Views from the Cab

By David Tollefson, Columnist

On a beautiful, windy Wednesday I did my (almost) annual trip to the Red River Valley fairgrounds in West Fargo, N.D. According to the official handout, it is the 42nd annual show.

To quote the handout, “The Big Iron Farm Show presented by the Cass County Farm Bureau is a three-day event striving to educate farmers and ranchers about cutting-edge agricultural products, equipment, technology and services.”

Part of the fun of the day is just seeing the countryside between here and the largest (by far) city in North Dakota, at 130,000 people. It is almost double the population of the second largest city, Bismarck.

I drove I94 on the way up there, which is the quickest way. But on the way home, I took Hwy. 75 south of Moorhead to see different country.  

Harvest of wheat is completed, sugar beet harvest (pre-pile they call it) is just beginning. Soybean harvest will begin soon; some corn has been chopped for silage.

After being at Farmfest near Redwood Falls a month and a half ago, Big Iron was relatively quiet. There were some marketing seminars, financial planning for farmers and machinery demonstrations scheduled, but there was nothing that drew crowds like the governor’s debate at Farmfest.  

One scheduled session was with the FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux. But I did hear him on the KFGO Radio with Joel Heitkamp on the way up. He sounded like a decent guy from what I heard. He is from South Dakota and his family has a ranch there.

One popular type of tillage machine that draws a lot of interest is “vertical tillage.” There were several different brands there – they all have rotating discs in common, but the number and shapes are quite different.  

Conventional disc harrows are generally a bunch of concave steel discs spaced on square shafts of different lengths, with spacers between them.

All of these “vertical till” machines have discs each mounted singly, with a bearing for each, and either plain or notched, and mostly mounted with rubber bushings to cushion them for obstructions.

One company, Lemken, headquartered in Alpen, Germany, was unique. It had a blue color, and its protection from obstructions was just plain steel springs, instead of rubber spacers. In talking with the representative, he sort of made fun of the (mostly) American-made products that almost exclusively had rubber buffers to allow for rocks or other obstructions.

Sometimes you can learn things while standing in line. Late in the noon hour as I was at Big Iron, it was time to look for a bite to eat. For some crazy reason, the food court was way off to the west of the main exhibits. I had to consult the map to figure out where to look for food.  

So, I look at all the options, and finally got in line for a foot-long hot dog. The line moved VERY slowly. The two guys ahead of me were I think from a foreign country, talking on their cell phones and ear pieces. But the guy behind me finally said, “this is getting a bit old, just waiting for a simple bite to eat.”

I agreed. But I’m glad he started talking. He was a very good-looking tall guy, with a company T-shirt. I don’t remember the company name, but it developed that his company is developing a pipeline to North Dakota from ethanol plants in the Midwest to sequester carbon dioxide underground over one mile down, to help with the CO2 problem which seems to be contributing to global climate change. I had heard through media tidbits of information on the concept, but it was the first time hearing it directly from one who is involved in it.  

I asked him if ethanol plants around our area are involved. He did say that the Fergus Falls plant visible from I94 as it goes northwest past Fergus Falls is signed up to the pipeline at this time, but not the plant 15 miles south of my place at Benson. I asked about the time line, knowing that pipelines can be very controversial and take years to get permits, easements and go through the regulatory process. He said that they are in the stage of contacting farmers and land owners.

So, the half-hour wait in line for a simple $16 hot dog and lemonade was worth the effort. I have been known to give up on a line like that and go to a McDonalds on the way home, which is a whole other story for another time.

Today as I write this, we had a few drops of rain. The forecast for the next several days is for scattered rain, but at this point for our remaining bean and corn crops, rain would not help a whole lot. But it would be nice to get some rain to at least settle the dust. I have been doing a little fall tillage of the ground where I had my wheat crop, and it has been terribly dusty behind the machines.

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Please contact David Tollefson with thoughts or comments on this or future columns at: