Hotdish Lexicon: The Farm

Written by: Amy Allendar

“I think it’ll be best if I go for a quick walk,” I said in my calmest, creamiest voice.

Years ago, I read a magazine article about hiker safety. When it came to animals, there was one overarching tip. If you couldn’t remember what to do, speak in a calm, soothing voice. An angry animal will mimic your response: you scream and shout, they become more agitated; you calmly leave, they calmly leave. And, never turn your back on an angry animal.

My backpacking days are behind me, but as a mother, I think about this advice all the time.

So on a recent Saturday morning, I quietly backed out of my house, leaving my husband to diffuse our three-year-old’s tantrum. My presence seemed to be exacerbating the situation; it seemed best to leave this one to dad.

Outside, I spotted my neighbor and a new puppy across the street. Because I can’t resist a puppy, I crossed the street. Like his other dogs, she’ll be raised to hunt.

“I should pick your brain sometime about good places for bird hunting. My dad comes up in the fall and he’d love to know where to go,” I said, petting a wiggly and excited puppy.

“Oh, just have him come over. We can go up to the farm. During hunting season, I always have friends come up there with me,” he answered. We went on to chat about dogs, the mild winter, and of course—the wind before I left to finish my walk around the block.

As I walked, I thought about only one thing from our conversation: the farm.

Years ago when my son had questions about horses a friend lovingly invited us out to The Farm. It’s still one of my dearest memories.
Amy Allender photo

I’d never heard him speak of a farm before. I’d been friends with his daughter for nearly five years and never heard her mention it either. “Classic North Dakotan,” I thought. With wet pavement and ice crunching underfoot, my mind generated a montage of other Hotdishers talking about “the farm.”

“I can’t come, I’ve got to go out to the farm that weekend.”
“He’s not coming because he has to be at the farm.”
“We’ll do our family photos out at the farm.”
“We’re leasing part of the farm.”
“Oh, sure—it’s over at my grandparents’ farm.”
“We’re branding at the farm that day.”
“I always wanted my wedding held at the farm.”

Suddenly, it occurred to me: The Farm, is just a less wet version of The Lake. Everyone knows where The Farm is—unless you’re not from around here. Everyone seems to have a Farm to go to through the year, just as everyone seems to have a Lake to go to in the summer. People you’ve known for years may casually drop The Farm into conversation one day—causing you to rethink everything you knew about them.

Your friend the mortgage broker? Your coworker with perfect nails? That guy you met that one time at that thing? If they are from around here, they’ve all got one thing in common: The Farm. Eight out of ten Hotdishers have a family farm or are closely tied to someone who does. (Okay, I just made up that stat.)

Where is it? If you’re not from around here, it might be best not to ask. As with directions to The Lake, directions to The Farm always involve mentioning several landmarks (“…the old KOA, I’m not sure what it is now…”) and at least one town you’ve never heard of. Trying to actually understand where these places are is typically a fool’s errand. Chances are you’ll never need to drive to The Farm, so don’t strain yourself trying to understand its exact location.

Sometimes I wonder what happens at The Farm. I mean, most of the people who talk to me about The Farm are not, in fact, farmers. For all I know, The Farm is hypothetical place locals claim to be going when they want to politely get away from nosy transplants, like me. “Sorry, Amy—I can’t answer all your questions about lefse…I’m going…to The Farm. Yes, I’ll be at The Farm. Definitely, that’s where I’ll be.” The Farm may be even more mysterious than The Lake.

So what’s the takeaway? There are two. First, if you want to fit in in Hotdish Land, you’ll need to add talking about The Farm to your list of NoDak lexicon. Second, just when I thought I couldn’t love this place more something like this occurs to me and a swoon all over again.

For more on life in Hotdish Land and seeing the good, join me online at, @amy_allender or @HeyMinot on Instagram, and @amyallenderblog on Facebook.

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