By Maddie Robinson
With almost 26,000 farms occupying about 90% of North Dakota’s land and the average farm being roughly 1,500 acres, the state’s strong agricultural roots are an essential part of its very function.
A 2022 North Dakota State University study found that agriculture makes up almost 25% of the state’s economy, a total contribution of over $30 billion. Coupled with the fact that the industry represents over 100,000 direct and secondary jobs, or one in every five workers, it is clear that agriculture is an essential economic driver for the state.
While the agriculture industry is ingrained in North Dakota’s culture and economy, it can be difficult for farmers and consumers to feel more connected to each other, according to Felicity Merritt, the program manager for The Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resources Management and Sustainability (FARRMS). The organization aims to provide North Dakota farmers with education, support and resources, including classes, internships, grant and loan programs and business planning services.
“One of the goals of our organization is also to just connect people more with agriculture, whether they want to start their own farm, or they just want to be a more mindful consumer,” Merritt said.
While FARRMS focuses on “helping existing farmers thrive,” Merritt said the organization didn’t have many programs that were targeted at community members to help close the gap between farmers and buyers.
To tackle this, FARRMS is hosting a field day called Fargo Area Farm Tour & Mini Market on Thursday, Sept. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“We thought that the field days are a really good opportunity for people to come out and see the farms in the area and build that connection,” Merritt said.
The event will consist of visiting three different farms near the Fargo area, with a Mini Market planned afterwards.
The first farm, Family Roots Farm, offers a diverse array of locally-raised food products, including produce and animals. The farm is based in Christine, North Dakota, about half an hour south of Fargo.
"Our commitment to providing healthy, locally-sourced produce, raw honey, eggs, and pasture-raised meats comes from our belief in a more sustainable and interconnected food system," Jen Skoog, a farmer at Family Roots Farm, said in a press release.
The second farm, Exit 44 Flowers & More, is a fresh-cut flower farm based in Walcott, North Dakota that currently sells their arrangements at the Red River Market in Fargo. The farm prides itself on its sustainable and responsible growing practices and aims to minimize their carbon footprint.
The final farm being toured, TenSeven Acres, is an alpaca farm that raises animals for high-quality fiber products, like yarn, hats and rugs. TenSeven Acres is based in Galchutt, North Dakota.
“We’ll get to see a range of different types of farms, but they’re all making direct-to-consumer products,” Merritt said.
After the farm tour concludes in the early afternoon, guests will be able to participate in the event’s Mini Market, a time where visitors can purchase the products directly from the farms and their owners, according to Shelby Hazel, the communications coordinator at FARRMS. The market will be hosted at Crooked Lane Farm, a family-owned farm in Colfax, North Dakota that has operated for over a century.
Not only will the flowers, fresh produce and fiber products from the toured farms be up for sale, but other vendors will be present at the market as well. These include the Red River Harvest Cooperative.
While one of the core values of FARRMS is supporting local and sustainable farmers, Hazel said it is important for consumers to know where they are buying their food and other household products from. Smaller events like the Mini Market do just that.
“Anytime you can see where something is being made and you know that you’re helping them by purchasing their products or going to see their farm and talking about it with other people, it’s really important,” Hazel said.
This isn’t the first time FARRMS has hosted a farm tour. Merritt said the organization started doing tours around 2017 on a much smaller scale and eventually grew to host three farm tours every summer. This year however, FARRMS is hosting four tours, making this their largest summer to date.
Previously this summer, the organization hosted tours in Bismarck and Vergas, Minnesota. Spreading the tours out geographically, according to Merritt, makes it easier for people from different parts of the state to engage with their local food producers, as well as allow FARRMS to feature more businesses.
This is also the first time that FARRMS is advertising the Fargo farm tour publicly, Merritt said. Originally, the farm tours were exclusively for the farmers and their interns, but due to program growth, FARRMS decided to open registration to the public.
So far, Merritt said the organization has received a great response from the public regarding their tours. Now, FARRMS is working on how they can reach more people across the state and connect more consumers with the farming industry and its products.
“Since North Dakota is so big and spread out, it can be isolating, especially if you’re trying to start up a farm that is different from what everyone else around you is doing,” Merritt said. “The farm tours are a really good way to gather people together for an event and make those connections.”
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Tickets for the tour are $50 and can be purchased via https://www.farrms.org Each ticket covers transportation, breakfast, lunch and access to the Mini Market.
Fargo Area Farm Tour & Mini Market on Thursday, Sept. 14 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
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