Jonathan Knutson / Agweek Staff Writer
GRAND FORKS—It may be one the most colorful images in U.S. agriculture: A tense group of farmers, bunched in a room, bidding energetically against their neighbors to buy land. But that scene has become less common in parts of Agweek Country, particularly northeast North Dakota. The Grand Forks office of Farmers National Company hasn't held a public auction since late 2014, says Jayson Menke, who works in real estate sales in the office.
OSLO, Minn. — Earl Mallinger's 2017 harvest will begin later this summer — the 96th or 97th in which he's been involved in some way. Yes, you read that right. "Well, I've been interested in what happens on the farm since I was 3 or 4," says Mallinger, who turns 100 on Aug. 14. His remarkable life includes a still-active role on the farm, 60 grandchildren and great-grandchildren (no great-greats yet), and physical and mental vigor that many much-younger people would envy.
MANHATTAN, Kan. — Augustine Obour first learned of camelina in 2010 when he joined the University of Wyoming as a research scientist. "I just got interested in it and wanted to work on it," he says. Now Obour, assistant professor of soil science at Kansas State University, wants farmers across the Great Plains to learn about the crop, too. He participated in a research project that provides more information on growing camelina in Kansas in particular and the central Great Plains in general, an area where the crop is largely unknown.
BROCKET, N.D. — Austin Sundeen is a little short on sleep. But that's a good thing: The Brocket, N.D., farmer has taken advantage of favorable weather to catch up, or nearly so, on most of his planting. "We've put in half the farm since Wednesday (May 10)," Sundeen said. "We haven't slept since Wednesday, either," he adds with a chuckle. The busy stretch was especially welcome because of the slow planting start this spring. A rainy stretch last fall saturated the ground, already affected by the multi-year wet cycle that's hit the Brocket area.
WASHINGTON — New enrollment in a popular conservation program has been frozen, but producers interested in it shouldn't give up hope, a sustainable agriculture official says. The U.S. Department of Agriculture as of May 3 quit enrolling new acres in the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program because the larger program of which it is a part had reached its acreage cap.
MANDAN, N.D. — Erica Olson and the rest of the U.S. wheat industry now have another tool with which to defend its product against the gluten-free movement. A new study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that gluten-free diets could increase the risk of heart attack for people who don't have celiac disease. "Any time a study like this comes out, that's great," said Olson, marketing specialist with the North Dakota Wheat Commission and immediate past chairwoman of the national Wheat Foods Council.
FESSENDEN, N.D. — David Clough, who planted his first wheat crop in 1969, says he's always valued and practiced sustainability on his farm. "There's nothing new about it," the Fessenden farmer says. "This is our livelihood, so we want to keep the land productive."
FARGO, N.D. — In World War II, American servicemen in Europe were fed canned mutton that they detested because of its strong musky flavor. After they returned home, many of the soldiers banned lamb meat from their dinner tables — contributing to a huge, long-lasting decline in U.S. consumption. But times are changing. Lamb meat is enjoying a comeback, and Travis Hoffman seeks to help U.S. sheep producers build on that. "We need to know what our customers want from us," says Hoffman, sheep specialist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service.