Farm Horizons, April 2018

Meet Colleen Carlson, U of M Extension Educator

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

This content is sponsored by Mid-County Coop in Cologne. The Mid-County team features departments in agronomy, fuels, lubricants, and auto, truck and tire repair, as well as the Cologne Holiday Stationstore.

If you ever have questions about crops or livestock, Colleen Carlson is a good person to ask. She’s the University of Minnesota Extension Educator for Carver and Scott counties, which means she knows a lot about agriculture-related resources, events, and educational opportunities.

“If I don’t know the answer, I try to find someone who does – or a useful resource,” she said.

On a typical day, Colleen might be planning an upcoming program, visiting a local farm, answering phone calls, or writing news releases.

“The best aspect of my job is that I meet new people every day engaged in agriculture, business, farming, livestock, the land, and soil,” she noted. “It’s great to help people, learn about their interests, and help improve their enterprises.”

Colleen grew up on a diversified crop and livestock farm in Le Sueur County, where her family raised beef and hogs, and grew corn, soybeans, and alfalfa. She was active in 4-H and FFA, and later earned a degree in ag education from the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. Shortly after graduation, Colleen participated in a three-month work experience abroad program where she lived and worked on a dairy farm in Ireland.

Colleen later worked for a chemical company in Iowa, then moved back to Minnesota to work in retail sales, followed by radio marketing. Although her career didn’t always have a direct agricultural focus, she kept a foothold in the industry by buying some farmland near her parents’ home.

Colleen continues to keep a country lifestyle today, and can often be found gardening, canning, or making maple syrup. She and her husband, Brad, along with their three sons, have a home on 30 acres of restored prairie in rural Janesville, where they raise beef steers, goats, and many types of poultry.

Before becoming an extension educator, Colleen worked at the U of M answering the farm information line. She then became interim educator while Abby Neu, the previous educator, was on study leave. Now, Colleen has a full-time position in extension, splitting her time in Carver and Scott counties.

In the communities Colleen serves, new best management practices are being adopted to conserve groundwater and soil, with the introduction of cover crops, buffer strips, and improved fertilizer recommendations.

“Carver County is filled with opportunity in emerging agriculture enterprises; the wine industry, vegetable farming, high tunnels, and orchards are growing to contribute to the diversification of the ag economy while connecting community and local food resources,” she noted.

One emerging area of development is ag tourism. Colleen commented that Carver County can provide a memorable experience for visitors, with its rich ag landscape, parks, trails, lakes, cultural events, and other offerings.

Throughout the year, Colleen looks forward to events where the community gathers, such as the Carver County Fair, the Carver County Dairy Expo, farmer-to-farmer tours, and other education workshops.

“It’s like having several great-big family reunions throughout the year where people can visit, laugh, and have fun while learning something new and sharing a common interest,” she said.

To learn more about upcoming programs in the area, go to the University of Minnesota Carver County Extension Office website, follow UMN Extension Carver and Scott counties on Facebook, or sign up for the Carver/Scott ag news by sending Colleen an email at

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