Wheat can teachSome things are so commonplace in North Dakota that we think they’ve been here forever.
By: Kevin Holten, The Dickinson Press
Some things are so commonplace in North Dakota that we think they’ve been here forever. For example, would you recognize North Dakota if a pheasant didn’t dart across the highway and miss your bumper by 3 inches every three miles? Yet pheasants are not native to North Dakota, having moved here 131 years ago from Georgia, and I don’t mean the “deep south.”
You see, pheasants emigrated here from a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, between Western Asia and Eastern Europe, next to the Black Sea, by Russia and just south of Turkey and Armenia, southeast of Azerbaijan. Perhaps you’ve been there?
They packed their weed seed and bags and came to North America around 1881 and now you see them everywhere being chased across hay fields by gun-toting, wild-eyed crazies in very stylish bright orange attire. So you see, pheasants are immigrants just like great-gramps and grams, except they’re just a bit more paranoid.
Cattle, which now seem so native to North Dakota and are such a big part of our cowboy lore, didn’t set foot in the state in a big way until the late 1880s too. In fact, the first cattle that were brought into North Dakota were large, strong, docile oxen and “milkers.”
Then the range-tough Texas longhorns, which is actually a Spanish breed, were herded into the western part of the state, again in the late 1880s, as were improved breeds like the Shorthorn and Herefords, originally from England, who were later bred for beef production.
But the real clincher, when it comes to foreign things that seem like they’ve been here forever, is wheat. Can you imagine North Dakota without waves and waves of golden wheat fields canvasing the hills and valleys? No way. Yet wheat might be the biggest foreigner yet, having moved here all the way from the Middle East.
You see, wheat originated in Syria, Jordan and Turkey and some of the earliest remains of the crop have been found in eastern Iraq, perhaps growing around the hole that Saddam Hussein hid in, and date back more than 9,000 years.
Other archeological findings show that bread wheat was grown in the Nile Valley, right by the pyramids, about 5000 B.C. as well as in India, China, and even England at about the same time. But wheat wasn’t first grown in the United States until 1602 on an island off the Massachusetts coast.
At the present time, wheat is grown on more land area worldwide than any other crop. Still it is only a close third to rice and corn in total world production.
The fact is, wheat found a home in North Dakota because it adapts well to harsh environments and is mostly grown on wind swept areas that are too dry and too cold for the more wimpy crops like rice and corn, which do better at intermediate temperature levels in, what we consider, vacation areas. The world leaders in order of production of wheat are the European Union, China, India, United States, Russia and France.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest projections estimate North Dakota’s spring wheat crop at 214 million bushels, up 28 percent over last year, and durum wheat at 41.9 million bushels, up 130 percent. That’s because the crops are rebounding after 2011 flooding. Meanwhile, North Dakota’s winter wheat production is forecast at a record 34.3 million bushels, up 147 percent.
You see, the United States grows just over 62 million acres of wheat with an average yield of 41.9 bushels per acre. The top states in acreage grown are Kansas, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma and Washington. Other leading producers are Texas, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.
Still, the most important thing about wheat is the example it sets for us in life and how it says we should live. Because, as Anthony Norvell, the author, lecturer and world’s leading expert on metaphysics once said, “Plant a kernel of wheat and you reap a pint; plant a pint and you reap a bushel. Always the law works to give you back more than you give.”
So, in its infinite wisdom, the message of wheat to us is this; share the things you have and get back a whole bunch more, guaranteed. That’s just the way it works. Then everyone is happy.
Holten is a freelance writer and cartoonist from Dickinson.