Upside Down Under: North Dakota, more diverse than you think…

Written by: Marvin Baker

It seems that every time we see information about North Dakota agriculture, it’s about the 11 crops that the Ag Department maintains as No. 1 in the nation.


In one sense it paints a good picture for us, but in another it’s deceiving because anyone who farms or knows someone who farms, knows North Dakota is far more diverse than that.


What about those crops that are No. 3 or No. 6, or even No. 10 in the nation. If you dig deep into the United States Census of Agriculture, you’ll find that even those crops or livestock we consider minor here in North Dakota, show sometimes far greater yield than other states.


One example is maple syrup. Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, yes, but maple syrup is being produced on four farms in Griggs and Eddy counties. There’s a farm in Stutsman County that is growing dill for its oil not for pickles. Fifty-seven farms have llamas, 23 have elk and six have rabbits.


Following is a rundown of some of the crops and livestock that we don’t often think about. Out of sight, out of mind, right. There are a lot of statistics, but 2017 is the the most recent year for complete numbers across the board.
Thirty-nine farms grew buckwheat with the most, seven, in Golden Valley County. Dunn had five and Kidder had five. There were five farms in Divide County that grew emmer and spelt.


We often think of lentils as Idaho and Washington agriculture. In 2017, there were 462 farms that grew lentils in North Dakota. Leading the way was Williams with 167, followed by Divide with 96.


Twenty-nine farms grew safflower led by eight farms in Bowman County and seven in Divide. Six farms grew triticale. Mountrail, Ransom and Dickey all had the wheat type grain.


Somewhat surprising was winter wheat. Only 170 of some 26,000 farms grew winter wheat in a state in which winter wheat works well. Ward County led the state in that department with 18 farms.
Do you know what vetch is? It’s normally a forage crop, but there was one farm in Dickey County that grew it for commercial seed production in 2017.


Seven farms in Bottineau, Cavalier, Rolette and Ward grew asparagus commercially. Ten farms led by Cavalier and Kidder grew broccoli, 26 farms grew cabbage with Burleigh leading the way with five.


This one is a bit surprising. There were 30 farms in 2017 that grew cantaloupe and honeydew melons. Richland and Ward counties had three each, while Barnes, Cavalier and Dunn had two each.


Forty-two farms grew carrots, six being in Burleigh, five in Cavalier and four in Morton. Five grew cauliflower, two grew celery, 58 grew cucumberts, 11 grew eggplant and 13 grew garlic, with three in Burleigh and two each in Ward and Griggs.
It seems every farm has horseradish in their tree lines. As it turned out three farms; two in Cavalier and one in Ward grew horseradish commercially in 2017. Two farms grew parsley, one grew okra, 26 grew bell peppers and 43 grew onions with Ward having nine farms that grew dry onions.


Continuing, 36 farms grew pumpkins led by Burleigh, six grew radishes, eight grew rhubarb, 30 grew watermelon led by Ward and 64 counties grew tomatoes including nine in Burleigh, nine in Ward and five each in Cass, Griggs and Morton.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that Cavalier County has five apricot farms, five pear farms and five plum farms. North Dakota had 43 farms growing apples, that’s double from 2012 and 32 farms grew and harvested cherries.


Turning to livestock, we seem to have such a shortage of eggs, yet 743 farms grew layer hens in 2017. There were 191 farms that had meat goats, 164 had milk goats and 20 had angora goats.
A total of 573 farms had sheep, not exactly on the Ag Department’s radar yet sheep continue to be a major livestock in North Dakota.
There are numerous other aspects of agriculture and we’ll get into some of those numbers next week.

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