Dean Raven left a legacy in the Mason County farming community. 

July 20, 2022

From left, Dave Peterson, Dean Raven and Dick Alway at Alway’s Shady Lane Farm in 2016.

Dean Raven left a legacy in the Mason County farming community. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Six years ago, I got a phone call from former Mason County MSU Extension Officer Dave Peterson. He was wondering if he and Dean Raven, another former MSU extension officer, could come out to our family’s farm to tour our hop yard. Naturally, I brought my dad, Dick Alway, out to help with the tour since my dad had known Dean since Dean and his wife, Marilyn, first came to Mason County in 1950. 

In the Mason County farming community, these two men were legends. Their jobs were to build relationships with farmers and keep them up to date on the latest and best practices in agriculture as developed by Michigan State University. Dave followed in Dean’s footsteps, being assigned extension officer after Dean’s retirement in the early ‘90s. Dean followed in the footsteps of Harold J. Larsen (founder of Larsen Farms). Interestingly enough, tonight while at a Mason County Farm Bureau meeting, Burke Larsen (grandson of Harold Larsen) had a similar story to mine as did Seth Earl of Stakenas Farms. When Dean Raven wanted to come visit your farm, even in his 90s, you made time for him. 

E. Dean Raven passed away on Sunday, July 17, 2022 at the age of 97. Marilyn died on Dec. 11, 2021 at the age of 90. 

A lot can be said about E. Dean Raven’s community activism. He served many years on the Mason County Board of Commissioners, including a stint as chairman. He was a founding trustee of West Shore Community College. He was a member of the Scottville Optimist Club and Ludington United Methodist Church. But, his biggest impact on Mason County was his service as agricultural agent for MSU Extension. 

Edwin Dean and Marilyn Raven came to Mason County shortly after Dean graduated with a master’s degree from Michigan State University. Dean was originally from Cadillac and served in the U.S. Navy. He initially served as 4-H agent in Mason, Manistee, and Lake counties. Later, he became assistant Mason County agricultural agent for Michigan State University Extension, working with County Agricultural Agent Harold J. Larsen (founder of Larsen Farms). Dean became county agricultural agent (later known as extension agent) after Harold’s retirement. 

My grandmother, Helen Alway, used to boast that she and my grandfather, Tom, were the first farmers to host Dean and Marilyn for dinner when they arrived in Mason County. This was an important piece of trivia to my grandmother because she knew that Dean Raven had a major influence on many young farmers in the 1950s and 1960. Those young farmers are now, well, not young farmers and their sons and daughters and grandchildren now run their family farms, mostly because they had a mentor like Dean Raven who taught them to run their farms like businesses and also encouraged them to seek out formal education in their craft. 

Though he retired in the early 1990s, the legacy of Dean Raven can be seen through the successful Mason County farms of today. Dean’s legacy can also be seen through the impact of his children and grandchildren, many of whom have remained active in Mason County. 

An obituary will run in MCP Thursday. 

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