Jim Carlson retires from the University of Minnesota Extension Office after 35 years

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer

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Jim Carlson, a resident of rural Little Falls, has retired from his job with the University of Minnesota (U of M) Extension Office where he worked for more than 35 years.

Carlson graduated from the U of M in 1976, with a degree in soil sciences from the College of Agriculture. Before attending the University, he grew up on a farm near Randall, and always thought it would be great to return to Morrison County to work some day.

Jim Carlson retired Jan. 3, from the University of Minnesota Extension Office, where he worked for more than 35 years.

“It was fortuitous that I got a job with the University Extension Service right out of college,” he said.

During that professional career with the Extension Office, Carlson has had many titles, but basically worked in three areas. He began in Morrison County as a 4-H youth development educator and stayed in that position for 13 years. It was a new position at that time, in a number of Minnesota counties.

“Prior to that position, the Extension Service had a home economist and an agriculture educator working with the 4-H clubs,” he said. “Because of the workload, it was becoming necessary to add a third person.”

Carlson worked with 4-H clubs in Morrison County, helping volunteer leaders, advising, providing educational materials and helping with projects.

From youth development with local 4-H clubs, Carlson became an agriculture educator in Morrison County. He said it wasn’t a huge leap as he had been working with agriculture alongside a co-worker for many years. He worked with crop and livestock production, crop horticulture and horticulture education with local producers. Part of his job was to hold educational workshops. He was in that position for 14 years.

In January 2004, Carlson became the regional director for the Extension Service with an office in Brainerd.

“This was an administrative position with much less teaching than I was used to. I had a staff of 12-13 people, all with different areas of expertise,” he said.

The regional area he oversaw included Wadena, Crow Wing, Cass, Morrison, Hubbard, Todd, Aitkin, Pine and Kennebec counties.

“One thing I won’t miss is all the traveling I had to do and all the sitting in the car and at a desk. There were three-four meetings each year with each county office,” he said.

Carlson worked with the local staff in each county, giving support for education and working with budgets. His contacts included each county’s Extension Service committee members, county auditors, their administrations and commissioners to establish funding and to fill vacancies in the Extension offices.

Carlson said he would miss his staff the most.

“I was blessed to have educators and support staff that were very professional throughout my entire career,” he said. “I have been connected to the U of M most of my life, both as a student and as an employee. It’s been a privilege to have worked for the U of M for my entire professional career.”

The future is up in the air, for now. Carlson said he is new at this retirement thing, so he’s not sure what he will be doing.

He and his wife Jeannie own an 80-acre farm west of Little Falls. Some acreage is rented, on the rest he plants wheat. Their personal garden takes work as it seems to grow larger each year.

“I used to golf more, I may have to take that up on a more regular basis,” he said. He is looking forward to being more active than he’s been for the past 35 years.

Carlson also enjoys boating.

“There are a lot of places Jeannie and I have not seen in the United States. We will probably do some traveling,” he said.

Carlson still owns his parents’ farm and has been working on creating trails for four-wheeling and hay rides around the property. He will now be able to devote more time to that project.

The Carlsons have two children, living in Moorhead and Wisconsin, and two grandchildren. They will also be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary this year.