Opportunities & Traffic Jams

There is no doubt that the oil industry has brought incredible opportunities to North Dakota. We have jobs to offer, a booming economy and need workers desperately. Along with agriculture, which is the backbone of North Dakota’s economy, the energy industry has created growth that is almost unbelievable to those who have lived in North Dakota for over ten years.

And the growth, traffic and development show little signs of stop if you pass through the once small towns that were awakened over night.

Truck traffic and road construction in Ray, North Dakota.

Truck traffic and road construction in Ray, North Dakota.

And while some rumors of rigs and companies moving to Texas are spread, in a stop and go traffic jam I was stuck behind this vehicle, notice the license plate.


My own family has seen the great opportunity of this oil boom, as my brother-in-law got a job in the oil industry and makes a salary that is significantly more than when he was as a correctional officer in Jamestown. This did take my sister and nephew three hours from me, as opposed to three minutes in Jamestown, but in this transition it also allowed my sister to open a day care in her new home in Hebron. She  enjoys it , and is helping address the critical child care issue in western North Dakota, also she’s GREAT at it. It also works out really well whenever I need to travel to western North Dakota for work, as I now always have a place to stay.

On Tuesday, after working in Williston, I began to travel to Hebron to spend the night at my sister’s. Instead of taking the long way around I thought I’d try Highway 85 since it had been 2 years since I drove it last. Bad idea. I cannot say that enough. Traffic is nonstop and piles up quickly with road construction and few other north and south highway options in western North Dakota. It is a total nightmare. I am not kidding.

Traffic Jam

hwy 85


It was an intense drive, until I got to the Interstate. The trip offered little relief. I think about the truck drivers, travelers and regular North Dakota folks who drive this road everyday. Stay safe, everyone. And seriously avoid this road if you can.

Arriving at Victoria’s house in Hebron was a welcome moment, after being in my car for nearly 9 hours that day. The knephla soup and Jaxon were pretty great too.



Travel safely and wisely and I’ll see you on the road!



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Big Iron 2012

I attended my 4th consecutive Big Iron this week. The event is always an adventure. People from every corner come out to check out the field demonstrations, listen to speakers and of course pack their free bag full of free pens, notepads, can coozies and we even had eye glasses cleaners.

I got there about a half an hour before the show started, and people were already at the booth. No shocker farmers are early risers.  I got a chance to visit with some friends that I otherwise don’t get to see often. The broadcasters at the Red River Farm Network, the Udby brothers from Walsh county and even my dear friend Pam Gulleson stopped by the booth to visit.

So stop by today if you’re at Big Iron. NDFU is in the Ag building, you never know you may win an iPad! It’s always fun to reconnect and get back to the roots of agriculture and this event does that. Thanks for the stoppers, and I’ll see you on the road.

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Oil Rush

Everyone has heard about stories of western North Dakota. We’ve heard the heart warming stories of people spending their last few dollars to travel to Williston, pitch a tent and find a job. We’ve heard stories of tragic car accidents and emergency vehicles unable to make it to the crime scene in time. People become millionaires overnight, see car plates from Hawaii and bartenders carry guns while working. Life has changed.

After hearing all of these stories, many people want to go up there and see for themselves just what’s going on in western North Dakota. So NDFU loaded up the bus and did just that. Now I’ve been out to the Bakken area several times this year already; however, I’ve never eaten lunch at a crew camp and I did not visit the Manhatten well that is making NDFU staff member Dale Enerson very happy.  I was excited for the adventure.

We left from Cenex in Bismarck around 7:30 a.m. and the first stop was New Town. New Town was a community of about 3,000 three years ago, it has nearly tripled in size since then. The Cenex is booming and it is not uncommon to see long lines of trucks in line for fuel. 

We then headed up to Ross where we stopped at Dakota Quality Grain, which is a grain elevator that has the fortune of having extra railroad tracks. Big opportunity. They are now building onsite to house 20,000 tons of sand for ONE oil company. That’s so that company can maintain the fracking pace they would like. They still do all of the farming business they used too, just expanding their business to fit the needs of the area.

After Ross the group headed over to right outside of Tioga and ate lunch at a crew camp called Capital Lodge. The Capital Lodge facility can house 2,500 people in one night after their expansion is complete. I met a very helpful young lady there, her and her husband were just recently married when he got a job on the rigs, she then became employed with Capital Lodge as kitchen staff. So they get to stay at the lodge for nothing, plus get their area cleaned for them. They were from Texas and she laughed when people were complaining of the heat.


Now we were pretty spoiled, most lunches are not hot meals. For the workers it’s one hot meal a day. The area included cafeteria style dining and a game room, I felt like I was back in college again. We even got a special little dessert. 

From there we headed out on the broken down beat up roads to the heart of the oil boom, the wells. We toured around Mountrail county. They have advanced the horizontal drilling to the point where you can have up to 6 wells on one pad going in all different directions. They hope to get up to 12 and beyond one day.


As we were driving back from Ross I noticed that on one side of the road was a railroad station that shipped out thousands of tons of oil every day by railroad cart. 

And on the other side was  a North Dakota classic beauty.

When we finally arrived at the well, many of our heads were sore from bumping the top of the bus from the roads, ok it was not that bad, but it was quite a drive. Very first hand of the damages and the stories.  Upon arrival I shoved everyone in a spot, climbed on top of the bus and snapped a photo.



Our last stop was the Cenex in Stanely. We were reminded on the tour that Stanley Cenex was wondering who to merge with about 6 years ago because there was not enough business, today it has over 100 employees and is currently building a small strip mall location. Business is booming there. Here’s a sign just to indicate how much growth it has experienced.


The best part for me was visiting with the members. They were quite the crew from Burleigh-Morton county and I got to see two of my all-time favorites Arlene Olson and Denise Brown. A great day of education, information and meeting new people. Thanks for a wonderful tour, especially to the incredible tour guide Dale Enerson. He is a walking encyclopedia, as he is originally from the Stanley area and still owns quite a bit of farm land out there. As we move into harvest and the fall the fly-in is creeping up, along with the WILD event then we will be in full on county convention mode. So enjoy this weather while it lasts, and I’m sure I’ll see you on the road!



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Ladies’ Bus Trip

It’s important to get outside your comfort zone and try new experiences. This past weekend I “chaperoned” a ladies’ bus trip to Fargo for the street fair and a musical. Now, this was a big stretch for me. I don’t enjoy shopping. I’ll do it if I’m looking for something specific, but it’s not my most favorite pasttime. I also am not a big fan of musicals. I am one of those people who would rather sit at a baseball game, then go to a broadway musical. So I treated this trip as an adventure.

The trip started early Friday morning, left Jamestown at 7:00 a.m. to be in Lakota in time to catch the bus. A fun icebreaker and before you knew it we were in Fargo. The first stop was the street fair. And it was hot. The temp that day in Fargo reached 102, and I think every one of us who went to the street fair about melted. I felt for the vendors, as with the heat and humidity no relief was offered because little to no breeze existed. I found relaxation in a coffee shop, where I read my book and enjoyed a cool drink.

Some of the ladies found great treasures at the street fair, a large number of the group found a bar and drank (iced tea) all afternoon in the comfort of air conditioning. People really come on these trips to meet new people and catch up with old friends, as not a lot of shopping was done, but a lot of the ladies visited.

As we were taking our group picture in front of the bus a pick up took out a lamp post. The entire pole was shattered, and the driver just sped right off, so we decided to call the police. Well oddly enough when hitting the pole the force was so great that the license plate of the vehicle fell off and was left right at the scene of the crime. It’s called karma, lesson learned. Don’t hit and run.


So after a quick shower and freshening up we were on our way out to Trollwood. The feature was Legally Blonde.


I have never seen a musical so good. The students who participated were completely amazing. The music, acting, costumes, everything was just fantastic. I had so much fun at that musical. Plus I LOVE that movie, so that helps. It’s still showing this week, if you can go, it’s worth the drive.

The next day the ladies had the option of going to the street fair again or going to the mall, many choose the mall as it was still plenty hot outside. After a day of shopping, we headed up to Grand Forks to tour Dakota Harvest Bakery. What a great little shop! The shop is filled with homemade treats, and many of the ingredients are locally grown. A great North Dakota business supporting North Dakota growers. The service was great too.

Then it was time to go home. It was hard getting off in Lakota. I had such a great time with the ladies. They each got a card and I encouraged all of them to stay in touch. I hope that I get to see them one day again, they already started planning a shopping extravaganza trip to the Albertville Mall.

I snapped this beauty in Stutsman County on my way home. It was so gorgeous I had to stop. I am thankful to live in such an incredible place, North Dakota is such a great home. That’s why traveling this great place is so rewarding.

I’ll see you on the road!



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Farm Bill Forums 2012

Life has been crazier here than the typical summer at NDFU. On top of going to fantastic places with incredible members, I’ve had the privilege of traveling across the beautiful North Dakota prairie.

Last week we held our Farm Bill Forums. These are some of my most favorite, they remind me of “shop talks” but we bring in the experts to hear what rural North Dakotans have to say. We held six of them across the state, beginning in Flasher and ending in Wapheton with a few stops in between. The discussion varied at each location, which is a great reflection of the different needs across the state.

The panel consisted of Scott Stofferahn who is the State Director for Senator Conrad. Scott has so much knowledge on this subject, and it’s such a privilege to have him at a NDFU event. He helped write the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill, he has worked on policy issues for his entire career, and knows the in’s and out’s of policy regarding agriculture whether it be state or federal. Scott has incredible depth. Tom Brusegaard who is the Senior Ag advisor to Senator Hoeven in North Dakota did an excellent job as well, he knows where Senator Hoeven would like to see the farm bill go, so he’s very insightful about the future of the bill and how it will play out for the next generation of farmers. This was incredibly interesting to me because I work mostly with the next generation of farmers. Bob Christman was barely through initiation at Rep. Berg’s office and graciously accepted to join the panel. He was more about listening to the needs of the people and reporting back to Rep. Berg.

NDFU President Woody Barth moderated all of the forums. Here’s the group!


NDFU held six of the forums across the state in three days. The route went, Flasher, Belfield, Kenmare, McClusky, Binford and Wapheton. A large variety of needs to hear about and a great way to hear what’s working in some areas, and what’s not working.

The biggest adventure for me and my travel coworker Anne was the drive from Belfield to Minot on Tuesday evening. We needed to pit stop in Killdeer to snap some photos, then head up to Minot for a snooze before heading to Kenmare the next morning. The drive was beautiful for the first half.

As we were driving along it felt very bizarre. One moment we were on the prairie, the next we were driving through hills and badlands that went as far as the eye could see, like we drove right into a different place. Then the fun began. If you are traveling in North Dakota give yourself plenty of extra time if you’re going to drive on Hwy 23. We were bumper to bumper for about two hours, saw lots of interesting things, and listened to a wide variety of music.

We finally arrived at the hotel in Minot to check in around 11 p.m. and it was a great treat to stretch out and enjoy a snack before bed.

I ended the week by working the NDFU booth at the Stutsman County Fair, where we promoted the Women In Leadership Development,WILD, event that is happening at the NDFU state office Sept. 21 and Sept. 22nd. It was a GREAT opportunity to talk with members, see people that I haven’t in many years and make new friends.

Thank YOU members who attended the forums and stopped by the tent. That’s the best part of my job, visiting with you and getting your feedback. Thanks for all you do!

I’ll see you on the road.

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Summer “Work” Vacation

So in my job I have the sheer pleasure of traveling across North Dakota, and sometimes to places beyond. For the past two weeks I have been away, and when I got home to see my puppy after 10 days of being gone, she was at the very least thrilled to have me back and be heading home. I was thrilled to shave my legs, shower in my shower and sleep in my own bed. However, the adventures are always fun, and make you thankful to live in such a wonderful place that has air-conditioning and internet.

The first of my adventures was with a group of farmers/ranchers to Minneapolis for our TAG training group. We did a training at the NDFU state office, and then got on a bus heading east. We had a fun weekend, all went to the Twins game on Friday night. Then Sat. we hit the Mall of America and Valley Fair. The evening was spent at a German restaurant, with wild entertainment and celebrating Jana and Shane Tellman’s anniversary.

Val and me at Valley Fair

Most of the crew toasting to fun

I sure had a fun weekend. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of life and just move from one task to the next, taking time to hang out and have quality time with the farmers and ranchers that make this organization so great I think is the most important part of working for NDFU.

After a brief day at home I was on the road again, except this time heading to the wild wild west. And oh what a time it was!

12 NDFU women from Bowman to Cavalier flew to Bailey Colorado to experience camp, for most of us it was the first time in many years. The weather was very hot, but the company incredible. Great friendships were formed, and a bond was created. We will forever be the Bailey Cougars!

The NDFU crew at the airport, we’re ready to rumble 🙂

Upon arrival we immediately began the fun.

The walking group on the first day

We did many activities throughout the weekend, some including work.

Focus group with Undersecretary Rebecca Blue

Undersecretary of Agriculture Rebecca Blue and me, she used to work for Earl and is from South Dakota. Great to see successful young women in Ag!

NDFU group with NFU President Roger Johnson, who is from ND!

NFU President Roger Johnson and me at camp.

But the best parts included play. Parts that involved Joy’s infectious laugh and “Someone’s” phobia of people touching her “luggage items”. Play may have included some trips to town to check out the nightlife and local watering hole :).

Nothing beat this skit written by Joy.

It wouldn’t be camp without underwear up the flagpole.

What are you walking to town to get?

Together  we reached new heights, some were a little more willing than others. However, as a team we made it!

The daredevil Rhonda

The NDFU women reached new heights!

Check out the beautiful view from the top

All in all, we made friends that will be an incredible support system as we all take on new leadership roles, and will forever be known as the Bailey Cougars!

The entire group, what a bond we created.

The North Dakota group

Thanks everyone for a great weekend. I look forward to seeing everything this amazing group of women has before them, let’s all stay in touch.

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The NDFU camping season is in full swing, with the first senior camp starting today and the first junior camp started yesterday! It’s time to rock and roll. Now I never had the chance to attend camp or be a summer staff member. My fond memories of camp lie at Pilgrim Park on Lake Metigoshe which was where our church camp was held. However, for many children and young adults their heart is filled with Heart Butte and NDFU!

I had the sheer pleasure of teaching DDC last week out at camp. Ok teaching DDC is never really fun, but working with the summer staff certainly is and hearing their ideas about membership was a blast! They came up with brilliant ideas on how to stay involved once this chapter of being a summer staff member is over.

At NDFU camp, you learn leadership skills such as cooperation and team work. That comes from the summer staff all the way down. This year’s staff have mastered this cup game that counts on the timing and cooperation of everyone in the circle, it’s very neat to watch. I could tell just by observing this game, these are great leaders for the campers.

At NDFU camp you make new friends, often people who you will know your entire life.  Raja came with me, and she certainly made a few friends.

Parents, the camp is filled with day long activities, and evenings filled with dance themes and campfire stories. So after having a week full of many activities your kids will come home completely exhausted. I know my four legged daughter was wiped out even before we left camp.

And when you ask your kids if they want to go back the next year their face will look like this.

So hopefully your child gets the chance and opportunity that I never did. While we all become grown ups some day, being a kid at summer camp is a precious gift to cherish along the way. Have a great summer campers and summer staff!

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