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Conservation is in the blood for Carlsons

Staff writers

Soil conservation is a three-generation tradition for Ronnie Carlson’s family.

Ronnie and Susan Carlson, Lincolnville, were selected to receive the 2017 Conservation Continuation award from Marion County Conservation District. The award is for the work they did on their ground in 1996 and ongoing soil conservation work the family does, not only on their own land, but on other land as well.

Ronnie Carlson said he learned the importance of soil conservation from his father, Joyce Carlson, and continues to teach the importance and techniques of soil conservation to his sons.

“My father got me started with terracing,” Carlson said. “My youngest son, Eric, is working full time on the farm with us now.”

Eric helps Carlson with conservation work. Carlson’s older son, Lucas, works on the farm as well as holding a full-time job elsewhere. Both sons have families and nearby farms of their own.

“I’ve got terraces on everything I own that needs them.” Carlson said. “I’ve got about 1,000 acres that I own.”

He started terracing his land in the 1970s.

“When we decided to put terraces and waterways on our farm, we did it ourselves,” he said. “I guess I kind of grew into it.”

Carlson now hires out to do terracing and waterway work for other landowners in Marion, Morris, and Dickinson counties. They do building and cleaning of ponds, building and repairing terraces, and the like.

“We’re modernizing them too,” Carlson said. “Most of them were built for the older equipment.”

Keeping soil where it’s meant to be isn’t the only advantage to conservation work.

“You can handle more acres with less help, and the production, I think, is better,” Carlson said.

On their own land, the family raises cattle and grows feed. They also grow wheat and soybeans.

“Doing my dirt work is kind of like getting out of the office,” he said.

It gives him an opportunity to do something beyond the daily routine.

The equipment he uses for terracing work has evolved over time, and so has the style of terraces built. Newer terraces are wider to allow for wider farming equipment.

He has invested in a laser to create terraces of the exact angle needed instead of figuring the angle by eye.

“I used to build a lot of them without the laser,” Carlson said.

He believes conservation is important for all farmers.

“I think everybody should look at doing what they can to try to save the soil,” he said. “I’ve been on some farms where they hardly have any topsoil left.”

On some others, he is redoing terracing from the 1950s, and he notices those farms still have good topsoil to produce high yields.

Cattle feeding

The Carlsons have a large cattle-feeding operation. They buy calves ranging from 380 to 600 pounds and feed them to 900 pounds before selling them. Calves are taken right off their mothers and delivered to nearby farms, where they spend the first 30 days being conditioned. They are weaned, given shots, branded, tagged, and doctored as needed.

“It takes a lot of time to do all that, and it gives them a lot better start,” Carlson said.

Each of the three families has their own cattle, but they sometimes feed them together. When calves are purchased, they are tagged and numbered, with a different colored tag for each family.

Carlson said he feeds out about 2,500 head a year. Cattle rotate in and out throughout the year. Detailed records are kept of feed rations and how much feed is fed to each pen of cattle each day.

The men usually sell their cattle at Herington Livestock Auction.

Income and expenses and other transactions are managed through a family corporation, Clear Creek Enterprises. Conveniently, Carlson has a brother-in-law in Topeka who is a tax accountant.

Susan keeps computerized records, and financial information is sent to the accountant every month, which is checked and corrected as needed. The accountant also provides financial advice.

Carlson feels a lot of satisfaction in bringing his sons into his operation and keeping it a family enterprise.

Last modified Feb. 14, 2018

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