Rocky C Ranch, a third-generation farm in Sandstone Minnesota, has been named the Pine County Farm Family of the Year for 2023.
The farm started in 1960 after Morrie and Darlene Carlson bought the original farm. It started as a dairy farm, but it transitioned to raising beef cattle in the early 2000s. Currently, Morrie and Darlene's son Keith and his wife Ruth run the day-to-day on Rocky C Ranch.
Since its purchase, Rocky C Ranch has grown to 1,500 acres, where they raise livestock and grow crops to support their 300-head herd consisting mostly of red and black Angus. Today, it is still a family farm by every definition of the name.
"My dad is still very active on the farm. My brothers have a part of the farm, and my brothers-in-law help with things when they're around. It's truly a family farm. Everybody pitches in when it's needed, especially during the summer," Keith told WCMP.
Keith and Ruth's children are also all involved in the farm. One daughter raises sheep, goats, and horses. Another daughter is a veterinary technician and helps with the health of all the animals, and their sons assist with farm work and equipment maintenance.
"It's fun to see the three generations working out in the field together. We'll have grandpa doing one thing, our youngest son is out bailing, somebody else is raking, and there's an uncle out there working. It's fun to see how many people come together to get work done, so I think for our family farm it's looking very positive because there is that intergenerational bond," said Ruth.
Keith hopes that he and his wife pass on their strong farm family background to their children in order to keep the tradition going.
"The biggest thing to keep a family farm going is being flexible and your faith in the Lord," said Keith. "You never know day to day what you're going to be doing or what's going to happen. Every day something comes up that you have to deal with. It takes a higher power to be leaning on to help keep you going."
The Carlsons' work goes beyond the boundaries of Rocky C Ranch. Keith is the president of the Tri-County Cattlemen’s Association, a board member of the Sandstone Rider Horse Club, and the county Farm Bureau. Ruth volunteered with 4-H and currently serves on the county Extension committee. She also volunteers with Harvest Christian School in Sandstone.
"We feel strongly as farmers that we produce safe and affordable food products. There's a wide gambit that agriculture is involved in," Ruth Carlson said.
She hopes they can continue to advocate for farms both locally and statewide.
"You don't have to have a livestock operation to be a farm. There are other types of farming that take place here, and I think all of them are very needed and provide an essential part of our economy. Without farmers, there would be nothing... farming is so integral to our lives," said Ruth.
They were honored during the Pine County Fair on August 5. While the Carlsons were happy to be recognized for their work, they felt everyone who assists with the next generation of farmers should be acknowledged too.
"I was more impressed with all the things going on at the Pine County Fair... all the work that goes on. Those are the true heroes, the people that volunteer their time down there [at the fair] to make sure all that takes place and goes on from year to year," Keith said.
Picture provided of the Carlson Family.