Voices from North Dakota

With all the hoopla over the decisions of the North Dakota state legislators recently, those outside the state have little opportunity to understand who lives and works here and the one thing that ties most residents here together—love of the prairie.

The outside world has some strange notions about North Dakota, even before the latest legislative session. My son moved to Virginia many years ago, only to have people ask him if he really was from North Dakota when they saw his license plate. He habitually went to work without anything but a suit coat on in 40-degree weather, much to the amazement of his coworkers. In North Dakota, 40-degree weather signals time to break out the shorts for the summer.

And yes, I have seen people in Fargo in 30-below weather grilling steaks on their balconies.

Many of the residents here are only three or four generations from their immigrant forebears, and life here then was harder than most can imagine today. My grandfather homesteaded in Kidder County in 1905. I attempted to capture some of what life was like here in my account of homesteading, based upon my memories of my grandfather and many hours of conversation with his son, Dale, who continued to farm the land when I was growing up.

While these days are long gone, not even remembered by many current residents of North Dakota, the connection to land remains strong even today. A generation ago, Frank and Deborah Popper offended many people in the central plains with their notion of the Buffalo Commons.  The land here, they proposed, was marginal for farming and the ecology of the area would be served better by returning the land back to the unfarmed prairie it had been for millenia.

But economies change, and they have changed markedly in North Dakota. The High Plains Ag Journal recently visited with Frank and Deborah Popper and discussed how their notion relates to the economy of the area today.

Blogs, bless them, have given people from North Dakota the perfect medium for letting the “outside world” know what residents love about this state.

Hailey Adkisson moved to Fargo, ND, and blogs at Becoming Midwestern. Hailey didn’t grow up here, but as a non-native resident, she provides a fine “gee-whiz” perspective to life in North Dakota.

Fargo, though, is big city compared to life on a farm. The city mouse and country mouse perspective can be very different. Val Wagner blogs at Wag’n Tales about farm life, the real deal in this neck of the woods.

Yes, I personally find the decisions of some of the North Dakota legislators repugnant, but it always helps to step back and look around and be thankful for all of the really great people who live in this state.




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