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AgChat’s attendees. Katie Pinke photo.

Pinke Post: From the barley fields of North Dakota

Barley makes beer. It sounds simple, but it’s really an intricate process that starts on the farm. North Dakota ranks first in barley production in the U.S., and 96 percent of the barley grown in the state is used to make beer. My parents, along with numerous other local farmers, grow six-row barley varieties.

The malt is extracted from the barley to create American-made beer. The barley grown on my family’s farm goes directly into Anheuser Busch’s Bud Light and Budweiser beers.

Earlier this week, Dana, a fellow North Dakota barley farmer, and I traveled to Nashville to attend AgChat’s Cultivate and Connect conference. During an evening ag exchange party, Dana and I agreed to showcase beer made from North Dakota barley.

When shopping for beer in Tennessee, I made a call home to Farmer Fred, a beloved nickname for my favorite farmer, my dad. My simple question was all he needed to launch into a lesson on barley research and varieties. My dad’s gift of gab paired with his master’s degree in communication makes him a natural advocate. Needless to say, we were well-prepared advocates for the North Dakota barley industry when we walked into the large hotel conference room.

We built a tower of beer cans on a table and slipped on Anheuser Busch barley grower hats complete with American flags on the side (compliments of my dad). As fellow farmers and ag professionals approached our table, I asked them if they would like a beer made from North Dakota barley. It was a pleasure to hand out beer, and I wore the hat with pride, grateful for my North Dakota farm roots.

Dana, a city girl turned farmer, drives a grain cart on her family farm. Barley is her favorite crop to harvest. Dana’s story differs from my upbringing on the farm, but we share the same passion for our North Dakota farm products. While handing out free beer, we shared many laughs and answered a few questions about how barley is grown and how varieties differ by geography.

Our beer giveaway at the ag conference proved to be popular — as was the dozen other tables featuring ag products from around the U.S. Canned pumpkin from Illinois. Coffee and flowers from Hawaii. Popcorn from Nebraska. Soy-based crayons from South Dakota. Honey sticks from a fellow North Dakotan. Milk from Indiana. Wheat recipes from Kansas. Martin County pork seasoning from Minnesota. Cotton from Georgia.

With the holidays approaching, I encourage you to learn more about how the bounty found on the grocery store shelves links back to your region or state. Even in a not-so-hot agriculture economy, we can be thankful and help connect our plates and glasses back to the farms and fields where it all starts.

I’m thankful for farmers and ranchers both near and far—and for the opportunity to share a beer made from barley grown in my home state.

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