Visitors driving down Canaan Valley Road might notice a small, white hanging sign displaying clean hand-painted letters and a portrait of a Holstein. According to the sign, the property - neatly tucked in the northwest corner of Connecticut, just a few miles south of Sheffield, Massachusetts - goes by the name Carlwood Farm and is under the care of Douglas J. Carlson and Family. If they decide to pull over and chat with Doug, they'll learn there is a special emphasis on family.
The Carlsons trace their American farming roots to Doug's grandfather, who immigrated from Sweden, and purchased a plot of land near Canaan in the early 20th century. Eventually Doug's father of the same name would purchase his own plot, which was to become Carlwood Farm, and at the time only consisted of a single acre. In 1962, when Douglas was just 16, his father passed away, and he took over the operation, helped by his mother Isabelle. Along with Crystalle, his wife of 51 years, he managed to grow and expand the farm. Now, he shares care of Carlwood with his wife and daughter Sandy, who works closely with him overseeing every aspect of the business. "I am so thankful to have Sandy working with me day in and day out," says Doug. "I couldn't manage it all on my own."
Though the farm started out with only one tillable acre and a herd of 20 cows, over the years Carlwood has grown. The farm now consists of 200 acres, and has more than 50 registered Holstein milkers, along with a handful of Jerseys that belong to his grandchildren. "We produce good, clean milk every single day," remarks Doug. "I'm extremely proud of that. Our facilities are not the most modern, but that doesn't matter. We've won quality awards from Agri-Mark 14 out of the last 15 years. Consistently producing great milk is what's important. And family."
As a man who has worked hard all of his life, running a business requiring long days since he was only 16, he counts the fact that all five of their children - along with two of their grandchildren - are college graduates as one of his greatest achievements. "We never had much money, and still don't, but through our church, the FFA, and 4-H, all of our kids were able to go to college," says Doug.
In addition to Sandy, who's children are fifth generation Carlson farmers, Doug and Cris have four other children. The eldest is Kim, an accountant who runs East Canaan Equipment Repair and Excavation along with her husband Bill and their son Billy. Billy and Leah have their great grandson, Joseph, who is the apple of everyone's eye. Sandy married the milk truck driver, Rick, who now drives for a lime company and helps with crops at the farm. Their daughter Sheri has her Masters from Cornell and is an Ag Ed teacher in the community. Their daughter Rene is a senior at SUNY Cobleskill majoring in Dairy Science. Their son Ricky is a sophomore in high school and very active in FFA and 4-H. Their daughter Candy is a schoolteacher. Her husband, RB, is a racecar driver and instructor. Their daughter Cristi graduated SUNY Cobleskill and is a vet tech. Their son Jeremy is a junior in high school and a fabulous athlete. Doug Jr worked on the farm until a severe accident disabled him. He was a tremendous disabled high school athlete. Their youngest daughter Missy is a school teacher in Colorado. She lives in Loveland, with her husband Sean, a professional firefighter paramedic near Denver.
An active member of the community, Doug was on the Republican Town Committee, and had served as chairman for eight years. He also served on the Board of Tax Review, and is a delegate to the National Holstein Convention representing CT. But what Doug is most passionate about, other than his children, grandchildren, and great grandson, is his work with FFA and 4-H. Known for his golden voice, which he lends to a number of local fairs, he volunteers as a 4-H leader, is a life member of the National FFA Alumni and has been involved with the organizations ever since he was a kid. "I love working with children," continues Doug. "Seeing their passion for agriculture and the animals is inspiring. Sandy and I participate in a lease program where the kids come by and help take care of the animals, in return for showing calves at our local fairs with 4-H. I want to help show young people just what farming, and family, is all about."
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