December 13, 2021 at 9:16 p.m.

A chance to look back 

Larsons receive Freeborn County farm family award 
Bridget Volpel, Linda Saxton, Chase Saxton, Ann Larson, Jon Larson, Tyler Larson, Caleb White and Connor White are awarded the Freeborn County Farm Family of the Year Award at their farm near Albert Lea, Minnesota. The Larsons milk 250 cows.  PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL
Bridget Volpel, Linda Saxton, Chase Saxton, Ann Larson, Jon Larson, Tyler Larson, Caleb White and Connor White are awarded the Freeborn County Farm Family of the Year Award at their farm near Albert Lea, Minnesota. The Larsons milk 250 cows. PHOTO BY KATE RECHTZIGEL

By Kate Rechtzigel- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

ALBERT LEA, Minn. − For the Larsons, the county’s farm family of the year award gives them a chance to look back and reflect on what generations before them have done.
“Our farm and our land have always been involved in our family. Being recognized gave us an opportunity to go back and look at the prior generations and what they set up,” Jon Larson said. “It’s a privilege and a responsibility to take care of (the land) we have been given.”
Larson and his wife, Ann, milk 250 cows, have 500 youngstock and run 600 acres at Larcrest Holsteins in Albert Lea. Larson’s nephew, Chase Saxton, also helps with all aspects of farm operations along with Saxton’s mother, Linda, and Saxton’s sisters, Lydia and Bridget, who help picture cattle and get them ready for shows.
This past year, the Larsons were recognized as the Freeborn County Farm Family of the Year by the University of Minnesota.
“It was an unexpected surprise,” said Larson of the award.  
The land which Larsons call home today started in their family in 1850 when William White moved to southern Minnesota from New York. William’s son, Richard White, contributed to the farm in the late 1860s upon receiving land adjacent to William’s in return from his service in the Civil War.
White’s Woods was established in the 1970s as a Freeborn County Park from land donated to the county by their family. White’s Woods borders the land that we farm today, Larson said.
Richard’s granddaughter, Raymona, began farming in 1960 when she married David Larson. Raymona taught school until that time. She cashed in her retirement savings to help purchase eight registered Holsteins. These eight heifers represent the beginning of Larcrest Holsteins. David and Raymona are Larson’s parents.
“I think my father and mother probably had pigs, sheep and chickens way back when, (but) for the last 20 years the main focus has been the dairy,” Larson said.
Growing up on the farm, Larson was not the only sibling with a passion for agriculture.
Larson’s oldest brother, Mark, owns two agricultural-related businesses and has been in charge of the farm’s hoof care for the past two decades. His sister, Carolyn, who passed away in 2003, was a professor of dairy science at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College. And Larson’s other sister, Linda, helps at the farm frequently by preparing cattle for shows and foreign visitors who come for farm tours.
“I am one of five kids, and we were all quite passionate about agriculture,” Larson said.
Some of Larson’s favorite memories growing up on the farm consist of showing at both the county and state fairs and putting up hay with his brother.
“I think we took a lot of things for granted growing up on the farm. But as you grow older, you realize how important they were,” Larson said. “(We) saw life from the start every day and took on responsibilities early. Staying humble and working hard are things we learned at a very early age.”
Today, Larson’s family members each play an important role on the dairy. Ann takes care of the calves, hosts the tours, does the bookkeeping, helps with herd health and cares for any sick animals. Saxton is involved in all aspects of the dairy from feeding to milking, and Larson oversees things on the farm, works closely with their veterinarian, and handles a lot of his own vet work and herd health.
“I love the cattle, and breeding is something that’s interested me since I was a little kid. The first books I read were bull books,” Larson said. “It’s been a thrill to see our bulls in the books that I learned to read on, and it’s always a thrill to see a new heifer calf born and think what she might become.”
The Larsons also have four employees who help with milking, repairs and fieldwork. The family works with several independent contractors for varying harvests and also local heifer growers.
The Larsons have added heifer facilities, but the milk cows are housed in the original barns built in the 1960s.
“We’re quite happy with the heifer facilities we have,” Larson said. “My guess is that in the near future we’ll probably do something different for housing the milking herd, but for right now, I’m quite thankful for what we have.”
In addition to the farm, the Larsons are also members of their church council and head of the church’s youth group. Larson’s great grandfather, Richard White, was one of the founders of Concordia Bearlake Lutheran Church.
“We have the best neighbors in the world and most of them go there,” said Larson of the church.
The Larsons are also active in their dairy communities, having been a part of the county’s American dairy association for many years. Larson has been president of the Freeborn County Dairy Herd Improvement Association for the last 20 years and was president of the Freeborn County Registered Holstein Breeders for 10 years. Ann was a 4-H club leader, and they both volunteer with the youth organization.
“It’s good to get out once in a while,” Larson said. “Seeing some of these people outside of the farming operation is probably a good thing for everyone.”
The Larsons are looking forward to passing down the farm to the next generation.
“The generations before me valued passing it on to us as much as we value passing it on to those after us,” Larson said. “Each generation has changed and grown (the farm), and we have the responsibility to do much of the same to be viable in the next generation. Changes will have to be made, but the same core principles of honesty, hard work and family is what got us here and what will take us forward.”


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