Celebrate N.D. agriculture's contribution to your menus

When my children were younger, they brought home their school menus. They wanted to know what their choices would be. Sometimes we talked about which foods could be grown locally.

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Pinto beans are one of several crops for which North Dakota ranks No. 1 in production. Special to the Forum

When my children were younger, they brought home their school menus. They wanted to know what their choices would be. Sometimes we talked about which foods could be grown locally.

Could oranges be grown here? No, of course not. Wheat for the bread? Yes. Potatoes? Yes. You get the idea.

Do you ever think about the origin of your food? If you like grains, potatoes, beans, honey, beef and many other foods, you may be eating North Dakota-grown food.

In 2017, National Ag Day landed on March 21, right in the middle of National Nutrition Month. That's a nice coincidence. North Dakota provides the country and world with lots of nutrition.

In our area of the world, most people don't like to brag. Overall, we tend to be a fairly reserved bunch, with some exceptions, of course.


Let's say that someone was having an exceptionally good day. He even may have won the lottery. He'd probably say he was feeling "pretty good."

On the other hand, if someone was having the worst day of his or her life, the person probably would say, "It could be worse."

Well, I'm going to brag about North Dakota agriculture and all the food it puts on our tables. So, you may need to cover your eyes or ears.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics released in 2016, North Dakota ranked first in production of barley, dry edible beans (several varieties), pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, dry peas, durum wheat and spring wheat. North Dakota ranked second in production of black beans, navy beans, lentils, sunflower oil and sunflower seeds (for oil and non-oil use).

North Dakota ranked third in the production of sugar beets, fourth in potatoes and oats, seventh in bison, eighth in soybeans, 11th in beef and 12th in corn. North Dakota also produces many other commodities used for food, feed and other goods.

I found the following compelling statistics on the North Dakota Department of Agriculture website. The statistics were intended for use in school classrooms, but I think adults will appreciate the perspective this provides.

North Dakota farmers and ranchers produce enough:

  • Wheat for 15.5 billion loaves of bread
  • Beef for 103 million hamburgers
  • Milk for 894 million glasses
  • Durum for 8.5 billion servings of spaghetti
  • Sunflowers to fill 726 million bags of sunflower seeds

I'd say that's a great contribution to the world's nutrition. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that we put our "best fork forward" during National Nutrition Month and beyond. Be sure to include some local agricultural products on your plate.
Agriculture is part of our life, whether we realize it or not. Besides food, animal and/or plant byproducts are used in pharmaceuticals, paints, fuel, upholstery, adhesives, ink, lotions, shoes and numerous other products. If a child colors a picture for you, the young artist might be using a soy-based crayon.


Think about what you eat and who produces it for you. Here's a recipe featuring several North Dakota commodities.

For a North Dakota-inspired menu, enjoy the recipe with whole-wheat rolls or corn muffins with honey-butter, apple crisp and low-fat or fat-free milk.

North Dakota Chili With Beef, Beans and Potatoes


1 pound extra-lean ground beef or bison

1 cup onion, chopped

1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (15-ounce) can beans (reduced sodium), drained and rinsed (kidney or black beans)


3 cup potatoes, cubed

2 ½ tablespoon chili powder (or to taste)

2 cup water (or more to desired consistency)


In a large saucepan over medium heat, saute ground beef and onion for five to 10 minutes or until the onion is almost tender and the beef is browned. Drain the fat. Add tomato sauce, beans, potatoes, chili powder and water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add more water if thinner chili is desired.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 240 calories, 5 grams (g) fat, 24 g protein, 33 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber and 600 milligrams sodium.

Garden-Robinson is a food and nutrition specialist for the NDSU Extension Service.

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