Farmers also planting fruits, vegetables
FARGO (AP) -- With mounting economic pressures, some North Dakota farmers are thinking small instead of big. Some farmers operate labor-intensive patches of fruits or vegetables, which can generate much more money per acre than the area's mainsta...
FARGO (AP) -- With mounting economic pressures, some North Dakota farmers are thinking small instead of big.
Some farmers operate labor-intensive patches of fruits or vegetables, which can generate much more money per acre than the area's mainstay crops such as wheat.
Tim Iwen, who farms near Arthur, typically grosses about $1,700 per acre from pumpkins and about $225 per acre from soybeans. Expenses on pumpkins are much higher, but he still nets about 10 times more per acre from pumpkins than from soybeans.
"It's a way to make more money without more real estate," Iwen said.
Mike Johnston planted nearly 18,000 cabbages in his Cando basement this spring. They've now been transplanted and are growing in a 1-acre plot near his home.
"This is all about getting more income per acre," said Johnston, who also grows wheat, sunflowers and other conventional crops.
Depending on weather and prices, he might earn up to 20 times more money from an acre of cabbage than an acre of wheat, he said.
Bob Nowatzki, who runs Nowatzki Farm Produce near Langdon, sells Juneberries and strawberries in July and other produce, including squash and cucumbers, later in the growing season.
Nowatzki's two oldest sons began growing small amounts of produce as part of a 4-H project in 1985. The family vegetable patch eventually grew to about an acre. One acre can grow as much as 6 tons of crops such as squash and cucumbers, worth thousands of dollars.
"That acre paid a big part of college expenses" for his four children, Nowatzki said.
High-value crops, as they are sometimes called, also can mean more money for hard-pressed rural communities.
"This can help more than just the producer," said Maynard Helgaas of Jamestown, past chairman of the North Dakota Commercial Vegetable Growers Association.
Local fruit and vegetables are sold at many grocery stores and at the nearly 50 farmers' markets in North Dakota.
Grocery stores don't see farmers' markets as competition, said Tom Woodmansee, president of the North Dakota Grocers Association. And grocers welcome the opportunity to buy and resell locally grown produce, he said.
Fruits and vegetables are small players in regional agriculture. And Towner County Extension Agent Terry Lykken said they are not for everyone, because they involve a steep learning curve, intense labor and high expenses.
But Iwen and others say fruits and vegetables will continue to have a role in area agriculture.
"They provide another source of income. You don't want to give up on that," Iwen said.