June 10, 2021
Carters’ Farm Returns to Roots
“Y’all come see us at the farm!”
In 1969, Russell Carter was in the farm garage looking at a long white board, trying to think of something to paint. The sign would go atop a wooden wheel wagon pulled by two ponies in the Park Rapids Logging Days Parade. A big goal of “Carters’ Tomatoes” was to get people to come to the farm.
Russell’s father, who was visiting, joked, “How about ‘Y’all come see us at the farm now, ya hear?’”—which he of course got from Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. Russell didn’t say a word, but began painting “Y’all come see us at the farm!”
From a table alongside the road, to a wagon, to a little barn, to a big barn, and now back to the farm, and occasionally at area farmers markets. For decades, Russell Carter wanted to sell produce raised on the farm right from the farm, rather than hauling produce to a main highway. Today, people are more ready for a farm experience and more willing to drive a country road to get good country produce.
For the past several years, Tony and Linda Carter have owned the Red Wagon Farm Market on East 34. They recently sold that barn, which is now called The Red Barn (where some Red Wagon produce continues to be available).
Now, Dwight Carter, owner of Carters’ Farm (as well as his Frutas del Mundo farm in Guatemala), is re-centering operations back to the farm, while brother Tony continues to manage his Red Wagon strawberries on the Carter farm.
Dwight is full of ideas, the biggest of which is to honor the heritage of Russell and Maxine Carter, and to pass on their legacy to the next generation. “I returned for the hope that we can learn to be stewards of this particular place for generations to come,” he says. His philosophy of running a farm, whether in Guatemala or Minnesota, focuses on what’s best for the land and people. “There needs to be a constant balance and study of ancestral knowledge and modern innovation,” he says. In a world where it’s easy to focus only on “basic subsistence or exploitation for short-term gain,” he explains, one needs to look ahead to the second, third, even seventh generation.
Dwight’s goal is to rejuvenate the farm space, making it a destination not only for the annual you-pick strawberry season and fall festival, but also for arts and music events, community gatherings, agricultural education, and farm-to-table dinners.
Steven Carter, Dwight’s nephew, will play a key role in Carters’ Fall Festival this autumn. During his studies of history at Bemidji State University and at the University of Idaho, and in his travels to New England and Oxford, Steven has growingly been convinced of the importance of family, small-scale farms, and community. Speaking of what draws him back this summer, he says, “Many people my age leave small towns like Park Rapids, or multi-generational operations like a farm or ranch, and move to more urban environments, leaving the small towns devoid of that youthful vigor and curiosity. I felt I had an obligation, a sort of duty, to contribute to the family in this way.”
For more information, please contact Dwight Carter at 218-616-4528 or email us at CartersFarmPR@gmail.com.