From one calf to 12,500 dairy cows. From leaving the farm at age 17, only to return years later and amass 40,000 acres of corn, soybeans and sunflowers. From a Red River Valley start of 200 acres in 1964 to an enterprise that has become the nation’s largest producer of potatoes.
Some may believe those three vignettes might have shades of Cinderella woven into them. But for Louis Larson, Leonard Odde and Ronald Offutt, work ethic, determination and vision have made their entrepreneurial stories reality. A reality that author and historian Hiram M. Drache has captured in his new book titled "Creating Abundance: Visionary Entrepreneurs of Agriculture."
Drache, a retired 40-year history professor at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, says the inspiration for the book came to him over 25 years ago. "In 1975, I spoke at a symposium on the bicentennial of American agriculture and stated that 95% of our farmers did not grasp the rate of change that was taking place in their industry. You can imagine the kind of reception I received from that comment," he notes. "It was then and there that I decided it was imperative to write about incredible visionaries who were not only industrializing agriculture, but were taking it into the global era."
The literary undertaking profiles entrepreneurs from all segments of agriculture; from turkey and cattle production, row crops and potatoes, to celery and pecans. Overall, 15 different enterprises are featured in the book, which is Drache’s ninth published.
The book, which Drache embarked on with his first interview in 1990, is a geographical and enterprise sampling of individual entrepreneurs who today have placed their operations in the top rank of agricultural firms. But Drache notes that the farms he profiled do not fall under a Wall Street version of "corporate farm."
"All but one of the farms covered in this book belong to an individual or a family," he says. "The owners of these large farms are primary producers in a rapidly changing food chain with processors and retailers who are trying to satisfy the ever-demanding consumer with a greater variety of nutritious and safe food."
While many of the profiles do not have a direct link to traditional row-crop farming, Drache says that shouldn’t limit the interest level for the book. "If you’re a Midwest corn or soybean producer, you may think to yourself, ‘why would this apply to me?’ But the type of thinking these people put into their businesses is what can shape today’s row-crop farmer for tomorrow," he says. "I truly wanted to look at all industries within agriculture and write about what it takes to change and shape an agricultural enterprise."
The book is available at most national book outlets. Or, for more information, call Interstate Publishers Inc. at 800-843-4774 or visit their Web site at www.interstatepublishers.com. The book is also available with a personal inscription from the author by ordering direct at: Hiram M. Drache, 326 10th Ave. South, Fargo, ND 58103-2846. Include your name, address and a check for $29.95 plus $2.50 for shipping and handling ($3 U.S. for Canada delivery).