Hettinger Research Extension Center celebrates 110 years

Years ago, settlers made a new home in Adams County. As they settled the area, built new farms, and established ranches, they soon recognized the importance of agricultural research, innovation, and discovery.

Frank Turner

As the first property lines were being drawn in Hettinger, pioneering farmers and ranchers made the foundational decision to donate 160 acres of land for the specific purpose of agricultural research in conjunction with the North Dakota State University and funding from the North Dakota State Legislature.
Today, 110 years later, that research land is formally known as the Hettinger Research Extension Center. Back then, however, it was known as the Hettinger Sub-Station.
According to Hettinger Research Extension Center Director and Ph.D. Animal Scientist Christopher Schauer, the station provided key insights into what new farmers and ranchers could actually grow in the region.
Many of the pioneers, he explained, were immigrants from different countries, and those immigrants had no way of understanding what crops and animals would work in this area of the world.
“It was that type of research that started the foundation of, ‘what can we grow here?’” he said, “It was a very young community agriculturally. Many just wanted to know if what they grew back home in Germany, Norway, or the Netherlands would work in this region.”
Since its conception in 1909, the center has gone through many changes.
With funding from the North Dakota Legislature, additional facilities and infrastructure were built in the early 1900’s.
The early expansion didn’t last, however. All funding stopped during the Great Depression, and most research progress ground to a halt from 1935 to 1942. Over the seven-year period, the center sat dormant.
“The facilities had deteriorated so much, that the only thing they could raise was sheep,” said Schauer. “That’s how we ended up with sheep.”
Eventually, the center was refunded and restarted in 1942 with 30 ewes. Since the 1942 restart, the Hettinger Research Extension Center has continued to expand, even through turbulent times.
Through the 90’s and early 2000’s, the center started to diversify its interest and establish new programs to start many new areas of research.
Over the past 30 years, the center has added research programs into new areas of agriculture like weed science, agronomy, pollinator studies, and wildlife sciences.
Even through all the changes, Schauer said that the intention of the research center has remained consistent throughout the years. Its primary focus has always been research.
“At the end of the day, it’s about research,” he said. “We are trying to find new knowledge, and generate answers to new questions.”
Looking forward, Schauer said that he is excited about what the center will be able to accomplish as it continues to expand.
He continued, “We feel like we are finally able to achieve the 1907 vision of an agricultural research center that can answer any question, not just a sheep or corn question.”

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