Part 1: North Dakota Agriculture

Part 1: In a Nutshell

  • Agriculture is the number one industry in North Dakota.
  • The Mandan Indians were the first people to carry out agriculture as a business in North Dakota.
  • North Dakota’s first farmers were the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians, who raised crops on the bottomland of the Missouri and Knife Rivers.
  • The three agricultural tribes bartered with Lakota, Dakota, and other nomadic tribes.
  • The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara villages along the Missouri and Knife Rivers became one of the largest trading centers on the continent.
  • Alexander Henry, who operated a trading post, was the first non-Indian we know of to carry out agriculture in North Dakota.
  • The Homestead Act, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, gave 160 acres of free land to early Euro-American settlers who fulfilled certain conditions.
  • Bonanza farms demonstrated that North Dakota soil was fertile, and cattle bonanzas opened up ranching in western North Dakota.
  • Railroads played a significant role in the settlement of North Dakota by early Euro-American settlers.
  • Between 1870 and 1918, North Dakota became dotted with farms and small towns, and agriculture became the number one industry.
  • During World War I, thousands of farm workers left farms to join the military or work in factories producing war materials.
  • During the 1930s, North Dakota farmers suffered from both a poor economy and a major drought.
  • During World War II, farmers received high prices for crops and cattle; rainfall was plentiful; and crops were good.
  • After World War II, electricity was brought to North Dakota farms.
  • Between 1975 and 1985, about 8,000 North Dakota farms went out of business.