How one North Dakota farming family is eating on lockdown

By Janice Person
28th April 2020
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This episode of Grounded by the Farm speaks to something many of us are facing right now — having enough food at home. Buying, storing, and cooking more meals. 

The last time I was at home cooking this much was when I lived in the Mississippi Delta, an area I frequently called the middle of nowhere. I personally am looking at food differently.

Although I have many grocery stores and restaurants within a mile or two, I am planning for my meals, thinking about what I need to have in the house for a week or two instead of going out to the grocery store every few days or stopping by restaurants so much.

My friend Val Wagner who lives in North Dakota came to mind as she lives well away from a grocery and has a big family. I knew she’d have a lot of tips to share.

Meet Val Wagner and her family 

The Wagners farm in the small town of Monango, North Dakota. That’s in the southeastern part of the state — an hour or so from the big towns of Jamestown, ND and Aberdeen, SD. It’s Val, who also has a job in a law office in Ellendale, ND, husband Mark who is full-time on the farm and their four boys — Ian, Scott, Evan and Eli. On the top end, Ian is graduating from high school this year and Eli is the youngest at 11.

Val explains their operation saying: “We have red Angus cattle, they are Simmental – red Angus cross. And then we also grow corn and soybean, and wheat, and then alfalfa or grass for our cows to eat, you know, most of what we grow are all things that we can consume here on the farm ourselves or eat ourselves. And then if, if we don’t need it, then our cows do. So that’s kind of we try to make sure we’re our own ecosystem if we have to be.”

A detailed transcript and photos are available at


Meet Val Wagner & Her Family 1:05

Not Everyone Visits North Dakota 1:40

Growing Sweet Corn 5:31

How do you store sweet corn & other food long-term?  7:46 

Having Freezers Ready  11:14 

Getting Meat Processing Done 13:15

Focus on Herd Health 17:35

2019 Was a Bad Weather Year  21:44 

Thinking about Empty Grocery Shelves  23:33

Planning Further Out, Eating at Home More 27:03

Caring for Special Dietary Needs 33:18

May Need To Consider New Normal  36:47 

Supporting Local Businesses  39:21 

What if you want to buy local meat? 42:55

Find Val Wagner online 45:54 

Other links of interest

The website Grounded by the Farm and the contact form for ideas on local food or to offer suggestions for the show

Post about working cows at the Wagners’ farm

How to freeze sweet corn 

Discussion on cattle care with a veterinarian 

Farm near Memphis that sells beef direct to consumers

Moving cattle close to home and barn 

Favorite popcorn to have around 

A good pantry recipe red beans and rice 

post about a friend’s farm that sells avocados directly