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ND gets tourists back in touch with ag

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- North Dakota is different than other states. North Dakota's biggest metropolis, containing a sixth of the state's population, has a fraction of the people found in one of New York City's boroughs. Here, the names Bobcats, Rhino...

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- North Dakota is different than other states.

North Dakota's biggest metropolis, containing a sixth of the state's population, has a fraction of the people found in one of New York City's boroughs.

Here, the names Bobcats, Rhinos and Deere don't always refer to animals.

And residents of the Upper Midwest consume odd sounding dishes such as knoephla, lefse and kuchen.

Outsiders can't help but stare. Let them.

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Domestic and international travelers are good for North Dakota. They spend money on gas, food, lodging and souvenirs, thereby stimulating the economy and creating or retaining jobs.

That's why the state's agritourism industry is so important.

The North Dakota Tourism Division, along with various attractions, has partnered to give visitors a chance to see sites including a grape vineyard in Galesburg, a dairy farm in Edgeley and food preservation and rural living experiences in Langdon, according to Associated Press reports.

Urbanization means many people have lost touch with farms, officials say. Learning where food comes from can be just as exotic as skiing in Colorado or sightseeing in San Francisco.

Tour fees range from $5 to $120 -- not a major part of any business, but surely, a supplement. Plus, the travelers spend money on more than tours. When a tourist attraction benefits, so does the surrounding community.

And the tourist attractions aren't limited to out-of-staters either. Local groups such as day cares and senior citizen centers take advantage of them, too. Even the locals have mentioned they learn things they didn't know before, says Randy Mehlhoff, director of the North Dakota State University Langdon Research Center.

Any way to create business is good, especially for businesses struggling through a bad economy or a family farm struggling through bad weather. Agribusiness is good for rural communities and its good for North Dakota.

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“In our industry there aren’t a lot of young people in it. I like the fact that there are a lot of young people in agriculture here,” he said of the Mitchell area.