DEVILS LAKE, North Dakota — Lake Region State College in Devils Lake held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, Sept. 22, to officially celebrate the opening of Hofstad Agriculture Center.

About 200 people, including state legislators, North Dakota State Board of Higher Education President Casey Ryan and donors attended the open house.

Ground was broken on the $3 million agricultural education building in July 2020, and it opened its doors to students in January 2021. The Lake Region State College’ precision agriculture program, which is one of its most successful and most popular programs, will be housed in the building.

Lake Region State College precision agriculture students receive a combination of hands-on instruction on tractors combines and other large equipment, and high-tech programming that includes the use of simulators.

The college's precision ag program, which began in 2014, had been housed in a rented building about a mile north of the Lake Region Campus. Since the program was launched, agricultural equipment and the number of students enrolled in the precision agriculture program both have increased, said Doug Darling, Lake Region president, said at the Sept. 22 ceremony.

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Lake Region State College President Doug Darling spoke at the Lake Region State College Hofstad Agriculture Center ribbon cutting and open house held on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. 
Ann Bailey / Agweek
Lake Region State College President Doug Darling spoke at the Lake Region State College Hofstad Agriculture Center ribbon cutting and open house held on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. Ann Bailey / Agweek

“We outgrew the equipment and outgrew the enrollment,” he said. At times the students had to be at the mercy of the elements because the equipment was too large to fit inside the rented building. For example, during January, when students worked on the equipment, they had to be outside in the parking lot, he noted.

Hofstad Agriculture Center is 25% larger than the rented building and has two classrooms and a commons area that can be also used as a classroom. The new center allows students to move from their classrooms, to the machinery bay and to an adjacent 40-acre field without having to cross a busy highway.

Hofstad Agriculture was funded by a combination of private and state dollars. The support from the agricultural industry and the Devils Lake community was “phenomenal," Darling said, noting that $1 million was raised during the disastrous farming year of 2019 and the 2020 worldwide pandemic.

Hofstad Agriculture Center was named in honor of Curt and Annette Hofstad, who farmed near Starkweather, North Dakota, Curt Hofstad served in the North Dakota Legislature from 2007 to 2015. He died in 2016.

Hofstad’s son, Chad, who attended the Sept. 22 ribbon cutting ceremony and open house, is the fourth generation of Hofstads to operate the family’s farm.

“It’s a real honor to have our name on something like this. My dad was so passionate about agriculture,” Hofstad said. “He always had a real optimism about the future of farming.”

Guests at the Lake Region State College Hofstad Agriculture Center open house on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, look at some of the equipment on which students will have an opportunity to work. The new education building is 25% larger than the rented building where classes formerly were held. 
Ann Bailey / Agweek
Guests at the Lake Region State College Hofstad Agriculture Center open house on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, look at some of the equipment on which students will have an opportunity to work. The new education building is 25% larger than the rented building where classes formerly were held. Ann Bailey / Agweek

Andrew Muus, a sophomore at Lake Region State College, was one of two students who expressed appreciation for the center during the open house.

”We love it,” he said. “It’s really nice to work in.”

Muus plans to return to the family farm near Langdon, North Dakota, after he graduates.

About half of the students enrolled in the Lake Region precision farming program return to the farm and about half pursue a career off of the farm, Darling said.