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North Dakota Farm Bureau: Expanding Horizons

An agronomist by day and a farmer by night, Paul Subart credits North Dakota Farm Bureau for providing him opportunities to help his family and the state of North Dakota.

Photo By Two Pines Photography

Paul Subart is a man who has his priorities straight. An agronomist by day and a farmer by night, Subart puts in hours upon hours in the field and on the road. Why? So his family can live happily and comfortably near Robinson, North Dakota.

Agriculture has always been in Subart’s life, too. His family farm is the crown jewel of the Subart bunch and has been for generations. Subart’s dad was the one who originally introduced him to North Dakota Farm Bureau. At a young age, Subart was whisked away to NDFB’s annual conventions and meetings. It was this exposure to the organization at a young age that motivated Subart to be involved in NDFB for years to come. Currently, he serves on NDFB’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee.

“My parents were involved in Farm Bureau and so I kind of grew up going to these conferences when we were really little,” Subart said. The young farmer says that guided him to take on special roles within his local chapter. “I started being sent by our county Farm Bureau board to participate as a delegate for annual meetings and working with policy. That is when I truly started to enjoy being involved. I very much enjoyed working with the policy side of things. I’ve been our county’s president for the last two years, which has been rewarding in its own way.”

Subart attended North Dakota State and achieved a degree in crop and weed science. Agronomy was not necessarily in the cards for Subart, initially. He had planned on farming, but agronomy became a necessary step for Subart and his family.

“I didn’t necessarily plan on being a full-time agronomist when I first picked the crop
and weed science for my major. I ended up coming out and getting a job at Elite Ag Solutions in Dawson and I found that I really enjoyed it. I’ve stuck with that now and kind of run the day-to-day there,” he said. “What I found is that farming makes me a much better agronomist. I think that has been really important for me to understand the financials that go into an operation like this. I would have had some of that anyway from growing up farming. Having skin in the game makes me a better agronomist. I do enjoy farming, don’t get me wrong, but the agronomy sometimes repairs my farming habits too.”

Part of the reason for Subart’s two full-time jobs is the opportunity to diversify his family’s income. Subart learned the importance of diversifying thanks to resources from NDFB. He learned that agriculture has its ups and downs, but having multiple sources of income can help brunt the blow when the unexpected occurs.

“Our family farm is not big enough to support two full-time families much less three with my younger brothers. Coming out of college, knowing that I had a job and that the farm would support our income, it was a pretty easy decision to make,” Subart said about remaining close to home and diversifying his income.

On top of his agronomy business and farming, Subart is also in the North Dakota National Guard where he is a 10-year veteran. Paul’s wife Rachel also works in Bismarck. He credits her with helping the family bring in different revenue streams. Both are members of NDFB and find their experience invaluable to their everyday life.

“My wife has been fantastic and has really helped me in a lot of ways in this. Her full- time job is good for us as well because we couldn’t do it without her,” he said. “Farm Bureau has been a good thing for us in the long run. We’ve just enjoyed our time there and have enjoyed the opportunities it’s given us.”

Subart says some of the most important things he has learned from NDFB comes not from annual conferences or meetings. The most important lessons have come when members have downtime at those conferences and meetings. For Subart, that is part of the magic of being a member of NDFB.

“One of the things I think that gets overlooked is the downtime at conferences when you get to talk to other people from around the state. The networking that is involved is so important for me. 2019 was a really hard year for all farmers. It was an incredibly wet year and it felt like the fall was endless. It was good to take a break for a few days and go to the NDFB conference and find out that everybody else is in the same boat that you are. It can be isolating for people out on their farms, not really knowing what others go through,” Subart said.

“The second thing I have always liked is the policy side of things. I do enjoy the impact that NDFB has on the North Dakota legislature proceedings and the regulations that come out to the state ag department. I think we do have a positive impact on farmers and ranchers due to our annual convention and our policy debates.”

Subart believes those policy discussions are vital to the future of NDFB and North Dakota agriculture as a whole. Ongoing conversations about diversifying assets and income for young farmers and ranchers are also important. Subart believes this to be a key cog in the future.

“I do believe that diversification of revenue streams is not only good for a family operation, but it’s also good for state and local communities every day. We employ a couple of people here and we put a lot of money back into the community. What NDFB has been able to do is help encourage young farmers to find different sources of revenue.

“Once you have that, use that revenue stream in your own community,” Subart said. “That’s the only way we’re going to keep these small towns up and going. That money has to stay in those communities. We can advocate for favorable incentives or a favorable tax policy for them to help keep that money grounded in these small towns. In turn, that helps young farmers find the funding opportunities that are out there. I do not think I ever realized the importance of that until I got older.”

Looking back now, Subart has a few pieces of advice for the future farmer. Based on lessons he has learned in life and through NDFB, Subart offers a slice of important farm advice for the next generation of farmers.

“Find a job that pays for health insurance and pays for your family’s cost of living. The farm can be separate. At the end of the day, you’re farming to keep your family fed, right? There are bad times in agriculture and we’ve had several of them in the last couple of years here,” he said. “You should have a source of revenue that keeps your family at 100 percent regardless of what the farm does or supplement your farm income in some way to help make up for those bad times. In this high capital farming arena that we’re playing in now, it takes so much capital to get up and running. That is a pretty easy way to bury your family if you’re not careful.”

While Subart’s primary focus is his family and making sure they are provided for, he could not help but throw in a shameless plug for this agronomy business.

“If anyone needs seed, they can call me in Dawson,” he said, chuckling.

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