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Frank family constantly adjusts operation strategy

DICKINSON - Life on the farm is one of constant evolution, due to weather and other issues.

Life on the farm is one of constant evolution, due to weather and other issues.

Pat and Jane Frank believe that's just how it is and you have to learn to live with it.

"About the time you think you've got things figured out, it changes," Frank said. "And you've got to change things."

If that's true, the Frank family, which has been farming since the late 1800's, has most likely seen its fair share of change.

The Frank family has farmed and ranched at its current location northwest of South Heart since the 1920's.

In 1991, Pat and Jane moved to the farm and rented some of his uncle's land and bought one other quarter. When his father passed away in 2002, Pat started farming his father's land as well.

Jane said the move out to the farm was a pretty natural transition.

"After living in town, it's nice...quiet," Jane said. "I prefer being out here. I know the kids would be fine in town, but out here it's a little more you have to do things yourself rather than go with the crowd...It just works for us."

The Frank's four children, Sarah, 17, Justine, 16, Weston, 15 and Matt, 12, all help out on the farm and each have specific things they enjoy.

Pat would like it if one of the kids was interested in taking over the farm, but he isn't in any hurry, saying it's important for kids to have experiences off the farm.

"If they grow up on the farm and then after high school they just jump on the tractor, they don't get any other work experience," Frank said. "If you go out and work for a couple years and come back, you've got that other work experience you can draw from."

Frank said it is nice to raise the next generation of Franks on the farm he grew up on.

"It's nice to know where your history is at," Frank said. "Where it started at and where it is now. It's nice to see the progress and see how things have improved."

Pat, the oldest of the seven children born to Ted and Carol Frank, remembers when his dad and uncles used to plant with R and J model John Deere tractors and used horses to feed in the winter.

The advancement in technology is something Pat watches with interest, but says he doesn't always get too excited.

"It definitely saves labor," Frank said. "...I'm not going to be the first one to run out there and buy it. Just because it's new doesn't mean its any better."

That measured approach has worked for the Franks, who were recently asked to sit on the North Dakota State University Dickinson Research and Extension Center's advisory council. The council's mission is to assess and assist the DREC faculty and scientists with evaluation, development and support of NDSU programs at the center

New research is important to the Frank's operation. As certified organic producers, the Franks do things without the aid of fertilizers and herbicides

"There are guys out there that think if you don't use commercial fertilizers you can't make it," Frank said. "But this is how we've always done it."

Although it is sometimes more difficult, especially during years with little moisture, Frank said he's happy with how they do things.

"Out here our biggest problem is if we get enough moisture," Frank said.

To help supplement the farm operation, the Franks also raise beef cattle and hogs.

Raising hogs was something his father had done, but had let go by the wayside and eventually stopped. Then a couple of years ago, Pat wasn't able to find any pork for their fall butchering, so he purchased a couple to raise for the next year.

"Pretty soon I had guys who knew I had pigs and they started calling because you need pigs in the fall when you're butchering," Frank said.

Another change on the ranch was the transition from a dairy operation to a strictly beef cattle operation.

Frank doesn't miss the dairying, saying with a laugh he had, "better ways to get exercise."

Frank said he'll continue to educate himself on the new advances and adjust his operation accordingly.

"I like to read and get the information, but a lot of the's here today and done in a year," Frank said. "The way it is, is that one guy might do something on his farm and it might not work on some other guys."