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Centennial Farms Display Opens at Lewis and Clark Center

Posted on 4/26/2012

By Lauren Donovan, Bismarck Tribune

WASHBURN - Surviving drought and hail might have been the easiest part of lasting long enough to become a Centennial Farm.

Thursday, a new interactive display opened at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn with names of more than 800 Centennial farm families from across the state.

It commemorates families who have gritted it through everything nature could throw their way, including tricky transitions from one generation to the next, for 100 years or more.

The computer-based display lets viewers sort the farms by county and then look at each family who has registered their operation.

The display is a permanent exhibit, and executive director David Borlaug said it's a perfect complement to the center's commitment to tell the story of agriculture.

The center's primary focus is the Lewis and Clark expedition, but Borlaug said the explorers called Thomas Jefferson, the nation's most agrarian president, the author of their enterprise.

Jefferson instructed the explorers to learn more about farming methods practiced by the Plains Indians.

"That agricultural piece is woven all the way through our story," Borlaug said. "This is not a nostalgic look over our shoulder at the past. These families have been on farms for over 100 years. It's a great success story."

The Centennial farm program used to belong to the state Agriculture Department, and commissioner Doug Goehring said he was pleased to see it moved into a public venue.

Goehring said pioneers were entrepreneurs and innovators with everything and nothing to lose, and the display is a way to remember them. He said there are 31,000 farms and ranches in North Dakota.

Bob Kuylen, vice president of the Farmers Union, said it isn't easy for a family to remain on a farm for a century.

"With all the weather and coming through the ‘Dirty Thirties' it's amazing to last that long," Kuylen said. It's also difficult when siblings inherit land and have to figure how to keep the farm intact, he said.

Kuylen, who farms outside of South Heart, said his own parents immigrated from Holland in the 1920s, coming through the Holland-Dakota Land Co. in Dickinson.

He said he plans to farm the remaining 13 years it will take to be a Centennial farm, but his son is working at a nearby coal beneficiation plant.

Farmers Union helped sponsor the project.

"For history's sake, we've got to keep our history alive," Kuylen said.

Farmers and ranchers who are not registered, or who would like to learn how, can call the center at 462-8535 or go to www.fortmandan.com.

Read the story here and watch the video.


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