This edition of Ag Innovation News brings you an interview with one of AURI’s newest board members, Carolyn Olson. She brings a wealth of knowledge on organic growing and modern farm practices to the organization. She is the current District III Director on the Minnesota Farm Bureau Board of Directors, and chair of the American Farm Bureau Organic and Direct Marketing Issue Advisory Committee.
AIN: Which agricultural group or sector do you represent on the AURI board?
CO: I represent Minnesota Farm Bureau.
AIN: Please give us some highlights around your ag background.
CO: I grew up in Champlin, Minnesota, and graduated from Anoka High School. The only agriculture experience I really had was visiting relatives on their farm for a week or two in the summer. I met my husband, Jonathan, who was planning on farming with his father after his graduation from Willmar Vo-Tec (now Ridgewater College), in 1987. We married in 1988, and I started helping on the farm right away. Jonathan and his dad were very patient with me, teaching me how to do the various jobs they needed me to do. Jonathan and I now farm together with the help of two employees. We raise organic corn, soybeans, various small grains, and alfalfa on 1100 acres. We also raise pigs conventionally for a neighbor. The manure from the pig barns is used to fertilize our fields.
AIN: What direction do you see value-added agriculture going during the next 3 years?
CO: There is a lot of potential for growth in value-added agriculture in the next few years. We have been in an extended period of low commodity prices, which has encouraged farmers to look for ways to add value to their crops, whether by growing something a little differently, or creating a new use for what they are growing.
AIN: What are some interesting trends you currently see in value-added agriculture?
CO: Twenty years ago, my husband and I started transitioning our farm from conventional to organic. The number of farms transitioning into organic is growing. Within conventional agriculture, there has also been growth in the areas of high oleic soybeans, edible beans, and different types of corn.
AIN: As a leader of AURI, what kind of future collaborations would you like to see the organization undertake?
CO: As a new member of the Board of Directors, I’m still learning about the current collaborations. I would like to see more collaboration with dairy groups, so we could help them find markets for their excess skim milk and whey powder.
AIN: What do you hope to accomplish during your time on the board?
CO: We all have such unique personalities and experiences that I find so helpful when we discuss the ongoing projects or dream about where we will go in the future. My hope is that I can help others understand the organic side of agriculture as well as the perspectives of a woman engaged in farming. I am thankful that I can also share the knowledge and experiences of the Minnesota Farm Bureau members I represent.
AIN: What are your goals for the AURI Board of Directors?
CO: The AURI Board of Directors is such a welcoming board, and all the members are so great to work with. One of my goals is to help maintain an atmosphere where we are free to express ideas and concerns. Another goal is to encourage us to be positive leaders working within our strengths.
AIN: Looking forward, what role do you see the Board of Directors playing in the success of AURI?
CO: The role of the Board of Directors is to encourage, direct, and protect. If we can encourage continued innovative and creative thinking, direct staff towards projects that fit our mission, and protect the financial and human resources, AURI will continue to be successful.