Harris residents Randy and Karen Carlson, sitting at their kitchen table last week, recalled the time when a strong storm swept through the area in 2004, knocking over 13 of their trees but leaving their 1882 home unscathed.
They have a myriad of memories about raising five daughters on their farm and hosting three foreign exchange students.
Randy Carlson’s father, Curtis Carlson, said he was born in the home’s kitchen on a frigid December day.
“I don’t think they had hospitals then,” Curtis Carlson said with a laugh about his own birth. “There was a lot of snow; the doctor could hardly get there.”
With a smile on her face, Elaine Carlson, Curtis Carlson’s wife, added, “He’s liked the kitchen ever since.”
A lot has happened at the Carlson’s Harris farm since 1882.
Recently, the Minnesota State Fair recognized the Carlson’s property as one of the bedrock farms in the state by giving it a “Century Farm” designation.
To receive the recognition, a farm has to be in continuous family ownership for at least 100 years and be 50 acres or more.
Randy Carlson said he applied to have the property named a Century Farm because three of his neighbors have already attained the label.
“I guess it was peer pressure,” Randy Carlson quipped.
Generations of farming
Randy Carlson said his great-grandfather Julius Carlson homesteaded the farm 131 years ago, farming the land with a team of oxen.
“My dad still has the oxen yoke in their living room that they turned into a light fixture,” he said.
Next in line to farm the property was Julius Carlson’s son, Tennie Carlson.
Like his father, Tennie Carlson used animals to farm the land.
When Curtis Carlson was old enough to start farming, horses were still being used as the main farming implement, but more efficient farming technology wasn’t far off.
“Got my first tractor in 1946,” Curtis Carlson said. “That was a Ford Ferguson.”
When Curtis Carlson started farming, growing potatoes in the area was popular because of the starch factory in Harris. Alfalfa and rye were also common.
But the popularity of those crops waned, and Curtis Carlson converted the acreage into a dairy farm.
Royal Carlson, Randy Carlson’s older brother, bought the farm in the mid-1970s and continued to milk cattle on it for about 10 years until Randy Carlson bought it from him.
Now the farm is composed primarily of beef cattle that the family sells at the Rock Creek Central Livestock Association in the fall.
City girl moves to
Karen and Randy Carlson wed about 19 years ago. At the time, Karen Carlson owned a home in Fridley. Randy Carlson offered to sell the farm and move in with his new wife, but that wasn’t in the plans for her.
“I told him absolutely not,” she said. “I came up here, and it just had such character.”
Karen Carlson admitted it was initially a slightly tough transition for her to move to from the city to the country. She said in the stores in Fridley were just a short drive away if a person needed something.
“I used to think it was funny when people would say, ‘I’m going down to the city for the day,’” she said. “Now I do that.”
The sounds of nature also caught her off guard when she first moved to Harris with her husband.
“When I first moved up here, I woke Randy up one night and said, ‘I think someone is getting killed.’”
Randy Carlson assured his new wife there wasn’t a murderer at the farm.
“It was a bobcat,” Karen Carlson said, laughing. “They sound just terrible. I’d never heard that before.”
The woman who “swore (she’d) never been north of Highway 242” now can’t imagine living anywhere else.
“I came up here and I went, ‘Ah, I don’t think I like the city anymore,”’ she said.