FARGO, ND — James “Jim” Enger was straight forward, honest and one of the most knowledgeable dry edible bean business owners in the industry, say members who knew him.
Enger, 68, died Monday, Feb. 14, at Sanford Hospice in Fargo, North Dakota, after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, according to Bilden Askew Funeral Home in Northwood, North Dakota.
“I’ve always thought Jim had the best understanding of the bean industry of almost anyone I’ve met,” said Randy Olson, an edible bean industry competitor and longtime friend of Enger.
Enger, formerly of Northwood, began working in the edible bean industry in 1972 when he helped build the EH Walrath and Sons factory in Northwood. After the factory opened, Enger found employment there, rising through the ranks over the next 10 years to become a manager, according to an article in the spring 2015 edition of Northarvest Bean Growers magazine.
In 1985, he left the Northwood bean company to manage Northland Marketing in McCanna, North Dakota, which he and Pat King bought in 1988, according to the Northarvest article.
Over the next 31 years, Enger ran several dry edibles businesses in North Dakota, including Kelley Bean in Hatton and Engstrom Bean and Seed in Leeds, before retiring in 2019.
A few years before their 20-year partnership, Enger began mentoring King, who was then a relative newcomer to the dry edible bean industry.
“Jimmy taught me almost everything I know about running a bean factory,” King said.
Enger was also an innovator who spent a year developing a less labor intensive method of shipping Northland Marketing white beans to the UK than the bag system they had previously used.
“It was a huge success. This shipping process is still used today by major shippers,” King said.
Enger was meticulous about how he ran the , making sure it was clean inside and out, even during the hectic harvest season, King said. Meanwhile, Enger worried about food safety and traceability years before it became an industry standard.
“He never cut corners,” King said.
Enger, who was well-liked in the edible bean industry, was known by other plant managers as someone they could when they needed help with personnel issues, King said.
Enger has also been generous in sharing his knowledge with other edible dry bean industry memes, said Tim Courneya, former executive vice president of Northarvest Bean Growers.
Courneya met Enger in the mid-1970s, and from there he knew he could be counted on to champion the bean industry when the organization needed it.
“There was never anything he wouldn’t help you with – whether we had sales teams, organized field trips, he was always very helpful in (developing) relationships and introducing the industry to dry bean,” Courneya said. . “There was nothing he wouldn’t do to help you.”
Farmers appreciated that Enger was an edible bean manager they could trust, King said.
“Farmers liked him, he was honest. He was super fair and he was super loyal,” he said.
Chuck Griffin, a McCanna farmer, hauled his white beans to Enger’s McCanna plant for many years.
“He was well liked in the McCanna area. He was easy to do business with, just a good person,” Griffin said.
Enger was genuine and people who dealt with him knew where they stood, said Olson, a former owner of Red River Bean Co. in Grafton, N.D., and now a consultant to the dry edible bean industry,
“He was a good, honest, straightforward guy,” Olson said.
King said, “He was one of a kind, that’s for sure.”
Enger is survived by his wife Laurie; son, Chad (Trisha); Corey (Brandi); Christopher (Kaylee); and Derrick Enger; seven grandchildren, a sister and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be Friday, February 18, 2022 at 2 p.m. at Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Northwood. A visitation will be held on Thursday, February 17, 2022 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. in the church.