there were several areas of common interest. Farmers love asking questions of other farmers, and on this trip the questions and answers were flying non-stop.

Wherever we went, our North Dakota hosts seemed genuinely pleased that Southern farmers had learned how corn, soybeans and wheat were grown in this northernmost state. We also learned that North Dakotans are some of the most hospitable folks you’d ever want to meet. They can cook fabulous ribeye steaks and have an appreciation for good barbecue.

In the end, we made some lasting friendships with our North Dakota friends. From this point on, I know for a fact that there is a better understanding between 14 Southern farmers and their Northern counterparts. And just to show that our priorities were in the right place, we offered to return to teach North Dakota farmers how to grow cotton. We suggested that it would need to be a short-season variety, and they seemed to enjoy such a prospect.

Our trip to North Dakota was meaningful and thoroughly informative. If you find yourself near this state anytime soon, you’ll have the same feeling. American farmers are special people no matter where they live.