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Northeast North Dakota farmer is bully for black beans

Year in and year out, Dexter Cronquist plants several hundred acres of either black or pinto beans, along with wheat, corn, soybeans and sugarbeets.

A man wearing a gray shirt stands in a field
Dexter Cronquist grows black beans on his farm north of Gilby, North Dakota. This photo was taken June 23, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek
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GILBY, N.D. — Gilby farmer Dexter Cronquist finds that edible beans are a good fit in his grain and row crops rotation.

Year in and year out, Cronquist plants several hundred acres of either black or pinto beans, along with wheat, corn, soybeans and sugarbeets.

He’s carrying on a family tradition that was handed down from his father, Kent Cronquist, and uncle Kim Cronquist.

The Cronquist family has farmed in the Gilby area of northeastern North Dakota since Dexter’s grandfather Jack Cronquist moved from Erskine, Minnesota, to grow grain and row crops on rich Red River Valley farmland about 30 miles northwest of Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Dexter, 34, is enthusiastic about being in the most recent generation of Cronquist growers to pursue an agricultural career. He not only farms the land, but he also believes it’s important to be involved in commodity organizations, including Northarvest Bean Growers Association, where he serves as District 2 director.

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He started farming 10 years ago after graduating from Midway High School in Inkster, North Dakota, and studying welding at Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, and agriculture business at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

Black bean plant.
Black beans, like other row crops, were plated late in 2022, so still were in early growth stages in late June. Photo taken June 23, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Dexter knew before he was old enough to go to kindergarten that he wanted to follow his dad’s and uncle’s career path.

“I’d ride around in the tractors when I was 4-years-old. I knew I wanted to farm,” he said.

Four years ago, his father and uncle retired from farming and Dexter took over the operation. He employs four men, including his son, Juan, 18.

Most years, Dexter grows several hundred acres of black beans, his top choice for edible beans.

“I think they’ve become a lot more popular in our area. The varieties stand up better than pintos,” Dexter said.

The price of both pintos and edibles makes them a profitable crop to grow. He markets the beans locally, black beans at Johnstown (North Dakota) Bean Co. and pintos at Forest River (North Dakota) Bean Co.

“I tend to make more on my edibles than on my other crops,” Dextert said.

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He combines the black beans with a flex header, which eliminates the need for both a tractor and a cutter, saving time, fuel and labor.

This year, Cronquist planted 400 acres of black beans. Nearly 25% of his land, or about 700 acres, was too wet to support equipment this past spring,

Many of those fields are 2021 corn ground that Cronquist didn’t till in the fall in hopes that it would gather moisture. Last year was one of the driest in history and he wanted the corn ground to catch the snow.

But snowstorms in April 2022, combined with more than 6 inches of rain that followed through the spring, saturated fields.

“Now, it’s too wet,” he said in June. “I was probably stuck eight times with the tractor,” Dexter said.

A man wearing tan pants and a gray shirt stands in a farmer shop.
Dexter Cronquist, a third-generation farmer near Gilby, North Dakota, talks to an employee about the day's work plans, on June 23, 2022.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Despite the excessive moisture, blowing dirt was a challenge he faced during the 2022 planting season. He had to replant 300 acres or 75% of the black beans he seeded earlier in the spring.

“Hope for a late frost, I guess,” Dexter said.

Neither the cold, late, wet planting season or replanting dampens his passion for farming.

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“It’s something different every day. I love it. I always knew there would be challenges,” he said.

(This story first ran in BeanGrower Magazine.)

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: abailey@agweek.com or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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