Someone asked me the other day what North Star Farms will be growing in 2009 and I told that person, which includes all of the items listed on the "Our Products" page of this Web site.
Then, I was asked, "what unusual crop are you growing since you grow something unusual every year?"
I had to think about that for a few minutes and hadn't ordered seed yet so the question was wide open. Last year in September a local newspaper, the Kenmare News, asked that same question and at the time I said cranberries.
We know that cranberries thrive in Wisconsin and our climate here isn't much different than Wisconsin's. I think cranberries would be a great addition to a North Dakota farm but we aren't quite ready for that yet. Ideally, what we would like to do is get organic cranberry slips from someone who grows them now in Wisconsin.
Once again, we'll be growing peanuts, but that isn't so unusual anymore since we've been doing it now going on the fifth year. The difference, however, will be the variety. We found Jumbo Virginia in certified organic so quickly ordered them. That variety did extremely well here, nearly on the Canadian border, in 2005.
I've saved all my Star of David okra seed from 2008 and will be expanding that plot this year. Okra grows well in the summer heat and under irrigation, I have noted that it thrives here since we hit 100 degrees every summer.
Oddly enough, we are kind of going away from a large variety of products since we've identified garlic and tomatoes as huge sellers for us. We've doubled our garlic production once again and I say that only because I have to put in a plug for our garlic, which customers are telling us is the best garlic in North Dakota. The unusual part is that we are now marketing the scapes and will have them available sometime in July.
Last year I tried cotton but it didn't work. The seeds were started indoors and transplanted when the chance of frost was past. Those plants only stagnated so not again. I'm not sure why they didn't grow to maturity.
Our tobacco crop last year was incredible. I gave a lot away to friends and relatives at Christmas and I still have most of it remaining in the farm house. Gee, for a crop that can't grow here, it sure did well in North Dakota.
With new catalogs lying around, I've been looking at the unusual and found marshmallow, but I'm not sure I want to try it. I need to study it more before I order it. I don't want it to be like the cotton was last year.
In the meantime, I've broken from the organic tradition and have ordered Atlantic Giant pumpkins. I will grow them on a spot that isnt certified organic. I'm intrigued with a contest here in North Dakota where you can win $1,000 if you produce a 1,000-pound pumpkin. We'll still use the trusty Howden jack-o-lantern pumpkins but I wanted Atlantic Giant for the contest and so the grandchildren get a big thrill.
Beyond that, I don't know. There's some pressure from North Dakota State University for us to get into grapes and start a vineyard. That's intriguing too, but we will need more property before we can do that. This year will tell us also if the peach tree we planted last year will bear fruit.
When I think about how much fun all this is, the sky is the limit. But when I think about market potential and profitability, I think cranberries will be the best choice for a crop that supposedly can't grow in North Dakota.