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Outlook producer Carlson inducted to Ag Hall of Fame

Longtime producer credits family, community after a storied career in agriculture.

SASKATOON - A full house was on hand at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon on Saturday night, April 13 as six trailblazing names were the newest inductees to the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame, Class of 2024.

Bruce Coulman, Abdul Jalil, Les Johnston, Brian Olson, and Stewart Stone were among the men honored on this evening for their notable contributions to the province's agriculture sector, but it was Outlook-area producer Grant Carlson whose induction kicked off the evening.

Provincial agriculture minister David Marit addressed the inductees. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

Following words by SK Ag Hall of Fame President Reed Andrew, as well as Minister of Agriculture David Marit and Dr. Karen Churchill of Ag-West Bio, the induction program began and the newest class of producers took their spot in provincial history.

Carlson, with a fifty-year history in agriculture, began that journey in the 1970's when he and brother Keith began operating KEG Farms Ltd, the family farm located in the RM of Rudy that was named after both the brothers and their father, Edgar. Growing grain as well as specialty crops such as lentils, sunflowers, fababeans and dry beans, Grant went on to try his hand at just about every other sort of crop, including planting carrots, onions and potatoes, and he also grew corn under irrigation in cooperation with local ranchers for winter grazing, encouraging others to try such a practice on their own lands.

By the 1980's, Carlson and his family had grown their operations by establishing KEG Agro Ltd., a seed processing plant, which saw the business ship pulses globally, including India, Turkey, Pakistan, the United States, and Mexico.

Greg Sommerfeld inducts his friend Grant Carlson. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

It was during this time period that Grant's involvement with the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Growers led to the formation of the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Board and the introduction of the Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Levy. The latter has been in effect since 1987, seen as a lifeline of research and innovation in the industry and helping to make the province a global leader in pulse crops.

In his five decades as a grower, Carlson engaged in many research projects that last a number of years with Dr. Al Slinkard and Dr. Bert Vandenburg with the Crop Development Centre at the College of Agriculture at the University of Saskatchewan.

These days, you'll find Carlson typically wintering in Mazatlan, Mexico, where his passion for agriculture has spread internationally and manages to spread across all four seasons, as Grant grows mango, agave, and avocado.

Carlson was joined onstage by his family, including daughters Alanna, Justine, Theodosia, and his wife Suzanne. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

Taking to the stage at Prairieland on this evening, Carlson was joined by his family, including wife Suzanne Hebert and daughters Alanna Carlson, Justine Lustig, and Theodosia Phillips as longtime friend Greg Sommerfeld inducted him, crediting the Carlson family for helping to shape irrigation in this part of the province over a period of generations.

"They were pioneers in the South Saskatchewan irrigation district," Sommerfeld said of Carlson's family history. "They inspired a lot of other families to do well there, as well."

Daughters Justine and Theodosia unveiled Grant's induction portrait onstage before Carlson accepted his place in Saskatchewan's agricultural history.

"Congratulations to my fellow inductees," he said. "I've visited with a few of you already tonight, and I hope to spend a few more minutes with the rest of you. I'm honored to have been chosen for this, and I thank you very much."

Carlson's daughters Justine and Theodosia unveil their father's portrait. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

Grant says he's thankful for the opportunities that came his way over the course of many years, in which he was able to forge and establish businesses alongside his family that not only would benefit the local agricultural sector, but would extend its reach to outside the province and beyond.

"My bio says it's been a career of 50 years, and I've had great opportunities in those 50 years," he said. "That's what I think of, the word 'opportunities'. Started with an opportunity to join my brother and dad in business. I partnered most of those years with my brother. Between us, Keith and I have seven daughters; four for Keith and three for myself, and all of them pitched in in various ways over the years. My mom and dad were very supportive and helpful in countless ways. I grew up on the family farm south of Outlook by the Gardiner Dam with three sisters, but most of my career, I was living on a farm north of Outlook. Two and a half years ago, Suzanne and I moved off of that farm. It was hard, but not for the way you might think. We both realized it was time to start a new chapter in life, and that's what we did. The hardest thing seemed to be finding the door keys for the house; I lived in that house for 43 years without a locked door! We went on holidays with doors unlocked and keys in vehicles, and I tell that story because in my belief, we live in a great community with great neighbors and great friends. I can remember many times spent in that community. I continue to spend time in the community, but rather than hard at work, you're more likely to find me visiting with people or puttering on some small project in my shop. I'd like to thank all of those who came tonight to support me. Thanks again."

Speaking with this reporter after the event, Grant noted that he originally thought he was getting a prank phone call when he was informed of his Hall of Fame induction.

"Well, I thought it was a spam call," he said. "Then my wife told me, she was waving at me because she knew something about it, but she hadn't let on to me. My second reaction was actually that they'd gotten my name mixed up with somebody else!"

Carlson's artistic portrait. Photo by Derek Ruttle.

With all that Carlson has seen and accomplished in the agriculture field, he says that Outlook is a place that'll always be near and dear to his heart, crediting it as a unique area for generations.

"That's a good question," he said. "I had brief times away from Outlook, a year here and a year there maybe, but I think the Outlook and rural area's a special area. I'm sure there are other special areas around Saskatchewan, but Outlook's MY special area, for sure."

With irrigation in Outlook and the surrounding Lake Diefenbaker region set to go on an upward trajectory in the coming years, Grant sees the opportunity staring local areas in the face and says that there are many other communities that may have the opportunity to grow and prosper.

"I think it's a great opportunity for the town," he said. "Hopefully, not just the town of Outlook, as there are other villages where the growth might have grown stagnant for quite a few decades. Maybe the smaller communities can capture some stability and population and some growth and businesses, as well."