When you dig into the North Dakota agriculture industry, you’ll quickly find that it goes far beyond wheat, cattle and sugarbeets. The state’s diverse agricultural economy includes a variety of crops and unique products crafted with care.
Growing up, Maartje Murphy treasured time visiting artisan gelato shops with her grandparents. Murphy was predisposed to delicious dairy products, as she and her family operated a dairy farm in the Netherlands before moving to Canada in 2002. In 2010, the family moved to North Dakota and opened a new dairy farm.
“I always dreamed of having a gelato business in North Dakota,” says Murphy. “My family thought I was crazy.”
Not to be deterred, Murphy decided to pursue her passion. In 2017, she attended Gelato University in Chicago, learning the basics of how to make the sweet treat. Today, she operates Duchessa Gelato, using fresh milk sourced from her family’s dairy in Carrington as the main ingredient. Compared to ice cream, gelato uses more milk than cream and is churned at a slower and warmer temperature for a smooth, creamy and rich taste. Murphy serves the homemade gelato at local events using an authentic gelato cart she purchased from Italy.
Schweitzer’s Gourmet Meats
After owning a construction business for 20 years, Travis Schweitzer decided to finally pursue his dream of owning a butcher shop. In 2016, he put down the hammer and picked up the butcher knife. Returning to his agricultural roots, Schweitzer enlisted the help of his wife and seven children, and together they provide custom processing and retail cuts to the Bismarck area at Schweitzer’s Gourmet Meats.
“We raise the best beef in the world, bar none. And I know that for a fact. I’ve tried beef all over this country,” says Schweitzer.
He explains that dry-aging in a state-of-the-art cooler is preferable to wet-aging in a bag, a quicker process used by most grocery stores. Dry-aging allows for more tissue breakdown, improving tenderness and flavor.
In Schweitzer’s professional opinion, North Dakota producers raise some of the highest quality beef.
“I just think the way they handle the beef, they really take good care of their herds,” says Schweitzer. “It’s their livelihood and they have a passion for it and they really take good care of their animals. That’s a big part of getting a nice, tender steak, too.”
Kay Eagleson has been making jellies, jams, syrups and other products from North Dakota berries since 1996. The Jamestown business, called Berry Dakota, often uses berries picked by Native Americans in the Turtle Mountains. Eagleson says any merchandise made from the official state fruit is very popular.
“Any products that are made from chokecherry are my best sellers,” says Eagleson. “I make something chokecherry almost every week.”
Other featured flavors include crab apple, wild plum, juneberry, wild cranberry and buffalo berry. Berry Dakota products are available at numerous retail locations, as well as at Pride of Dakota Holiday Showcases.
Leo’s Potato Dumplings
When Leo Bosh of Lankin retired from making Czech-style potato dumplings in 2009 at the age of 86, Mary and Jerry Hodny embraced the opportunity to continue the legacy of Leo’s Potato Dumplings. Like Leo, Jerry Hodny was also proud of his family’s Czech heritage. Along with their son, Shawn, the Hodnys now run the business originally started by Leo, and focus on keeping ingredients local. They source potatoes from Red River Valley farmers, use flour from the North Dakota Mill in Grand Forks, and use local eggs when possible. Mary Hodny says potato dumplings vary based on the heritage, and they work to educate consumers about their product.
“It’s kind of neat to teach them about heritage in different regions of our own state, because there are different nationalities in different towns,” she says.
The dumplings are made with cooked, mashed potatoes. They can be frozen and are sold in bags as a convenience food for people to enjoy at home. The Hodnys also sell Czech fries, a creative invention made with the dumplings that aren’t pretty enough to sell. These are fully cooked, cut up dumplings ready for the frying pan. The company also sells lefse and kolaches.