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Connecting agriculture to non-ag consumers: Banquet in a Field

HARWOOD, N.D. -- Did you know North Dakota leads the nation in the production of 14 different crops? This fact was included at one of the many tables placed in the Peterson Farms Seed field on Aug. 1 at the fourth annual Banquet in a Field. Diffe...

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People with non-agricultural backgrounds attend a Banquet in a Field event Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, north of Mapleton, N.D. The banquet was hosted by CommonGround North Dakota and by Peterson Farms Seed to teach 100 guests about food production. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

HARWOOD, N.D. - Did you know North Dakota leads the nation in the production of 14 different crops? This fact was included at one of the many tables placed in the Peterson Farms Seed field on Aug. 1 at the fourth annual Banquet in a Field. Different Cass County area residents are invited annually to the event to learn more about crops raised in North Dakota, how farmers grow food, utilize technology, increase sustainability on their farms and to engage in conversation about agriculture in North Dakota.

CommonGround North Dakota organizes the Banquet in a Field annually with the support of North Dakota agriculture organizations, volunteers and the host, Peterson Farms Seed. CommonGround is a group of women in agriculture who volunteer to engage and outreach with non-ag consumers. It was started by and continues to be supported through the soybean and corn checkoffs. One of the reasons CommonGround created this event was to build stronger connections between North Dakota consumers and the state's farmers and ranchers.

This year, approximately 100 guests, along with an additional 50 volunteers who are farmers, CommonGround volunteers and local FFA chapters, attended Banquet in a Field. The sun was shining and an array of green crops surrounded the banquet.

Upon arriving at Peterson's, guests were transported from the parking area to the field by a trailer pulled by a tractor. Sarah Wilson, a CommonGround volunteer from Jamestown, N.D., welcomed guests and encouraged them to grab a plate and fork for appetizers at crop stations and to get active in the conversation.

More than 15 stations placed along the field showcased the diversity of North Dakota agriculture. The stations included pork, beef, honey, corn, soybeans, potatoes, canola, sugarbeets, durum, spring wheat, barley,field peas, flax and more. Almost every station provided guests with an appetizer that had been made with the highlighted food ingredient or meat, all prepared by local recipe creators and chefs Sarah and Tony Nasello.

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At the honey station, guests could try honey straight from a bee tray. Spiced pork tenderloin with bacon marmalade was available at the pork station, and corn fritters fried in canola oil highlighted the corn table.

During one conversation, an attendee asked, "So field corn is not the same type of corn that would make popcorn?" Randy Melvin, a farmer who raises corn from Buffalo, N.D., and serves on the North Dakota Corn Growers Association board, answered the question, then added:

"I would have never guessed some of the things I have known my entire life are not so simple to others who haven't grown up around it."

Nancy Wulfekuhle attended the banquet to represent sugar beet farmers. Wulfekuhle has attended the past three years and is passionate about supporting the event.

"I absolutely do believe that this connects people. A lot of people who attend are very receptive to what us as farmers have to share with them," she says.

She grows sugar beets herself and enjoys coming to engage in conversation.

"This is a great opportunity to showcase what we do as farmers," she says.

Renae Aarfor was a first-time attendee to Banquet in a Field and excited to be a part of it.

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"This event just looked fun, and in the past years I've seen posts and pictures about the event on social media - it looked like a really cool thing," Aarfor said.

For an hour guests went from station to station, visited crop plots, ate appetizers at each table, listened to live guitar music and engaged with the farmers on hand to answer questions.

At 6:30 p.m., everyone was seated at round tables decorated with sunflower centerpieces, in the middle of fields of corn and soybeans.

Carl and Julie Peterson welcomed everyone to the event.

"Welcome to our piece of paradise," Julie said.

Members of the Kindred and Central Cass FFA chapters provided help serving the meal, which highlighted the best of North Dakota agriculture, all from recipes developed by the Nasellos. NDSU's Meat Science team grilled North Dakota Beef Top Sirloin Cap Steak, and each course was served family style on vintage platters and bowls. Throughout the dinner, guests could write questions on note cards. CommonGround coordinator Val Wagner of Monango, N.D., hosted question and answer sessions between food courses with Wilson and Sarah Lovas of Hillsboro. The finale showcased North Dakota honey in Sarah's Honey Vanilla Ice Cream with a Buttermilk Brownie.

As the sun set in the west, the fourth annual Banquet in a Field wrapped up with guests receiving a goodie bag complete with a recipe book with all the North Dakota-rich ingredient recipes that were served. Attendees could sign up for harvest visits to area farms and get a fall combine ride from a farmer.

CommonGround North Dakota started this field-to-plate effort and now is being modeled by other states and within North Dakota. Other organizations and civic organizations are planning their own local events to connect area farmers and ranchers to non-ag consumers.

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It was a perfect evening for the Banquet in a Field event Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, north of Mapleton, N.D. The banquet was hosted by CommonGround North Dakota and by Peterson Farms Seed to teach 100 guests about food production. (Lora Lynn Horner/Agweek)

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