New agriculture center brings excitement to Lake Region State, community
DEVILS LAKE – The fresh paint, coupled with the lumbering pieces of delicately maintained farming equipment, could not drown out the music and general festivities of more than 100 donors, faculty members and community residents at the newly opened Hofstad Agriculture Center on Sep. 22.
The occasion, of course, was anything but a routine run-of-the-mill get-together at Lake Region State College.
Instead, it was a ceremony in remembrance. In honor of third-generation farmers Curt and Annette Hofstad, the center emphasized the importance of remembering the past as the program looked toward the future.
“Huge,” fourth-generation farmer Chad Hofstad said during the ceremony. “It is a humbling honor to know he made such a difference, and everyone loved working with him enough to put his name on a building like this is pretty neat.”
Chad, son of Curt and Annette, believes the building will pay homage to his family and provide numerous opportunities to current and future students who wish to take a career path in agriculture.
Preston Sundeen, Director of the Precision Agriculture Program at Lake Region State, believes the new building will serve its purpose ten-fold. Previously, the college rented and leased facilities to serve its purpose in providing an agricultural program for its students. However, increasing enrollment, in addition to the acquisition of more extensive equipment, meant the college needed to pursue an upgrade.
And so, after the North Dakota Legislature approved construction during the 2019 session, the wheels turned into motion.
“Equipment is in,” Sundeen said. “Technology works great in here. It is modern, and students love the facility.”
The new building will additionally provide the opportunity to correct a growing problem in the industry – maintaining and expanding on the agriculture workforce. Whether it be out on the 40-acre farm field next to the college or in the classrooms within the building, Sundeen believes Hofstad Agriculture Center will expand its outreach to those interested in the industry.
“In agriculture, one of the things we really want to promote is agriculture needs employees,” Sundeen said. “There is a huge demand for a workforce out there, and there are fewer farm kids that are on the farm. We need to reach out to people that do not have an agriculture background and show them there are excellent career opportunities. You do not have to grow up driving a tractor to have a well-paying career in agriculture."
As the festivities illustrated Wednesday evening, excitement is in the air for all parties involved. This excitement not only stemmed from the college but also the community surrounding it.
With the new building, both Hofstad and Sundeen believe the program will only continue to grow and benefit the surrounding community. After all, the program has already put itself on the map. As recently as 2018, the Precision Agriculture Institute ranked Lake Region State’s Precision Agriculture Program 10th out of 20 programs listed in the entire United States.
“This building, and what it can be used for…we are in such short supply of young people in agriculture,” Hofstad said. “To have a place like this that will be able to teach the younger generation and get them going and back…eventually, it will hopefully help the community grow as well.”
“I believe agriculture has an unbelievable number of opportunities, and I think this building brings people in here like it does today,” Sundeen said. “Students get to meet future employers and get to meet their colleagues. Students get to graduate from the program and might sell seeds, and now they will sell seeds to their classmates. There are opportunities, and that is what I think this building provides.”