The Farms and Summer Festivals of North Dakota

Summertime in North Dakota is perfect for groups who love big open spaces, popular events and the aroma of fresh foods. Among other things, North Dakota is an agricultural state with a hearty welcome for anyone who appreciates the upper-Midwestern heartland.

With around 30,000 farms and ranches covering 90% of the state, summer travelers can be treated to sweeping views of yellow sunflowers, purple flax and waving fields of golden wheat. With the right planning, they could also be treated to fairs, festivals, farmers markets, outdoor concerts and so many more ways to enjoy North Dakota’s long summer days.

In fact, North Dakota is a national and world leader in food production. The state grows half of all U.S. durum—the primary ingredient in pasta—and is the nation’s largest producer of honey, thanks in part to their beautiful wildflowers. Travelers can experience this not only from a roadside view, but also by shopping for local Pride of Dakota products at visitor centers and registered retailers, and by taking in some of the state’s farms and gardens that offer unique visitor experiences. 

Tour groups are interested to know that every year, North Dakota produces enough …   

  • Wheat for 15.5 billion loaves of bread.
  • Soybeans to make 483 billion crayons.
  • Potatoes for 171 million servings of French fries.
  • Beef for 100 million hamburgers.
  • Wool for 421,500 sweaters.
  • Milk for 894 million glasses.
  • Pork for 41 million pork chops.
  • Sunflowers to fill 726 million bags of sunflower seeds.
  • Corn to sweeten 45 billion cans of soda.
  • Canola to fill our state capitol tower more than 17 times.

Agricultural tourism in North Dakota is a favorite among visiting groups, offering homegrown adventures to stir the senses and provide a taste of the farm, garden and ranch life.

Visit vineyards and wineries growing sweet, hybrid grapes and mixing them with local fruits and honey to create unique wines to taste while relaxing in a pastoral setting. Guests could also purchase their own bottle to take home, along with other local creations.

For those interested in experiencing rural life and engaging in the activities of a small farm, North Dakota farms and gardens can get guests involved in the action with the day-to-day operations it takes to feed the world.

Favorite farms and gardens open to visitors for a variety of agrarian culture and hands-on experiences include Crooked Lane Farm Folk School and Event Center at Colfax, Ostlie’s Sunnyside Acres near Carrington, Slavic Heritage Farm near Rugby, and Pipestem Creek Bed and Birding near Carrington. Another favorite, gardendwellers FARM, has recently relocated near Souris and is preparing the land for both future herb gardens and visitors.

For a historical perspective, groups could enjoy Bagg Bonanza Farm near Mooreton and Bonanzaville in West Fargo. One of the last remaining bonanza farms in the U.S., this 15-acre plantation on the prairie is a national landmark dating back to the 1800s. Bonanzaville showcases life as it was in a small prairie town at the turn of the century, with a collection of 43 buildings and 400,000 artifacts on 12 acres.

Of course, visiting groups can enjoy the harvest in North Dakota’s cities and towns, as well. Farm-to-table restaurants use fresh, locally sourced ingredients and seasonal produce to provide the best flavors of North Dakota. Farmers markets around the state offer some of the freshest and healthiest foods found anywhere, including favorite fruits and vegetables, along with mouth-watering pies, honey, jellies and jams. They can be found using an online, searchable, interactive local foods map from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. 

Fairs, festivals and other events are a big part of summer in North Dakota. Thanks to an assortment of food trucks, the air fills with the aroma of smokey barbecue, grilled turkey drumsticks, Greek gyros and “Uff-da tacos” served on fry bread—a regional favorite named for a common expression from the local Norwegian heritage.

The North Dakota State Fair in Minot (July 21-29, 2023) and Red River Valley Fair (July 7-16, 2023) are two of North Dakota’s biggest summer events. Here, visitors get to enjoy mouth-watering fair food, live music, major concerts, arts, crafts and various showcases of farming and ranching. Local growers show their prize livestock and produce while dealers show the latest in big farm equipment.

North Dakota invites you to plan a summer tour of this beautiful and amazing place that produces so much food for America and the world.

Courtesy of North Dakota Tourism.

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Tour the Local Flavors of North Dakota

North Dakota is an agricultural state that supplies the world with a bounty of the highest quality food ingredients. So, it stands to reason the state would also serve delicious local culinary delights and beverages to a guest’s table when they visit. Across North Dakota, there are chefs, bakers, vintners and brew masters bringing amazing flavors to life.

One great example of a place creating farm-fresh foods is Cows and Co Creamery in Carrington. This family-owned, on-farm creamery uses milk from their own dairy cows to make artisan gouda cheese, fresh cheddar cheese curds and authentic Italian-inspired gelato. Travelers should check store hours and make plans to stop here for a scoop of gelato or a steaming hot cup of mocha.

The state’s farm-to-table restaurants use fresh, locally sourced ingredients and seasonal produce to create the best flavors of North Dakota. Depending on the specialties of each restaurant, food enthusiasts could enjoy breads and pastas made with flour milled from North Dakota wheat and durum; the finest cuts of North Dakota beef or bison; a vegetable medley made with locally grown beans, sweet corn or squash; and more. Consider adding these farm-to-table restaurants to your itineraries:

  • Butterhorn, Bismarck
  • Ely’s Ivy, Grand Forks
  • Mezzaluna, Fargo
  • Outlaws Bar and Grill, Watford City
  • Pirogue Grille, Bismarck
  • Rosewild, Fargo
  • Souris River Brewing, Minot

Your plans should also include the North Dakota Culinary Trail, a group of mapped lists on the North Dakota Tourism website featuring some top dining recommendations. They include fine dining, sweet treats, funky uptown dining, farm-to-table restaurants, roadside eateries and more.

Along with raising vast crops of wheat, North Dakota also grows barley and hops, grapes, honey and a variety of berries. Vineyards and wineries mix hybrid grapes, local fruits and honey to create uniquely North Dakota flavors of wines and ciders. Plan to visit and taste the product at wineries throughout the state, including:

  • Pointe of View Winery, Burlington
  • Maple River Winery, Casselton
  • Fluffy Fields Vineyard & Winery, Dickinson
  • Bear Creek Winery, Fargo

North Dakota is one of the world’s top producers of malting barley, wheat and other grains that supply some of the biggest breweries in America. The state’s local craft breweries malt these grains into a wide variety of full-bodied stouts, rich porters, hoppy IPAs and smooth-tasting lagers. Here is just a small sampling of some favorite breweries:

  • Laughing Sun Brewing Company, Bismarck
  • Drekker Brewing, Fargo
  • Stonehome Brewing Company, Watford City
  • Rhombus Guys Brewing Company, Grand Forks

Throughout summer and fall, North Dakota has plenty of food festivals to celebrate the state’s bountiful harvests and favorite local flavors. These include events centered around specific locally grown fruits, such as chokecherries, juneberries (closely related to blueberries) or rhubarb. Other events focus on the smoky flavor of barbecued ribs and slow-roasted turkey.

Many North Dakotans come from German, Ukrainian and Scandinavian heritage. So of course, the state frequently celebrates the foods from these cultures. Norsk Høstfest, an annual fall event in Minot, is the world’s largest Scandinavian heritage festival. Visitors enjoy lefse (a traditional Norwegian soft flatbread made from potatoes), ebelskivers (a fluffy Danish pancake with fruit filling) and more.

The town of Enderlin has an annual celebration of sunflowers, which grow abundantly across North Dakota. Not only do sunflowers supply delicious snacks and useful oils, but they also provide stunning scenery in late summer when miles upon miles of fields bloom in bright yellow.

Another notable festival happens every autumn in Grand Forks, located in the heart of red potato country—an area known as one of the nation’s top producers of French fries for quick-service restaurants and your grocer’s freezer. Potato Bowl USA in September is a celebration of the Red River Valley’s favorite starchy crop, featuring a parade and home football game of the University of North Dakota.

There’s even more to discover throughout the year. Below are some additional favorite annual food festivals:

JUNE

  • Ribfest, Fargo
  • Rhubarb Festival, Rugby and Grand Forks
  • Turkey Barbecue, Aneta

JULY

  • North Dakota State Fair, Minot
  • Ukrainian Festival, Dickinson
  • Watermelon Days, Hebron

AUGUST

  • Best of the West Ribfest, Watford City
  • Chokecherry Festival, Williston
  • Deuce of August Icelandic Festival, Mountain
  • Watermelon Feed, Washburn

SEPTEMBER

  • Norsk Høstfest, Minot
  • Oktoberfest, Hankinson, Hazen, Jamestown, Mandan, New Leipzig and Walhalla
  • Potato Bowl USA, Grand Forks
  • Pumpkinfest, Walhalla
  • Sunflower Festival, Enderlin

OCTOBER

  • Burgers + Brew Fest, Crosby
  • GooseFest, Kenmare
  • Oktoberfest, Ashley, Fargo and Napoleon
  • Sauerkraut Day, Wishek

 

Plan a tour of the flavors of North Dakota soon.

Courtesy of North Dakota Tourism.

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