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Technology, crops popular topics at North Central Dakota Ag Show
February 14, 2020

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New crops and new technology in agriculture sparked interest among the large crowd attending the North Central Dakota Ag Show held in the Rugby armory last Friday.

"We have 34 exhibitors at the North Central Dakota Ag Show," show organizer Lila Harstad told the Tribune. "There are eight new exhibitors who are here this year. There are seven who have been here all 16 years. This is the 16th year we've been doing this."

"Probably one of our newest businesses is Intelligent Ag Solutions. Joe Heilman, a 2004 graduate of Rugby High School, has his own company now, and he came back for the show," Harstad noted.

"Another new and exciting one is Dakota College at Bottineau. They've got a new program where they're giving $2,500 scholarships to Pierce, Bottineau and Rolette County students for their ag programs that they've got going on," Harstad added.

"Craig Wollenburg with the Hemp Hub is a new one. There's been lots of interest in that," Harstad said.

Wollenburg started the show off with a short presentation on the armory stage Friday morning. Hemp and its role as a viable agricultural product for the 21st century economy has drawn attention in both national and local circles lately.

Wollenburg plans to open the Hemp Hub processing facility in Rugby.

"We're excited about the prospects," Wollenburg said about the market for hemp products.

Progress with the proposed hemp processing facility is "going good," Wollenburg added. "I've been talking to the mayor. I talked to the chairman of the Planning and Zoning commission; they seem to be supportive of finding a way to make things work."

"We've moved into the (former Windshield Doctor building)," Wollenburg said. "We don't have the processor in there. We've started drying some of the material in there," he said.

Wollenburg spoke of the increasing interest in the crop, which has spawned specialty crop programs in college agriculture departments.

Dakota College at Bottineau sponsored a booth at the show, distributing information about their new ag finance and specialty crop program, which includes a practicum on hemp production.

Wollenburg said he hoped growers and schools involved in hemp research would cooperate and share information to improve the industry. "I think trying to be a resource and help the proliferation of the hemp industry, seeing if we can't support each other - we're growing, they're doing the research, we're providing the product and seeds. Hopefully we can cooperate together."

Keith Knudson of Dakota College at Bottineau described the school's ag programs as "new."

"It's actually a consortium between Lake Region (State College), Bottineau and Williston State College," he noted. "We're combining the program. Students can be at all three of the campuses or just one of the campuses and they can take animal science - Williston is the animal science end of it - Lake Region is the precision ag end of it - and Dakota College at Bottineau has the financial end of farming along with the specialty crops."

"Specialty crops are like vegetables, fruit and hemp," Knudson explained.

"We're finding a lot of interest (in ag programs at North Dakota State Colleges)," Knudson said.

Knudson also provided information on a new scholarship program to help ag students at the Bottineau campus. "It's the Hometown Career Scholarship program. It's an opportunity for students to get a $2,500 scholarship if they live in a five-county area. That's really neat because there's a lot of interest in that - just the fact that students can get half of their first year paid for."

Knudson said students must meet certain qualifications. "They need to be going into a career and tech ed program. There are a lot of career and tech ed programs at Dakota College," he noted.

Students living in Bottineau, Renville, McHenry, Pierce and Rolette counties are eligible for the scholarship.

Joe Heilman of Intelligent Ag Solutions presented information on his company at the show along with his wife, Molly. "I grew up in Rochester, Minnesota," Molly Heilman said.

"I think it's great here," she said of the Rugby area, where her husband's family farms.

Joe Heilman is the son of Duane and Jenny Heilman.

"My grandpa is Joe and my grandma is Loretta Heilman," he said. "The two families are the Heilmans and the Haucks. Clem and Marian Hauck were my grandparents, so there are still a lot of family members in the area."

Heilman said after graduating from Rugby High, he began studying engineering at NDSU, but switched his major to business and accounting.

"I'm the general manager (at Intelligent Ag Solutions)," Heilman said. "It's actually a joint venture between two companies that want to develop agriculture technology together."

Appareo Systems and Agco Corporation are the companies involved in the venture.

"They're large players in agriculture space and they want to help growers with new challenges and new technology solutions and help bring those to market. That's what we do here at Intelligent Ag. We try to reinvest what we make into solving new challenges," Heilman noted.

Heilman described Intelligent Ag Solutions' products as "software and precision ag technology. We offer technology solutions - that could be technology hardware, that could be the steel and things like that which modify machine behavior and also the software that goes along with monitoring those solutions and controlling those solutions."

Heilman demonstrated technology to improve seeding and fertilizing, each using devices such as acoustic sensors and tablet computer monitors. He also gave a short presentation on Intelligent Ag Solutions on the armory stage.

Representatives from Lake Region District Health Unit were also on hand, reminding farmers of the importance of taking care of themselves.

A poster at the booth read, "You vaccinate your livestock, but what about yourself? Are you up to date?"

"First of all, I'm married to a farmer," said Registered Nurse Samantha Wentz, who was on hand to keep attendees current on their immunizations.

"Farmers are taking care of the farm first, then themselves, maybe, as an afterthought. Maybe they don't have time to come and get vaccinated. I thought it would be good to set up here to catch some of those farmers who don't have time or maybe don't even think, 'Oh, my tetanus is due. I haven't had that in a long time,'" Wentz said.

Wentz added, "We also brought flu shots, pneumonia shots and shingles shots because those are the main recommended adult vaccines."

"Then," Wentz said, pointing to a computer, "we can look them up online (on a state database) and see what they're due for and then they've been choosing to get them here. Some people want to get their shots in the office, but then at least they know what they're due for."

Wentz said the health unit's booth was a popular attraction, serving a stream of attendees needing shots.

"I'm not sure the number (of people seen), but we've been steady all day," Wentz said. "We didn't know how it would go, but I'm happy. We've been giving a number of shots of different varieties."

Wentz was among several participants giving short presentations on the armory stage.

Other presenters in addition to Wentz, Wollenburg and Heilman were: Paul Muskoff of Comp Cam; Delrae Latendresse of Berube Crop Insurance; Sandy Hagness of Dakota College; Jeremy Wold and Roger Taylor of Envision Cooperative; Amber Feickert of Farm Credit Services of North Dakota; Don Jelsing of Lautt's Feed and Rental Center; Tammy Reirson of NDTC; Pete Burgard of Merchants Bank; Chad Friese of Nuline Insurance; Paul Backstrom of Precision Ag Results, Carlan Pieterick of Total Ag Solutions and Yolanda Schmidt of NDSU Extension Office.

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