Sally and Dave have been gardening since they married but during the last several years, they have expanded and improved their products to the point that gardening is no longer a hobby but a business.
Sons Jeff, a recent graduate of Alta-Aurelia High School, and Kirk, who just completed his freshman year, have made their gardening into a 4-H project for the last four years and for the last five years the family has been selling their produce at area farmer's markets.
On Thursdays they divide up into teams of two and take part in the Cherokee and Storm Lake farmer's markets. It has become a "friendly" competition to see who sells the most! The Carlson are also regulars at the Saturday farmer's market at Storm Lake.
Much of the proceeds from the family's vegetable farm goes into a college fund for the boys - and they are just fine with that.
"The boys take it serious and both like selling," Sally pointed out.
Last year the family purchased a "kit" to build a high tunnel greenhouse and put it together as a family. It has been a wonderful learning experience and greenhouse extends the season they can grow and share the bounty of their land.
They have had tomatoes - a much requested and top seller for many farmer's market gardeners - for the past three weeks which have ripened on the vines inside their greenhouse.
The family planted 148 tomato plants in the greenhouse in March; they have another 182 plants in their outside gardens which make up about an acre and a half.
The Carlsons had fresh tomatoes from their greenhouse through Thanksgiving last year, selling them to Fareway in Cherokee for customers to enjoy.
The green house project has been an experience. They have learned how to control the environment inside and maintain the temperatures. They can circulate air by rolling up the sides and can even warm things up for the plants by turning up the heater if needed (it automatically kicks in if the temperatures hit 59.)
Throughout their gardens they also have peas, green beans, beets, onions, carrots, cabbage, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and corn that has been planted in eight different stages.
"It's challenging," Dave said of the business. Staying ahead of the weeds, watering, picking the mature vegetables and selling takes the help of all four family members.
Weed mats help control the weeds and if there is a bug problem, they take care of them with natural products.
The Carlsons speak highly of the farmer's markets, which are becoming more popular among growers and customers.
"They have grown so much and our customer base has grown," Dave said.
Sally added, "People want to know who the farmer is and they want fresh vegetables." It should also be noted that senior citizen coupons and WIC coupons are accepted at farmer's markets.
While somewhat competitive among the gardeners at the farmer's markets, they are like a family and often swap vegetables among each other and share tips with each other.
The Carlson Vegetable Farm has been a wonderful family endeavour.
"This brings us all together. It's a lot of work but we are here together and talk and joke. It's great family time."
Check out Storm Lake's Farmer's Market on Saturdays and Thursdays at the BV County Courthouse.