A rising voice in ND agriculture
Michael Howe has proven himself in North Dakota agriculture and shows promise as a leader within the industry.
Editor's note: In honor of Agweek's 35th anniversary, this is the first in a series of features planned for the coming months on people who seem poised to be a big part of the next 35 years of agriculture in the region. If you have a suggestion of someone who should be featured, email it to email@example.com.
CASSELTON, N.D. — As he stands in front of a harvest-ready barley field in his dirt-covered boots, it’s hard to imagine Michael Howe being in any industry other than agriculture. But ag was not always the plan.
“I always thought I was going to be on the 6 o’clock news, sitting behind the desk,” Howe said.
Luckily for North Dakota agriculture, Howe took another route.
Howe is 33 years old and is a 2010 graduate of North Dakota State University, where he majored in mass communications. Following graduation, he was presented with a unique opportunity to work in Washington, D.C., under a congressman. There he used his knowledge of agriculture to do ag policy work and help create positive change for the industry he loves.
“I realized through my policy work how much the federal government can control agriculture, and it made me want to use my voice, ” Howe said.
After living in Washington for two years, Howe made his way back to North Dakota. He took a position at the North Dakota Corn Growers Association, where he worked in policy and communications.
Finally, in 2014, Howe made his way back to the family farm, Howe Seed Farms.
Located in Cass County, N.D., Howe Farms has been around for quite some time. However in 1950, Howe Seed Farms was born. The Howe family sought after a way to get out of traditional farming and decided to get into the seed business, never looking back.
The Howes sell seed to producers in the area and also run various trials in their fields. Within their 4,000 acres, there are various testing plots, where new varieties are currently being tested.
“For many years we have had Anheuser-Busch test plots on our farm. We have a very strong working relationship with them developing new barley trials and varieties,” Howe said.
They also have NDSU test plots on their farm.
While the farm has other crops beside barley and wheat, the Howes pride themselves on their cereal crops.
“Our forte is definitely wheat and barley. We are a leader in the area with that,” Howe said.
Michael and his father are the acting managing partners of Howe Seed Farms. Howe never felt pressure from his father to return back to the farm, but it was a decision that just felt right.
“It’s what I grew up with. My dad never pressured me to come back from the farm. Living on the East Coast in D.C., you really learn to appreciate what we have right here. Sometimes you take that for granted when you grow up with it your entire life. Ag is just such a big part of North Dakotan lives, which is great to be a part of,” Howe said.
When Howe is not busy working on the farm, he is using his voice for the agriculture industry. In 2016 Howe was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives, where he serves the 22nd district. He thoroughly enjoys his work as a representative and is running for reelection this year.
“The district I represent is mostly rural. So my friends, neighbors and constituents all have a background in agriculture somehow,” Howe said.
He hopes to help farmers have a say and lessen the federal government’s involvement within their farms.
“I want farmers to be able to farm. I want to get the federal government out of the way. Farmers know their land best,” Howe said.
With the ag industry ever-changing, Howe is excited to see where the industry goes in the upcoming decades.
“We all know what farming looked like 35 years ago, I can't even imagine what it will look like in the next 35. I’ll be very excited to see how it goes,” Howe said.
As for Howe’s upcoming years in the agriculture industry, there is no telling where those dirt-covered boots could take him.