Longtime Extension agent will leave behind a legacy when he retires
Brad Brummond has been a North Dakota State University Extension agent for agriculture for 41 years, 31 of them in Walsh County.
PARK RIVER, N.D. — Brad Brummond officially was off duty when he walked out the door of the North Dakota State University Extension office in Park River on April 28.
But chances are good that Brummond, a 41-year agricultural agent for Extension, still will be sought out to answer agronomic and horticulture questions well beyond his retirement date, and he already knows for sure that he will continue to head the Walsh County 4-H land judging and crop judging teams.
Brummond, who began his Extension career as an assistant agricultural agent in Traill County, North Dakota, in 1982, has shared his agricultural knowledge and experience with adults and their children in Walsh County for the past 31 years.
During that time, he’s built a reputation as an expert in topics from weed control in crops to vegetable diseases to livestock feed rations. People stop him after church, at sporting events and in the grocery store to ask his advice.
For example, a quick trip to the grocery store to buy lettuce can result in a 30-minute explanation to another shopper about why the head of produce didn’t look healthy.
Then there was the time he was sitting in the bleachers watching his daughter, Gretchen, play high school volleyball and a rancher, with a long printed list of feeding rations in hand, sought him out for advice on how he should change his cattle’s feeding program so the animals wouldn’t have a negative reaction to their diets.
Though it was well past Extension office hours, Brummond obliged the rancher by going over the rations with him between volleyball games.
Being generous with his time was one of the traits that Lee Briese, a nationally known agronomist who works for Centrol Crop Consulting in Jamestown, North Dakota, admires about Brummond.
Briese was in high school when Brummond worked in Kidder County as an Extension agent for agriculture and advised the county’s 4-H crop judging team, which had great success under his leadership.
“He was an excellent leader. He took great pains and time to teach us the minutiae that was there. Our crop judging team did really well because we practiced with him,” Briese said.
The team practiced once weekly and Brummond was a “hard core” coach who didn’t cut any corners, making his own weed seed mounts to add to the commercial ones so 4-Hers couldn’t memorize what they looked like. Team members, instead, had to memorize the appearance of the seeds, not identify the weeds by recognizing the mounts, Briese recalled.
Under Brummond’s tutelage, Briese achieved a perfect score in a crop judging contest in 1991, something that his coach had never done when he was on the Sargent County (North Dakota) crop judging team when he was a youth.
“He was more excited than anyone else because one of his students had a perfect contest and that had eluded him,” Briese said.
Working with 4-H youth remained one of Brummond’s favorite Extension duties for his entire career. He has coached hundreds of boys and girls in crop and land judging, worked with them on 4-H livestock and agronomy projects and judged at the Walsh County Fair and others across North Dakota.
“The thing I will miss most of all is the kids. I love 4-H. I love kids,” Brummond said. Through his work with the 4-H organization, he had an opportunity to mentor some youth and give them confidence in their abilities, he said.
“I’ve given them a passion for agriculture. I’ve given them direction,” he said. “A lot of these kids are not hockey stars or football stars, and I’ve helped them to shine,” he said.
The critical thinking skills Brummond taught the youth during their 4-H days launched them on successful career paths in a variety of fields.
“I have several kids who are doctors. I have a lot of professionals,” he said.
Briese credits Brummond ‘s crop judging for his decision to be an agronomist.
“It really all started with weed seeds and judging the crops,” Briese said.
Briese has remained in contact with Brummond during the past 30 years, frequently attending the same agricultural events.
“He’s always looking out for agriculture and farmers, especially those who are overlooked,” Briese said.
Brummond’s desire to serve organic farmers, a population of producers that often had been overlooked, for example, resulted in him learning everything he could about the topic and organizing meetings to share the information.
“I set up the first organic production meeting in North Dakota,” Brummond said. “There were so many people the fire marshal came.”
He then moved the meeting to the pool area of the Lone Steer Motel Lounge in Steele, to accommodate the 100 farmers who were attending.
During his time in Kidder County, which has one of North Dakota’s largest concentration of organic farmers, Brummond made it a point to learn from them.
“Some of the greatest organic farmers took me under their wing,” he said. The farmers included Fred Kirschenmann, who has an organic family farm near Windsor, North Dakota, and Rick Mittleider, Tappen, North Dakota.
The knowledge Brummond gleaned from them, along with his own research on the topic, resulted in him becoming NDSU Extension’s organic farming expert.
He also led the North Dakota Organic Advisory Council for about 20 years and was honored as the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program’s 2016 NCR-SARE Hero.
Brummond also is proud of his work to enhance soil health in Walsh County.
“We’ve made some really good progress in the last 15 years,” he said.
Along with coaching land and crop judging on a volunteer basis, Brummond plans to continue promoting soil health in Walsh County after he retires.
He also will remain active in the community of Park River where he serves as commander of Sons of the American Legion, president of the Park River Area Schools District board and president of the North Valley Career and Technology Center board.
As Brummond reflected on his 41 year career in NDSU Extension, he was grateful for the farmers and Extension agents he worked with over the years.
“I worked with a lot of really good producers. I probably learned as much from the producers as I learned in academics,” he said.
His work to help producers and his work with Walsh County 4-Hers has resulted in nationwide attention.
In 2019, Brummond was named to the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Hall of Fame, the first North Dakotan to be selected for the honor.
Working with his colleagues in other northeast North Dakota counties is another part of Extension that Brummond will miss when he retires.
“Other agents in northeast North Dakota were always willing to help one another,” he said.
Katelyn Landies, NDSU Extension agent, agriculture for Grand Forks Conty, did an AmeriCorps internship with Extension for Walsh County in 2014 and recalls that he had a wealth of agricultural knowledge that he shared with her.
"I feel really so fortunate to have had Brad as my mentor," she said.
Landeis was part of a standing room only crowd of men, women, teen-agers and children who attended Brummond's retirement party on April 28 at the Walsh County Extension office in Park River.
"Everybody loves Brad. I think every farmer in Walsh County is here," said Elaine Cudmore, a retired Walsh County farmer, as she looked around the room.
"He's going to be hard to replace," Lee Cudmore, Elaine's husband, said.