One would be hard pressed to find a Harrison County native who has not visited the farm of Paul Colson for an elementary field trip.
As soon as anyone walks into the barn, located on Shaw Lane, the words “Animal Kingdom” can’t help but come to mind.
Colson, 58, has been around animals and farming all of his life.
His father, Joe, started milking Brown Swiss cows in 1947 before Paul was even born.
When Colson was just two, he was often found in the milk parlor not far behind his dad.
“I always tell everyone that I learned to walk by holding on to the udder of a milk cow,” laughed Colson. “I’m not really sure why, but I have always loved being around the farm and animals in general.”
Colson was awarded the 2013 Chamber of Commerce Farmer of the Year award.
“I really was surprised since all those years I farmed full-time I never got it and now that I work another job I was given the award,” said Colson. “However, I am very happy and honored that somebody thought I was farming right.”
Colson is one of Harrison County’s last dairy farmers and the last to sport an exclusive Brown Swiss herd.
Colson also serves as the assistant animal control officer for Harrison County.
However, his real passion is being on the farm with his animals.
“I’m not really sure I know how many animals I have right now,” said Colson. “But I have just a little of everything for sure.”
Colson currently milks 27 Brown Swiss cows and takes care of his assorted animals including pigs, one of Colson’s favorite animals, chickens, turkeys, sheep, goats, rabbits, dogs, peacocks, pheasants and guineas.
“A lot of people think I am straight nuts for having all of these animals, but I enjoy them all and knowing that they are well taken care of,” explained Colson. “I don’t like seeing any animal mistreated.”
When Colson is not tending his collection of critters, he also raises hay and a wide variety of vegetables on his 152-acre farm or traveling around to local fairs and organizations with his traveling petting zoo.
“The only way I have been able to support myself is by being diverse,” explained Colson. “I have always had crops make-up for ones that didn’t do so well the same year.”
Colson said the challenges of farming continue to grow with increasing operational costs.
“Farmers are selling crops now at the 1980’s prices, but paying the 2013’s operational costs,” explained Colson. “It is becoming harder and harder for new farmers to start, which is a shame for all the work farmers do.”
Colson said without help from family or friends, farming for the new generation is nearly impossible.
“If it hadn’t been for Jay Ammerman, I would have never had the farm that I have,” explained Colson. “He was a great person and the one who gave me the opportunity to do what I loved doing for a living.”
Colson said he has always tried to make his farm available for kids to use for educational purposes.
“I love to see kids come out and see the animals and learn more about them,” said Colson. “But always tell them that being a farmer is great, but to get the best education possible or God will turn them into a dairy farmer.”