The Ratzlaff family farm has its roots in a native grass and wildflower seed farm originally started by Oscar Carlson. Oscar started producing seed grass in the 1950s in Colorado. In the ’60s, he moved to northwest Minnesota where he raised potatoes, edible beans and small grains. Oscar started raising native seed in the 1980s. In 2000, Oscar formed a partnership with Mike Ratzlaff to form Carlson Prairie Seed Farm Incorporated.
Mike grew up on a farm in North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in soil science. Mike worked for the Soil Conservation Service and then the NRCS. It was there he met Tara, who worked as a civil engineer. They were married in 1994. In 2000, Mike and Tara left their jobs to run Carlson Prairie Seed Farm full time.
The Ratzlaffs currently produce seed from six native grass species and three wildflower species on 200 acres of irrigated land and 250 acres of non-irrigated land. All the seed produced is cleaned and packaged on the farm and either shipped wholesale to vendors or directly to customers.
Mike and Tara’s daughter, Serena, has been working on the farm since she was 13. Serena graduated this spring from Minnesota State University-Moorhead and will start a graduate program in speech pathology this fall.
When Mike was employed by NRCS and Tara was employed by the Red Lake County Highway Department, they served on numerous committees. Mike has also served on the Two River Watershed board, the Northwest Regional Sustainable Partnership board, and has recently started as treasurer of the Jupiter Township board. The Ratzlaff family attends Newfolden Evangelical Free Church where Tara has served as an adult Sunday school teacher.