North Dakota farmer respects the soil, loves his job
Agweek reporter Ann Bailey catches up with Larimore, North Dakota, farmer Sam Landman in the "Follow a Farmer" series.
LARIMORE, N.D. — Each growing season brings a new set of challenges for fifth-generation farmer Sam Landman.
But the goal of finding a way to make a profit using sustainable farming practices remains consistent.
Landman, 34, farms with his parents, Bob and Karen, on land southwest of Larimore, North Dakota, that his great-great grandfather homesteaded in 1883. He and his wife, Whitney, an agricultural education teacher at Larimore High School, are parents of a daughter, Charlie, age 3.
“Conservation is important to me, because I want to be able to hand down the farm to the next generation and leave the land better than it was,” Landman said. “Soil is a finite resource and we have to find ways to treat it like that and respect it.”
Since 2019 Landman has worked with North Dakota State University in Fargo on soil health research, leasing the university about 100 acres of cropland for a Soil Health and Agricultural Research Farm. The SHARE farm is one of two where NDSU conducts long-term research on soil health practices. The other farm is near Mooreton, North Dakota, at the southern end of the Red River Valley.
The SHARE Farm on the Landmans’ land will benefit him and other farmers in the area because the research will be local, Landman said. The field has several different soil types, so it yields good data for NDSU. The SHARE Farm research also includes three tillage strips in the no-till acreage, which provide comparisons of the soil health of each, sensors that record the soil temperature and mapping of the salinity of the soil.
This spring Landman will plant soybeans on the SHARE Farm field, which was barley in 2022.
“I like growing barley because it’s really good for the soil and it fits well with the timing of everything with harvest,” said Landman, who contracts the malting barley with Anheuser-Busch.
Besides barley, Landman Farms’ crop rotation includes wheat, soybeans, pinto beans and corn. They diversify their crops to accommodate for the soil types on their land, which varies, depending on the location.
For example, they grow soybeans and corn on land north of North Dakota Highway 18, near Kempton, North Dakota, where the Red River Valley soil is rich, and on their land near the family farm about 15 miles southwest of Larimore, where the soil is sandier, they raise small grains and row crops.
Landman Farms also occasionally experiments growing non-traditional crops such as field peas. Bob Landman raised mint when Sam was growing up on the farm.
Sam started helping his dad on the farm when he was a boy, and his interest in agriculture grew as he got older.
“I couldn’t get enough of it. I knew from a pretty young age I wanted to farm, had it in my blood. When you know, you know,” he said.
Landman started farming after his graduation from Larimore High School in 2007. The quarter of land rented from his father helped him for four years of college at NDSU, where he majored in crops and weed science, and kept him connected to the operation.
This year, like last, cold, wet field conditions delayed spring planting.
"Every year is different. Every year brings different challenges and I think that it's important not to be a purist when it comes to no-till, stuff like that" he said. In wet years, for example, he will do a shallow tillage, which helps the land dry out more quickly so he can plant his crops.
This spring, Landman planted his first quarter of wheat on May 5, then rain fell and delayed seeding for about a week.
On May 16, 2023, he was back behind the wheel of his tractor pulling an air seeder full of wheat over ground adjacent to the family farm.
“If the weather holds, we’ll be going pretty steady,” Landman said. He hoped to have all of his crops in the ground by the end of May or early June.
“We’ll have to rely on good weather to see us through,” he said.