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On Your Table Blog

March 21, 2023

7 things you should know about farmers and ranchers

7 things you should know about farmers and ranchers

Editor's note: Today is North Dakota Agriculture Day (And National Ag Day). In celebration, we'd like to share some things you may not realize about farmers and ranchers.

By William Ogdahl

A frozen mustache, aching fingers, and cold toes. Up before dawn and in the field long after the stars come out. These are what common workdays look like for a North Dakota farmer. Do they do it for recognition and accolades? Absolutely not. In fact, many of their most amazing feats are achieved in the dead of night or early in the morning with a blue heeler and God as their only witnesses. Farming and ranching is much more than driving a tractor or riding horses through a pasture. Farmers and ranchers experience many highs and lows throughout the course of the production cycle. It’s not an easy job, and it takes a special kind to succeed.

New calves on the Ogdahl ranch

Here are just a few things you should know about North Dakota farmers:

1. Family Oriented

It isn’t rare for a North Dakota farm to have three generations working together on one operation. If you asked what a major part of why farmers do what they do, they would tell you it’s about the opportunity to pass down a business, a way of life, and a legacy to their younger generations. According to the USDA’s Census of Agriculture, 97% of all farms in the United States are family farms. In North Dakota it is also possible to see first-generation families starting up their own farms and ranches. It takes all kinds, and this state is one of the familial bedrock locations for production agriculture.

Abigail and son in the barn

2. Unrelenting Optimism

There is a metal sign that hangs above the Sand Dune Saloon in McLeod, N.D., that reads “Ranching isn’t about what we’ve done today, it’s about what we’re doing tomorrow.” North Dakota farmers have faith. It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday or even five minutes ago, the work never stops. Mother Nature pays no mind to production goals or plans. Whether it’s through a blizzard, flood, or drought - a North Dakota farmer always finds a way to get it done.

3. Caring Stewardship

North Dakota farmers are grateful for the resources under their feet and understand that they are limited. You’ll notice their willingness to go the extra mile by implementing practices which help ensure profitability and sustainability for many years into the future. North Dakota farmers and ranchers will use new technology paired with time-tested traditional practices to generate greater profit and added benefits to the land.

William and Abigail on the four by four

4. (In)Formal Education

Stereotypes around the world still see farming as an uneducated profession. Many North Dakota farmers have earned post-secondary degrees – from associates to PhDs. Many lessons in life cannot be learned in a classroom. Farmers are constantly learning and adapting their businesses to continue to feed, not only their families, but the world. No matter if a degree hangs in the home office or not, North Dakota farmers are some of the smartest people anyone would have the privilege to know. And that’s no bull.

5. Wear many hats!

I am not just talking about the free caps from seed salesmen or nutrition reps. When a North Dakota farmer has an overheating grain truck and a frozen water tank, it means they are called to be a mechanic and plumber all before breakfast! They are an economist, meteorologist, scientist, conservationist, welder, fence-builder, and mechanical engineer. In most rural settings, there is no one else to do these tasks, forcing farmers to specialize in a little bit of everything. Between livestock and mother nature, how the day starts out is rarely how it ends- it’s all in a day’s work for a North Dakota farmer & rancher.

No matter the weather, the cattle need to be fed and cared for

6. Globally Informed

In today’s political climate, what happens in western Europe and Asia absolutely impacts North Dakota farmers and ranchers. They are more informed and market savvy than ever. With rising input cost and shrinking global market availability, local producers are finding ways to harvest, sell, and feed, locally produced grain, and meat products to increase their operations profitability and lower costs to consumers. North Dakota farmers are out of this world!

7. Formidable Operators

Strong, enduring, and deserving of respect is the North Dakota farmer. The extreme winter storms, the sweltering summer heat, and everything in-between does not phase this breed of operator. The abrupt changes in weather or economic impacts are no-match for the persevering North Dakota farmer when it comes to making a well fought-for living.

So now you know a little more about the grit and grace of a North Dakota farmer. Our state continues to produce great leaders and champions of the agricultural industry. For God, for family, for country. We are thankful for North Dakota farmers and ranchers!

William and Abigail OgdahlWilliam Ogdahl and his wife, Abigail, are first generation farmers in Sargent County. They serve on the NDFB Young Farmer and Rancher Committee representing District 3. They have one son.