It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to our dear friend and colleague, Dale Hildebrant, who passed away on Monday, June 14, 2021, at Mercy Hospital in Valley City, N.D.
For Dale, agriculture was always a big part of his life. Upon his graduation from North Central High School in 1966, he enrolled at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames, Iowa, earning his degree in Agricultural Communications in 1971.
Following graduation at ISU, Dale returned to the family farm in Stewart Township where he farmed with his parents, specializing in dairy and grain farming. Wanting to put his journalism training to good use, he began writing a weekly agriculture page in the Valley City Times Record in 1973.
Dale retired from farming in 1994, and in July that year he was named secretary/manager of the North Dakota Winter Show, a position he held until 2001.
Mark Conlon, Farm & Ranch Guide’s editor at the time, knew Dale during his time in Valley City. When Lee Agri-Media started expanding into Minnesota with Minnesota Farm Guide, Mark asked Dale to join his editorial team to help cover eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. Dale declined, expressing his desire to stay with the North Dakota Winter Show. A year later, in 2002, Mark approached Dale a second time, and this time Dale thankfully accepted, beginning what would end up as a 17-year career covering agriculture across the region for Farm & Ranch Guide and Minnesota Farm Guide.
“It was a great move for our papers,” Mark said. “He loved talking about agriculture and he built wonderful relationships with many in the industry and developed a great reputation as a knowledgeable writer.”
Dale’s easy-going manner and unique writing style quickly drew in readers.
“He was always willing to do whatever was needed to make our papers the best they could be,” Mark said. “He was a trusted colleague to our other writers, offering advice, encouragement, or just simply a smile.
“I truly enjoyed working with Dale, and though our paths haven’t crossed much since my retirement, I have many great memories of our years working together. He will be missed by the entire staff,” he added.
Ryan Crossingham, the current editor of Farm & Ranch Guide and Minnesota Farm Guide, says Dale played a pivotal role early in his career when he was first starting out as an agriculture reporter.
“Dale was very influential for me early on,” Ryan said. “One of my first assignments for the company was to cover North Dakota Stockmen’s Association’s All Breeds Cattle Tour, and Dale went along to show me how it’s done. I was always thankful for how he showed me the ropes that day, introduced me to all kinds of people, and really made me feel comfortable in a situation that was relatively new to me. He offered me tips and advice, not just that day, but consistently through my early years at the paper.
“He was under no obligation to do any of that, but he did it because that’s the kind of person he was,” Ryan continued. “He cared about our papers and was always willing to do whatever he could to make each issue the best it could be. Dale was more than a colleague for me – he ended up being a friend. I and everyone involved with Farm & Ranch Guide and Minnesota Farm Guide will miss him dearly.”
Dale left Farm & Ranch Guide in 2019, but still contributed to the paper in a freelance role. During his career he also served as Secretary of the North Dakota Association of Fairs from 2008-20. He held memberships in many civic and service organizations in Valley City including the Optimists, Lions, Kiwanis, Elks, Eagles and Masonic Lodge. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Valley City Chamber of Commerce for eight years.
Dale was the recipient of several awards throughout his career: Optimist of the Year, Valley City Optimist Club; 2001 Hi-Line Award, Valley City Chamber of Commerce; 2008 Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community, March 2000; Representative Earl Pomeroy Honorary American FFA Degree, National FFA Organization; and the Milton D. Hakel Award for excellence in agricultural journalism from National Farmers Union in 2016.
“I’ll never forget Dale Hildebrant,” said Andrea Johnson, long-time farm reporter for the publications. “He had a kind smile and was very humble in all his conversations. He put a great deal of thought into his stories. He always wrote with an optimistic and forward-looking viewpoint for Farm & Ranch Guide/Minnesota Farm Guide.”
Rest in peace, Dale. You were truly one of a kind and will be missed dearly.