Learning Experience: Producers Make Memorable Trip To North Dakota

By Tommy Horton

No matter how much know-ledge a farmer may have about his chosen profession, there is always room to learn more. And that is exactly what 13 Southern producers did last month when they visited North Dakota.

The group was participating in the National Cotton Council’s Multi-Commodity Education Program (MCEP), which brings together producers from the Sunbelt and Midwest/Far West regions in an information exchange. The program is supported by The Cotton Foundation with grants from Deere & Company and Monsanto.

For most of the producers on the tour, it was their first trip to North Dakota, and it proved to be educational and memorable.

Agricultural Education

Not only did the group get a chance to meet Midwest farmers, but participants gained a broad overview of agriculture in this Northern state.

The highlights of the trip included visits to:

• Tharladson ethanol facility in Casselton, N.D;
• Wheat farmer Jim Howe’s operation in Casselton, N.D.;
• A French fried potato processing plant in Jamestown, N.D.;
• John Deere seeder plant in Valley City, N.D.;
• Northern Crops Institute and its greenhouses at North Dakota State University in Fargo;
• Ag Depot, Inc., and the North Dakota Mill (wheat) in Grand Forks;
• Hoverson potato farm in Larimore, N.D.;
• Brad Thykeson’s wheat farm in Portland, N.D.;
• Red River Commodities in Fargo, N.D.;
• Monsanto’s breeding facility in Glyndon, Minn.; and
• American Crystal Sugar facility in Moorhead, Minn.

Those producers participating in the tour were:

• Bryan Bone (Bakersfield, Calif.)
• Andrew Burleson (New London, N.C.)
• Justin Corzine (Stamford, Texas)
• Thad Freeland (Tillar, Ark.)
• Bryan Fullingim (Petersburg, Texas)
• Chad Mathis (Arlington, Ga.)
• Jimmy Miller (Boaz, Ala.)
• Richard Pelzel (Miles, Texas)
• Toby Robertson (Corpus Christi, Texas)
• Robert Royal (Midnight, Miss.)
• Hedrick Shoaf (Milan, Tenn.)
• Ray Vester (Stuttgart, Ark.)

Other participants included:

• John Gibson, Member Services Director, National Cotton Council (Memphis, Tenn.)
• Jeff Nunley, South Texas Cotton and Grain Association (Victoria, Texas)

It’s hard to say who learned the most during the five-day trip – the visitors from the South or the Northern hosts. Because many cotton producers now grow wheat and soybeans, there were numerous opportunities to compare notes on production practices for these major crops.

“This program has become even more beneficial through the years,” says John Gibson, NCC Member Services Director. “Producers from one region get to travel to another region that they probably have never seen. More importantly, the tours continue to foster excellent communication among farmers.”

Common Ground

Even though differences exist be-tween farmers from the South and Upper Midwest, there is always an opportunity for the two groups to share information.

That was obviously the case for Mississippi producer/ginner Robert Royal. He had little knowledge of North Dakota agriculture, but he found it easy to talk to Midwest farmers and ag officials.

“Anytime you have farmers from different regions getting together, you can find a way to talk about any topic,” he says. “That happened on this trip. I found these farmers to be very knowledgeable about technology.”

Royal says it’s unlikely that he could use any cultural practices observed in North Dakota on his farm in Missi-ssippi. But he still saw some production techniques on a corn and wheat farm that intrigued him. One of those practices was “tiling,” which involves installing underground hoses in a field to regulate water levels.

Texas producer Bryan Fullingim says he has a newfound appreciation for North Dakota farmers and their unique challenges.

“I can’t say specifically that I could go back home and grow my crops like they do,” he says. “But the trip definitely opened my eyes. It was a wonderful trip, and I definitely benefited from the experience.”

Contact Tommy Horton at (901) 767-4020 or thorton@onegrower.com.

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