“Maybe farmers and ranchers don’t need to specialize to succeed anymore,” said Cal Thorson, communications director for the Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, Mandan, N.D., during a break at the recent North Dakota Ag Association show in the Fargodome.
For the past 30-40 years, specialization was the way to succeed in agriculture. You focused your brainpower and capital on just one enterprise – crops, or cattle, for example. Or even potatoes or sugarbeets to the exclusion of everything else.
The farm management philosophy of the day was that enterprises were getting so complicated you couldn’t manage more than one enterprise and do it really well.
“I don’t know if that’s true anymore,” Thorson said. “You can hire the expertise you need. There’s consultants for everything.”
The Northern Great Plains Lab specializes in integrated ag research. Its scientists are focusing ways to bring crops and livestock back together into one operation.
“Specialization is so ingrained in us now, people think of farmers and ranchers and two different things,” Thorson said.
I couldn’t help but wonder how the name Dakota Farmer reflects that specialization. Will one day the name changed to Dakota Farmer and Rancher? It would signal a change in culture that Thorson would welcome.