Strawberries in North Dakota
Monday, April 17, 2017
Today there are more than 30,000 farms in North Dakota encompassing almost 40 million acres. North Dakota leads all other states in the production of sunflower seeds and barley. Wheat is the state’s leading crop, ranking behind only Kansas. North Dakota is also a leading state in canola, navy beans, oats, pinto beans, soybeans, and sugar beets. But strawberries are nowhere on the list of important North Dakota crops.
On this date in 1908, Professor Lanxon of the North Dakota Agricultural College urged farmers to consider planting strawberries, at least in small amounts. He was convinced that strawberries could be very profitable. He said strawberries were easier to grow in North Dakota than wheat. He pointed out that the Agricultural College had been very successfully growing strawberries for several years.
Lanxon recommended a strawberry called the Senator Dunlap as being especially well suited for North Dakota. It was very hardy and could withstand harsh winters. He admitted that the planting of strawberries was labor intensive. It was easier to sow seeds than transplant strawberries that had to be started in small pots before moving outside.
Strawberries also required more attention during the growing season. They had to be carefully cultivated. Only four or five young plants could be allowed to come from one parent plant. The rest had to be thinned by hand. Rows had to be raked, also by hand. This meant that strawberries were not very practical for large fields.
But Lanxon still argued for strawberries as a profitable side crop. Plants could be purchased from commercial growers for five dollars per thousand. He said twenty-four plants would be a good start, producing over twenty-four quarts of fruit. And those original twenty-four plants could produce another one hundred plants within a year.
Lanxon didn’t recommended strawberries on a large scale, feeling a farmer couldn’t rely on strawberries as a primary crop. But he felt strawberries could bring added income. After all, who would refuse a nice dish of Dakota strawberries and cream on a hot July day?
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Golden Valley Chronicle. “Strawberries in No. Dakota.” 17 April, 1908.
NetState. “North Dakota Economy.” http://www.netstate.com/economy/nd_economy.htm Accessed 12 March, 2017.