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Finding strength in the community support, Carlson family is optimistic for future of farm

Carolyn Lange / TribuneLarge pieces of the metal roof and walls from a barn lay in piles in soggy fields at Carlson Dairy near Pennock. Clean-up is continuing after the Sunday storm that caused major damage to the family farm.1 / 4
Carolyn Lange / TribuneBuilding materials are ready to be used to make repairs at Carlson Dairy near Pennock where a storm Sunday did major damage to barns.2 / 4
Carolyn Lange / Tribune New rakes, shovels and clean-up tools lean against a wall of the milking parlor Wednesday that was damaged in a storm Sunday at Carlson Dairy near Pennock.3 / 4
Carolyn Lange / Tribune New rakes, shovels and clean-up tools lean against a wall of the milking parlor Wednesday that was damaged in a storm Sunday at Carlson Dairy near Pennock.4 / 4

PENNOCK — In the days following the storm Sunday that tore apart the Carlson Dairy farm near Pennock, members of the Carlson family have had long days of adrenaline-infused work sprinkled with a few, rare moments of tears.

But the overwhelming response from the five-generation family is that of gratitude for the volunteers, business partners and widespread community support that is helping the family cope with the current losses and to make plans for the future.

"The outpouring of support has been so incredible and humbling," said Kindra Carlson, in an interview Wednesday.

"It's been absolutely amazing. It's been such a blessing for our family," she said. "We're OK because of it. We'll be OK because of it."

That support has given the family the strength and knowledge that "we can get this done," she said.

Around 7 a.m. Sunday high winds ripped apart nearly every barn on the dairy farm — including a free-stall barn that was just finished this spring — exposing employees, family members, milking cows, heifers and calves to flying debris and the elements.

Carlson said the family is grateful no people were injured.

"No one was even scratched," she said.

About a dozen head of cattle were injured and at this point only one was euthanized because of injuries, she said.

On Sunday, nearly 400 volunteers showed up to help take cattle to temporary homes, help pick up debris and provide food to workers.

Insurance adjusters were there Monday,

On Tuesday, a structural engineer examined buildings that were still standing to determine their structural integrity.

On Wednesday, the family met with key business partners including bankers, dairy consultants, contractors and financial advisors to discuss a plan that may not only fix what the storm broke on Sunday but better prepare the family farm for the future.

The discussion was "uplifting" and full of optimism that there could "maybe be a silver lining in all of this," Carlson said.

For the last couple months, the farm family — which includes brothers, Chad and Carl Carlson, their wives, Kindra and Kellie, their seven children, and parents Curtney and Louise Carlson — have been contemplating making a major change to their milking parlour and improving several barns.

Two weeks ago they had drawings in hand for a potential remodel but hadn't decided yet on whether or not to make the move, Carlson said.

The storm damage and the discussion Wednesday nudged the issue another step forward in the decision-making process.

"The question is can we marry the disaster with what we were dreaming to do anyway ... and come out with something great?" she said.

"It's kind of weird the timing of it," she said. "I do believe God has a plan."

In the meantime, cleanup is continuing and the family is monitoring hundreds of head of their cattle that were temporarily moved to other farms.

She said 310 milking cows were moved to Ocheda Dairy in Worthington when Rita and Joe Vander Kooi — who did not know the Carlsons — offered to house, feed and milk the cows.

"Caring for these Carlson Dairy cows is an honor for our family," Rida Vander Kooi wrote in her blog "soshemarriedafamer."

"To be able to help out a family in need is a huge sign of God's perfect timing and presence," she wrote.

Carlson said the Vander Kooi family has "just been wonderful in terms of asking us what we need and making sure they care for the cows as best they can," Carlson said. "We couldn't ask for anyone better."

Another 650 heifers were moved off the farm to temporary shelter, including 200 to a relative's farm in Elgin, 200 to the Nathan Collins farm south of Renville and 237 to the Voss family farm near Paynesville.

The goal is to have the facilities repaired and/or remodelled before the snow flies and to get the cattle all back home as soon as possible.

Carlson said once the major destruction debris is removed and the family has a plan of action, they would welcome help from the many volunteers who've offered their time.

The generosity of others, she said, has given her new appreciation for community support and a commitment to "pay it forward" to others.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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