Known for bountiful farmlands and ranches, North Dakota boasts a few areas that stand out from the rest. These ag hotspots put the state on the map with impressive production numbers, quality products and significant economic impact.
The Red River Valley
Located along the eastern border of North Dakota, the Red River flows north into Canada and has been called “the crookedest river in the world,” despite its straightforward appearance on maps. The fertile land surrounding it has also earned an impressive accolade as “The Breadbasket of the World” because of how much food is produced there.
In fact, the Red River Valley is home to some of the richest soil on the planet, providing fertile ground for a variety of cash crops, including corn, potatoes, wheat and sugarbeets. Over the years, sugarbeets have become a staple of the valley’s farm economy, supporting approximately 2,800 growers on approximately 425,000 acres.
This crop’s impressive growth track started back in 1973 when beet farmers formed a cooperative to purchase American Crystal Sugar Company. Today, the cooperative still operates five processing plants in the Red River Valley, ensuring the sugarbeets’ continued importance and viability in the region.
Cattle Capital of North Dakota
Although there are cattle raised in every county in the state, the city of Towner in McHenry County has deemed itself as the “Cattle Capital of North Dakota” thanks to the publicity of a newspaper story in the 1960s. And since this catchy slogan stuck, the city has continued to embrace its heritage and expand its beef industry over the years.
The county that raises most cattle currently is Morton County. As of January 1, 2018, Morton County’s cattle inventory reached 115,000, with beef cattle totaling 63,000 and dairy cattle at 3,200. One of the reasons ranchers raise large quantities of beef cattle here is that the cattle can be naturally fattened on the rich grasses.
Because of the continued hard work and determination of these ranchers, there is no doubt that Towner, and Morton County, have significantly contributed to North Dakota’s verified reputation of having more cattle than people. Throughout the state, Angus, Hereford, Gelbvieh, Charolais and Simmental remain some of the most popular beef cattle breeds.
Cass County’s status as the “Soybean Capital of North Dakota” is a result of producing more soybeans than any other county in the U.S. In 2018, North Dakota soybean production ranked ninth in the nation, and soybean exports from the state increased by 8% (to $62.4 million), with over $20 million going to Canada instead of China.
The consistently high quality of soybeans coming from the county (and state) remains a point of pride as farmers and processors fulfill demands worldwide.
Over in Cavalier County, an aerial trip will quickly point out the area’s No. 1 crop. From above, one can witness a stunning view of the bright yellow-green hues from the canola fields blooming. And in case the view isn’t convincing enough, in 2018, North Dakota set a new record with 3.1 billion pounds of canola produced, an increase of 24% from the previous year.
There is much optimism around canola these days, and towns such as Langdon, with its Research Extension Center, are staying ahead of the curve by looking for ways to maintain and strengthen its appeal. While the natural climate of northeastern North Dakota is considered good for canola growing, farmers and scientists are working together to find new ways to improve yields, reduce disease and increase frost tolerance.
With this level of commitment and enthusiasm, the future of North Dakota’s canola fields looks very bright indeed.