Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Could Mott be the answer?...

Posted 3/24/20 (Tue)

Most of us study the weather regardless of whether we think we do or not. Just by default, by living in North Dakota this is something we always pay close attention.

North Dakota, north to south, has 3 degrees of latitude. The southern border (or very near to it) represents 46 Degrees North Latitude while the northern border is the 49th Parallel or the Canadian border.

It stands to reason that the farther south we go, the warmer it becomes. It’s not much of a spread from north to south in the winter, but it represents warmer temperatures and typically more active weather patterns.

When we look at the southwest, it’s pretty mild compared to the rest of the state. It’s even more mild than the southeast.

Taking a closer look, Bowman, Hettinger, Mott, Dickinson, Fort Yates and Reeder have had consistently warmer temperature through a winter than the rest of us.

It’s encouraging that we have a “banana belt” closer to the equator in case we want to go golfing on a winter day or take the top down on the convertible.

Humor aside, there is some logic to this. Looking at all the communities mentioned, it appears that Mott and Hettinger tend to be the most mild with Mott being more so than Hettinger.

Don’t expect tourists in Bermuda shorts showing up in Mott like its Woodstock or something.

What is important is the people of Mott could be using this climate to their full advantage.

Several weeks ago, there was an article in this space about growing vegetables in North Dakota in the depth of winter.

If people were trying to grow vegetables in Mott or even Hettinger, they wouldn’t have to struggle as much as someone in, say the Devils Lake area.

Using a series of greenhouses, or high tunnels, entrepreneurs could use the climate to their advantage and pay for less heat than the rest of their brethren across the state.

We all know how the wind blows and many of us are aware of the wind farm in the New England area. Wind power, or perhaps solar as it becomes more stable, could easily be used to power as many greenhouses with as much heat as we might imagine.

Now  would wind and solar make this efficient, the fact that living at 46 Degrees North Latitude instead of 48 or 49, there is more sunlight in the winter, perhaps enough to sustain growth of plants without artificial light throughout winter?

This is a golden opportunity  for entrepreneurs who would like to change the local foods map in North Dakota. We all need to eat to survive. Why not grow some of it here despite the handicap of winter?

Several weeks ago an economic forum was held in Bowbells to discuss how the people of northwestern North Dakota might revive the northwest.

One of the things that kept coming up is that we have to figure out a way how to keep young people in the area. We go to college, we get a job and we move to Colorado or Kansas or something.

It doesn’t have to happen that way anymore. Young people are the ones who are most enthusiastic about local and organic foods. They are the ones who should be driving this train.

But young people, most often, don’t have the kind of money it would take to get a venture like this off the ground.

There’s APUC, USDA, SARE and other grant programs that could easily get somebody started in the world of growing fresh food in winter or, starting plants for sale earlier in the winter in a greenhouse.

Let’s face it. Outside of Fargo or Bismarck, we’re all desperate to keep our young people at home or get them to come back after college.

This is one way to do it and it wouldn’t take a lot of research to get it off the ground.

In reality, if we look at the entire southwest quadrant of North Dakota, this could someday be a booming enterprise in these communities that have struggled for years to maintain a stable population.

Two jobs can lead to five, five can lead to 10 and so on. Yes, I’m being optimistic. The glass is half full, but it better be if it’s going to be watering greenhouses full of plants.

Good idea, bad idea? Only time will tell.

What is known is that farmers markets across the state are bustling because consumers want local and they want organic. Adding a season in southwest North Dakota would add jobs and revenue to depressed communities.