Day 12 of my 30 Days of Ag “All Things Minnesota Agriculture” is Carolyn Olson from Cottonwood, Minnesota (Lyon County). Carolyn and Jonathan Olson farm together. They raise organic corn, soybeans, and wheat on 1100 acres, and custom finish about 7000 pigs a year for a neighbor. As you read their story, you will notice how diversified their farm is. They grow organic crops and raise conventional hogs, thus farmers in two worlds. Even though today they farm in different ways, I truly believe these two worlds really will come together in one. In fact, I am see some of that happening now.
Jonathan has been involved on the farm his whole life. Carolyn started farming when they were married 26 years ago. Their farm has quite the history as it has been in the Olson family for 101 years.
The Olson’s raise soybeans and wheat for seed for Albert Lea Seed in Albert Lea, Minnesota. Their crop is certified for seed production through the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, and is certified organic. The corn is raised for animal feed, and vodka.
I come to know Carolyn through agricultural organizations and social media. In fact, I think we conversed numerous times through social media before we met each other in person. Carolyn is very active in agriculture, both on the farm and off. And I love her blog, so take some time and check it out!
Where do you sell or provide services to? Who is your end consumer?
“Our corn is sold to buyers in Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York. The buyer in Minnesota turns our corn into vodka that is marketed by two companies. The buyers from Nebraska and New York use the corn primarily for animal feed.”
The soybeans and wheat are mainly raised for Albert Lea Seed, but the ‘extra’ is sold to buyers in Minnesota and Nebraska. Some of the wheat has been milled into organic flour for King Arthur Flour.”
Social Media Sites:
Facebook: Carolyn CAREs Blog
What is a most embarrassing moment you have had on the farm?
“When I was still pretty new at fall tillage (before radios, and long before cell phones), I volunteered to take the evening shift so my husband could take the girls to his parents and visit family friends who were in town. Everything had been going well, until I was by the neighbor’s driveway. The tractor lurched ahead as the chisel plow came unhitched. I sat there for a minute trying to figure out how I was going to get home…and how I was going to face my husband, in-laws, and the company! I had to leave the chisel plow where it sat, and drove the tractor home. They all were a little surprised when I walked in! The next morning, we had to take the loader tractor and lift the chisel plow up to get it hitched again. Fortunately, no hydraulic hoses broke, and we were up and running the next morning. Now I am always checking to make sure the hitch pin is secure!”
What do you love most about farming/business?
“Growing up in the Twin Cities metro, it was a bit of a culture shock to move to southwest Minnesota! I have grown to love the prairies, the wide open skies, and the people.”
I have also become more aware of the changing of the seasons, and what that means in the agricultural cycles. I love when the snow melts, and we start to work the soil in the spring. There is nothing better than the smell of freshly turned soil after a long winter. After all the seeds are in the ground, there is always an excitement when we can “row” the crops. Nurturing the crop during the summer, and watching the plants mature is satisfying. The best part of the growing season, though, is harvest. The busyness, seeing the result of all your hard work, and the feeling of accomplishment is unbeatable. Winter is a great time for us to recharge our bodies and our minds. We attend meetings, conferences, and learning sessions to help us farm ‘smarter not harder’. I guess you could say I love everything about farming.
What is one thing about Minnesota that people from other areas do not know about or are missing because they don’t live here?
“Minnesota is much more than Minneapolis, St Paul, and fishing. We have everything from a National Forest to the Lake Agassiz Basin to the prairie to the bluff country in SE Minnesota. All of it is rich in history, rich in agriculture, and full of friendly Minnesotans.”
What is your favorite Minnesota location or a fun thing to do in Minnesota?
“Hands down, my favorite fun thing to do is attend the Minnesota State Fair. Where else can you eat everything from caprese salad on a stick to deep fried Snickers while seeing the Miracle of Birth Center or the Midway? My favorite places to go are the livestock barns, the Farm Bureau building, the 4-H building, and the Ag-Hort-Bee building. I typically see many friends in those locations!”
Is there anything else you would like to add?
“There are so many areas where organic agriculture and conventional agriculture can learn from each other. Soil health is becoming an important topic to all farmers, regardless of farming style. Organic agriculture has practices in place that conventional farmers are just starting to use. Conventional agriculture is leading the way in precision technology that organic farmers are tailoring to their needs. I would love to see less arguing about which practice is “right”, and more conversations where we are able to share knowledge for the benefit of all. Agriculture has never been an ‘either/or’ thing…it has been more of a do what works for you thing…and I think that’s a good thing.”