Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published February 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

Agriculturalist of the Year

Former Beach resident Doug Vannurden said he’s always enjoyed working with kids and helping educate them in agriculture.

Former Beach resident Doug Vannurden said he’s always enjoyed working with kids and helping educate them in agriculture.

Vannurden, who was recently named Agriculturalist of the Year by the NDSU Saddle and Sirloin Club, grew up on a small farm west of Valley City loving agriculture and getting involved in 4-H and FFA programs. After graduating from North Dakota State University, he took a job teaching agricultural education at Beach High School in 1975.

“I learned a lot in the first few years I was there, just as much as my students, I’m sure,” Vannurden said. “I took a program that was pretty small in size and we grew to 80 to 100 students in my program every year.”

Vannurden was also the Future Farmers of America chapter adviser and said the chapter grew to be quite successful, having three of his students receive the American FFA Degree, one elected state FFA officer and one earning a national proficiency finalist recognition.

“We were state winners in a lot of contest winners and I really enjoyed working with the students,” Vannurden said. “I was really fortunate to have the best students in the Beach school system coming into my classes. I had some students that have really gone on and done some tremendous things.

“As a teacher, you’re really proud of those students that you had, and keep track of them and they e-mail you once in a while. That’s kind of fun.”

Greg Lardy, one of Vannurden’s former students, who is now the head of the Animal Science Department at NDSU, said Vannurden was someone he believes had an influence on a lot of students.

“He brought a lot of practical things from an ag-production standpoint, also taught us a lot about the science,” Lardy said. “For me, it was really, Doug had a lot of influence in instilling a desire to stay in agriculture and look at a career in agriculture that might not involve farming or ranching, but a chance to still work with producers and people that are in the industry.

“I give Doug a lot of credit for that, he had an influence on a lot of students in the Beach school system that went and sought careers in ag.”

Vannurden said many things have changed in agriculture while he was teaching and following his time at Beach.

“When I left there (Beach) in 1986, we were actually ahead of the state office in Bismarck as technology-wise,” Vannurden said. “Technology was probably the biggest change in education in agriculture,” adding he thinks there are more resources for agricultural educators online than ever before.

Another change, he added, was the attitude that everything had to be summer fallow, every other year.

“In Beach, when I first moved there, it was all wind-stripped crops, rotational crops, 50-50; one year it sat and they kept it black with the tractor and no weeds in it,” Vannurden said. “The other half of the ground they’d crop, but they’d only get half their land planted.

“When they went to minimum till, no-till, they were able to produce a whole lot more out there and make more production from their land,” adding that Beach was “kind of a leader in no-till and minimum till.”

In 1986, Vannurden went on to become the assistant state supervisor for agricultural education in the state. Over his tenure, he assisted and advised 24 state FFA officer teams, including one national FFA officer.

Throughout his years of service to agriculture, Doug has received various awards, including the Honorary American FFA Degree in 1992, the Alpha Gamma Rho — Epsilon Outstanding Alumnus award in 1995, the Chancellor’s Award for Academic Excellence by the North Dakota University System in 1996 and the N.D. Friend of Extension Award in 2005, just to name a few.

While he now lives in Mandan, he said he will always consider Beach home.

“I met my wife there, my two kids were born there, we go back there every year and we hunt there,” Vannurden said. “I love it out there.”

Through his many positions, Vannurden said there is one part he has always enjoyed.

“Working with the students has always been the best part of my job,” he said.