5 questions with ... Grady Bakken, farmer, Lignite, N.D.


Q: How has agriculture shaped your life?

Agriculture has shaped my life in many ways. I left the farm more than 20 years ago to pursue a career in diesel mechanics. This got me into the heavy equipment industry, eventually leading to a sales career. I enjoyed it, however, my heart was still back on the farm. My wife, Traci, and I decided that we wanted to raise our kids in a family farming environment.

We received an opportunity to start farming with a very close family friend as he moved into retirement, and in 2012, we moved back to the farm where I was raised and started farming full time. Farming has been tough sledding for the last few years, but hopefully we will be given some good years in the not too distant future.

Q: What is your role in agriculture today?

My role consists of everything from machinery operation and maintenance to purchasing seed and chemicals as well as marketing commodities. I do all the spraying for our farm, so that keeps me busy most of the growing season. I'm lucky to have help from my father-in-law, and I also farm with my brother-in-law, so it's a close connected relationship. Our oldest son, Ethan, has also become very instrumental in working on the farm. Outside of the farm, I serve on the Burke County Soil Conservation Board, Burke County FSA board and Christ Lutheran Church Council.

Q: How has the drought of 2017 changed your outlook in farming?

The drought brought new challenges quite opposite of what we have been used to with the recent wet years. We practice no-till farming, in which we rely on single pass seeding with a disc drill. We have a goal of moisture conservation along with building up organic matter in the soil. Looking forward, we need to remember that a drought can happen on any given year. We were pleasantly surprised this year with most of our crops considering the conditions. There were a lot of farmers and ranchers throughout North Dakota, neighboring states, as well as Canada who weren't even able to harvest a crop, so we shouldn't complain.

Q: What is a challenge in agriculture that keeps you up at night and do you have ideas or a solution to address it?

I feel, as producers, we face the challenge of being diligent with a diverse crop rotation and staying up to date with different marketing opportunities throughout the year. I would like to incorporate certain crops into our rotation, but feel that some are risky due to our climate, market opportunities or logistics. I do stay up at night searching for solutions and ideas from producers in other regions. As long as we keep an open mind to new practices and crop/chemical rotations, we will also have a more diverse marketing potential.

Q: What excites you about your community?

We are fortunate to live in a great small region of rural America. We are blessed to have several top notch vendors in our area so we can do most business locally. Another benefit of our area is the close-knit connection of friends and neighbors. In this business it's so important to help each other. We cooperate with other local producers by performing custom work for each other and renting each other machinery. These are just a few of the excellent perks of living in and around some great small communities.

Bakken, his wife, Traci, and children Ethan (15), Kyra (12), and Corbin (7), live and farm near Lignite, N.D. They grow wheat, durum, beans, peas, canola and sunflowers.