Area Farmers Answer Difficult Questions About Their Profession

Farming is an ever-changing profession that relies on a variety of unpredictable and constantly changing factors. Families and young adults from the Fargo-Moorhead and surrounding area had the opportunity to learn more about the profession and ask some serious questions Dec. 2 at the Fargo Theatre.

The Clay and Wilkin County Corn and Soybean Growers Association and their checkoffs invited people from the region to a free screening of FARMLAND, a unique view of the next generation’s family farm through the lens of Academy Award®-winning filmmaker James Moll.

FARMLAND set the stage for a panel that included area farmers and other industry professionals, each bringing a different view of farming to the table. Following the film, the panel answered audience questions about the average age of farmers, the costs associated with farming, GMOs, chemicals, animal safety, how farmers manage inputs and decisions and the value of raising healthy food.

“I am very careful to raise a healthy crop the best I can with the tools I am given so that we have safe food,” said panelist Andy Maier in response to one audience member’s question. “We are fortunate that we are able to spray less chemicals due to GMOs and farm in a safer environment than even 20 years ago. Neither organic or GMOs are better than one another, but they both have their place and demand exists for both.”

The panel was moderated by North Dakota Rep. Josh Boschee, D-Fargo. Panelists included:

• Mark Boen, Area vegetable farmer, CSA
• Preston Dagen, Industry representative – REA Hybrids, DSM
• Andy Maier, Area corn, soybean, wheat & sugarbeet farmer
• Rob Olson, Area soybean, wheat & hog farmer
• Wanda Patsche, Southern MN soybean, corn, hog farmer & CommonGround member

As expected, due to the importance of agriculture in the region, about three-fourths of the crowd that attended admitted to having a friend or relative who farms, but they themselves did not. The range of questions that focused on the lifestyle and decision making of farmers demonstrated the audience’s interest in what exactly farmers do from day-to-day. The panelists finished out their hour by encouraging attendees to contact farmers they know or to stop by and ask farmers questions or for a tractor ride.

“When I used to live on the farm and we were harvesting potatoes, I kid you not, people would stop by our field and ask us what we were doing,” Dagen said. “If you are interested and want to see what they do, ask a farmer if you can ride in the tractor and don’t be shy to ask questions. Farmers are always happy to share what they are passionate about. And if you don’t know a farmer personally, stop by the field when you see someone out there and ask for a ride!”

Over 200 people attended the film showing and panel discussion, with about half of them bringing a canned food donation. Donations were collected and managed by the North Dakota State University Ag Coalition. When the panelists finished, each person received material from CommonGround to help them find the answers to their food-related questions.

Area businesses and organizations were also involved in sponsoring the film showing. Sponsors included Ag Country Farm Credit Services, Bell State Bank & Trust, the Clay County Crop Improvement Association, Farmers Business Network, North Dakota Soybean Council, RDO Equipment Co. of Hawley, Moorhead & Breckenridge, REA Hybrids and Thunder Seed.