The Harvest Bowl Agribusiness Award is an annual award that recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves in the field of agriculture and business in the state of North Dakota and beyond.
2021 Award Honoree
Eddie Bernhardson ’60, ’76, the fifth of eight children, was born in Comstock, Minnesota, in 1928. He grew up during the Great Depression and remembers lean times on the family farm. He recalls a friend saying, “Everybody was poor, but none of us knew it.”
Eddie helped with all the chores and remembers early years of working the land with horses and making all the modern advancements along the way.
After graduating high school from Comstock in 1945, Eddie was awarded a scholarship to Concordia. He attended for one year but didn’t return for his second year. Education was an important value his parents instilled in him, but he didn’t recognize its full value until he was drafted by the Army in 1952. He saw the very different paths for those in service who had completed higher education and those who hadn’t.
He returned from Korea in 1954, married his wife, Barbara, in 1955, and enrolled at NDSU to study animal science and ag education shortly afterward.
Eddie continued working on the farm while attending NDSU and became involved in the Livestock Judging Team and traveled the Midwest from Denver to Kansas City to Chicago.
In 1962, he and his brothers took over the family farm, but the first year was tough and extremely wet — they couldn’t harvest even a bushel. Fortunately, they had dairy, so the farm survived. That difficult season led Eddie to the Minnesota Extension where he was hired as the associate county agent. Eddie thought it would be a temporary break from the farm, but he worked with Minnesota Extension for 30 years, eventually becoming the county extension director. He kept his strong ties to NDSU and often worked closely with his colleagues in North Dakota Extension. Eddie returned to NDSU to earn his master’s degree in agronomy — graduating in 1976. He worked with crops, livestock, soils, and horticulture and continued his involvement in 4H.
“Eddie had a very deep-rooted believe in the extension system and what it was established for — helping people, being of service, listening to people, gathering information, and trying to provide good educational answers,” Sharon Anderson ’68, ’73, former NDSU Extension Service Director, said. “Many of our specialists would cross the river and go over and work with him because he had concerns for producers or families, and he would truly want to know how he could help and that’s the whole belief of Extension.”
Eddie had the unique experience of working in his home county. Many of the farmers he helped were people he grew up with and knew well. Those lifelong relationships helped build his rapport and comradery in the community. But Eddie’s greatest asset in Extension was his belief in education. While he mainly worked with crops, livestock, and soils, he was always ready to address whatever question came into the office. Eddie felt it was crucial he respond to every inquiry with the same gravity as the person needing answers. This passion for service meant Eddie learned a lot about horticulture during his tenure with Minnesota Extension because people in his county often had a lot of questions about their trees and lawns.
Eddie’s enduring connection to NDSU eventually led him to Harvest Bowl, and shortly before his retirement, he and Barb became involved with the annual event.
“Eddie stands out in his entire life of commitment to agriculture, the betterment of people, the betterment of NDSU, and his goal through all this has been to get the word out, become more knowledgeable in agriculture, and watch everything around him succeed,” Brent Montgomery ’80, Harvest Bowl committee member and former president of First State Bank in Arthur, North Dakota, said.
Eddie served as Harvest Bowl Chair for many years and during his time as chair, he named a sponsorship committee and an agribusiness award committee. He is credited with elevating the event and helping build a model awards program that celebrates agriculture in the region.
“Nobody has been more diligent and enthusiastic about Harvest Bowl than Eddie Bernhardson,” Sharon said. “He was always there and excited about each year and what was going to happen — the event and who was going to be recognized. I think about all of the thousands of people on both sides of the river who have probably been impacted because of the kind of energy and interest that Eddie always put into Harvest Bowl. We had a lot of fun, we worked hard, but it always was successful because of the work from Eddie.”
As a leader, Eddie believed in empowering committees to make decisions and following the recommendations put forth by committee members. While he never taught in the traditional classroom, Eddie became an amazing educator, and his ability to listen and lead left lasting impacts on Harvest Bowl and Extension.
Past Award Recipients: