STARK COUNTY, ND — The Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its fifth annual Banquet in a Field: Western Style on July 11 at the Kuhn Ranch south of the Dickinson Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport. The goal of the event is to cultivate awareness of food production and agriculture. According to the North Dakota Bankers Association, nearly 26% of the state’s workforce are farmers, ranchers or employed by an ag-related entity.
Carter Fong is Executive Director for the chamber and said this the fifth year they’ve put on the event. Guests are invited by the chamber, and Fong said attendance has grown from approximately 100 the first two years to nearly 200 this year. The host farm is changed once every two years. Fong said the chamber’s role is to connect businesses with the community, and that local ag producers rely on Dickinson businesses.
“Those of us who live in city limits are probably one or more generations removed from having a family member on a farm. And we cannot forget all the labor it takes to bring a meal from field to table,” Fong said. “The Kuhns have a great setup for this event, they worked so hard to have indoor and outdoor options for us. Because as we’re seeing right now, farmers and ranchers have to adapt to whatever Mother Nature gives to them.”
The event kicked off with a wide array of appetizers such as flaxseed hummus, lamb and sunflower chive in a mowed section of corn. Dinner included beef tri tips with vegetables and a strawberry shortcake dessert.
Data from the USDA published in 2018 and 2021 showed that approximately 39 million of the 41 million acres of the land in North Dakota is agricultural, spread out across 26,000 farms. Kuhn is a fifth generation farmer whose ancestors homesteaded on the land south of Dickinson that he continues to farm. He said the agricultural industry offers an abundance of rewarding careers in, quite literally, a variety of fields.
“When I was going to school, it was almost assumed that in order to be successful, you needed to have a white collar job, go to school and get degrees. And now it’s almost flipped where these trade jobs are becoming so valuable because there’s no one left to do them and get the work done,” Kuhn said. “There’s never a day where we go out and they’re not fixing something or troubleshooting something… There’s also a lot of highly technical jobs. We’re able to do some amazing things with technology now like variable rate fertilizer and seed placement.”
The operation encompasses several thousand acres and a few hundred head of cattle. Ben leads crop production while his father Jeff and younger brother Jaden manage the ranching. Throughout their rotations the Kuhn Farm grows 14 crops including wheat, lentils, barley and flax. Ben made a point to thank his full time employees Austin Maxwell, Chuck Bohlman and Chad Binstock for all of their hard work. He also thanked his wife.
“Spouses are just as important to this whole effort as all of us, because if they weren’t supporting us there’s no way we could have the time to do what we need to do,” Ben said.
Jaden Kuhn expressed gratitude for the local entrepreneurs who provide him with the resources he needs to keep moving, explaining that he counted 56 Dickinson area businesses he spent money at over the past year. He also said he’s grateful to the generations before him who laid the foundations for what he’s doing today.
“We have some places where my great grandpa has built buildings that are still standing and they’re still very square,” Jaden said. “It’s amazing just to see the attention to detail that some of those old timers had. And that’s really truly what we have to thank for all of this, all of the experience and all the people who taught us along the way how to do things.”
Despite the less than ideal weather for gathering in a field, Ben Kuhn had no complaints.
“I’ll leave you with the golden rule of my farm that I tell everyone. It is to never, ever under any circumstances wish for it not to rain. Any time you’re getting rain in the middle of July on a farm it’s a really good thing,” he said.
Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.