WILTON, N.D. (KXNET) — Jerry Hagstrom is a Washington D.C. journalist and accomplished author who grew up on a farm between Wilton and Regan.
Like many North Dakotans, Hagstrom’s grandparents were hardworking Scandanavian homesteaders around the turn of the 20th century.
We wanted to feature Hagstrom’s life and career but with a unique angle to tie it all together.
Americans of Scandinavian descent have been quilting through the generations.
The Sunne Lutheran Church Quilters were given a unique job.
“We used almost all of the ties that he gave us. He had a couple of boxes full,” explained Sunne Quilter Shelley Porter.
A collection of ties spanning decades from a career covering national politics and agriculture in D.C.
“A lot of people never wear a tie anymore. And so not even Goodwill wants the ties because there’s no market for them. So I had all these ties and then I read somewhere that you could have a quilt made of ties,” said Hagstrom Report founder Jerry Hagstrom.
If these ties could talk, they would first tell you about a North Dakotan who grew up on a farm between Wilton and Regan, who started out at a local paper
“My first job was at The Morning Pioneer, which was owned by the Conrad family. These were the uncles of Kent Conrad, the senator who owned the paper, but Roan Conrad, his older brother was the editor of the paper at the time that I worked there,” explained Hagstrom.
Roan Conrad had worked in Washington at National Journal and Congressional Quarterly, and he came home to edit his family’s paper
“It was absolutely fantastic to have this mentor who had this experience in Washington and this very high standard of language and journalism. And in my first job,” said Hagstrom.
Hagstrom had his eyes set on the big time, so in a leap of faith, he moved to D.C. without a job.
“I got a job working as an assistant to a man who had just started a newspaper column on state and local government. His name was Neil Peirce, and actually, Roan Conrad had worked for him when he first came to Washington. So there was a connection there,” explained Hagstrom.
From there, Hagstrom would cover state and local governments. He would write a book about the politics of each of the 50 states, among other books.
He wrote about campaigns, polling, and political attack ads.
“Political consulting as an industry. And I did that for some years. And at that time, I considered it the high glamour period of my career, because everybody is interested in these things,” said Hagstrom.
Then in 1996, the National Journal needed a reporter to cover the Farm Bill.
“They said, why don’t you do this? At least you grew up on a farm,” said Hagstrom.
Hagstrom went back to his roots and realized he had an instinct for Ag reporting. He was an Ag columnist for the National Journal, Ag Week, and DTN the Progressive Farmer. And in 2010, he decided to start his own online subscription Ag news service, The Hagstrom Report.
“So 12 years later, I’m still writing it. I write about the Farm Bill, I write about agricultural policy, food policy. I add food safety, international trade, all those different things in there. And now I’ve kind of topped it off with publishing pictures of food that I eat in restaurants, and also at various conferences and plane flights that I take. And my shock is that so many of the readers enjoy that as much as they do the serious articles,” explained Hagstrom.
Hagstrom still owns the farm his father established next to the one his Swedish grandparents started in 1907. He has tenants who farm the cropland and graze the pasture land. He is modernizing the farmhouse, and having the yard landscaped with native grasses and wildflowers.
He continues his publication with no plans of retiring and has a message for any North Dakotans looking to strike out on their own.
“I think if you come from North Dakota, you have the basics. When I first went to Washington, I was very intimidated by being surrounded who had gone to Harvard and Yale, but I also learned that my background was one that could compete with anybody,” said Hagstrom.
Oh, and that beautiful quilt — it will be showcased at the annual Capitol Quiltfest in Bismarck this weekend.
Watch our full conversation with Jerry Hagstrom to hear more about his life and career.