Northwest Farm Managers mark centennial

FARGO, N.D. -- One of Red River Valley's most enduring farm organizations -- the Northwest Farm Managers Association -- marks its 100th annual meeting Feb. 3 in Fargo, N.D.

FARGO, N.D. -- One of Red River Valley's most enduring farm organizations -- the Northwest Farm Managers Association -- marks its 100th annual meeting Feb. 3 in Fargo, N.D.

Among this year's featured speakers is David Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus, on the "New Economic Realities in American Agriculture," addressing the topic through the morning at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

Dwight Aakre and Andrew Swenson, two Extension Service agricultural economists at North Dakota State University in Fargo, serve as executive secretary and assistant executive secretary for the organization. The group numbers about 250 members who pay the annual $15 dues. About 200 typically come to the annual meeting.

The early days

The group was begun in the 1902 to 1909 period, when about 20 of the so-called Bonanza-style farm managers in the region started it.


Hiram Drache of Fargo, a Concordia College history professor and former farmer, in 1985 published "Plowshares to Printouts," which was a history of the organization.

The organization evolved from the Tri-State Grain Show, wrote Drache, once served as its president. Among the early topics for the group was whether "fixed acreage" should be legislated for farm size or whether farmers should have a license to farm.

Records from 1918 show that the members were owners and managers of large land tracts, professors, bankers, millers, brewers, meatpackers, railroaders and implement dealers.

In 1925, the group's name changed from the Farm Managers Association to the Northwest Farm Managers Association, with members in 12 states and three Canadian provinces.

A major figure in the organization's history was Earl "Cap" Miller, a farm management professor at the North Dakota Agricultural College, now NDSU. Miller was credited with starting the 4-H movement in Iowa before coming to North Dakota in 1918. In 1924, Miller innovated "tours on wheels," in which farmers would view and analyze farms in the in area states and provinces.

Peak of popularity

The Farm Managers' popularity peaked in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s when a three-day Farm Forum would draw hundreds of farmers for nationally prominent political speakers and social events, including banquets and a dance. Back then, the organization would organize summer field days.

"It shrank because people weren't willing to come in and stay for multiple nights," Swenson says.


Interest especially waned in the 1990s, when seminar-goers would pick and choose a day within a full two-day seminar. About 10 years ago, the group cut its program to a single day, and the organization again is stable.

The day's $40 admission includes the $15 membership fee and two meals. The tickets can be purchased at the door.

Program highlights: 8 a.m. registration. 9 a.m. -- Kohl, Virginia Tech professor emeritus ag economics, "The New Economic Realities in American Agriculture; continued at 10:45 a.m., and then noon. 1:15 p.m. -- Kirk Wesley, Case IH Advanced Farming Systems, product specialist. 2:50 p.m. -- Swenson and Aakre on the 2008 farm bill. 3:30 p.m. -- Virgil Robinson, Pioneer Hi-bred International, "Market Outlook for Soybeans, Corn and Wheat." 5 p.m. -- Past presidents, Pioneers supper business meeting.

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