USDA open house

MANDAN, N.D. - For many North Dakota kids, growing up to become a farmer is either a dream or a family tradition.

There's normally not this much traffic at the Northern Great Plains Research Lab, but it's Friends and Neighbors Day in Mandan, and this year, event leaders expected about 800 visitors on campus for an open house.

"With this kind of event, it's to expose our work so more people understand what we're doing, why we're doing it, and the science behind it. And how it can economically benefit their operation if their a farmer," said LeAnn Harner, Area 4 research farmer.

With free barbecue for hungry guests, tractor rides, and private vendors, this is no ordinary assembly.

"It's almost a convention, except it's a convention where you can wear your shorts and your blue jeans, and relax and hug your neighbor, and have your conversation in the corner," Harner said.

Even on a blazing hot day like Thursday, hundreds came from all around the state to experience the farmer's life.

Exhibits included the small scales of ongoing research in cover crops affecting wind erosion, and honey bee colonization. Some buzzing stars welcomed visitors along with their honey.

"I think it teaches about how things work and how things grow, what things do, and how animals survive," said Jesse Feist, attendee.

Research leaders say this is a chance for producers to network and consumers to connect the farm to the kitchen table.

Friends and Neighbors Day is a decades-long tradition which organizers say evolves as farms evolve.