Research lab invites the neighbors over

Farm Forum

Scientists traded in lab coats for aprons and invited the neighbors over for barbecue and agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory in Mandan was bustling with activity during its 17th Annual Friends and Neighbors Day.

“It’s an opportunity for us to invite the public up here formally to see the grounds, see what it is we do, how we work with partners and to thank the public for their support of our research laboratory.” said Matt Sanderson, research leader for the lab. “It is a formal invitation for the public to come here today but we are open to the public everyday.

The laboratory was established by Congress in 1912 with a mission to help farmers grow crops in the newly settled Dakotas. Since that time the mission remains researching and aiding the growth of the regions crops in sustainable ways.

“What I enjoy about this is the extent of which this research lab has opened its self up to the public,” attendee Al Gustin said. “The lab management is to be commended for letting people know what is going on out here and turning it into a semi-public facility and letting people come and enjoy the day while learn about agriculture and research that is going on here.”

The facility’s courtyard was filled with presentations and displays from various agricultural associations.

Among those was the National Ecological Observatory Network sharing its work from the past year and future plans with the community.

NEON is a project funded by the National Science Foundation to study the effects and changes of the ecosystem for the next 30 years across the continent. The laboratory houses one of 20 NEON domains in the U.S.

“I am interested in giving people the opportunity to find out what we are doing at NEON and how it will be accessible to them in the future,” said Andrea Anteau, domain field operations manager. “We are in the construction phase. This was our first season of doing some basic plant measurements and next year will be our first official year of data collection.”

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture shared information on North Dakota’s pollinators. The booth display covered bee life cycles and included live bees inside an observation hive.

State bee inspector, Samantha Brunner, handed out honey sticks to visiting children as she explained that North Dakota is the number one honey producer in the nation. This year the state is pushing close to 600,000 hives.

“It’s great showing people how interesting and cool the bees are. With our observation hive, they can see all the work they (bees) do,” Brunner said. “Its nice to bring awareness and increase the people interest in bees.”

The laboratory was also loading up trailers of onlookers for guided tours of its tree blocks and facility. FFA entertained children with a cow milking simulator and corn sand box.

“It is a really nice event that brings the public out,” said Mandan chapter FFA president, Stetson Ellington. “People drive by here and can get a glimpse of what’s going on, but today they get come see it up close and learn what they are doing and see the research that is taking place. They get the hands on insight of what going on and how it benefit’s the public.”