LINCOLN, NEB. – James and Katie Olson of Atkinson were honored as Nebraska Farm Bureau's 2016 Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement in Agriculture award winners at the Nebraska Farm Bureau 99th Annual Convention Tuesday, Dec. 6 at the Younes Convention Center in Kearney.
Farm Bureau members 18 to 35 years of age apply for the award. The Olson’s were selected on the basis of performance in farm or ranch management, setting and achieving goals, overcoming obstacles, and service to the community and Farm Bureau.
James and Katie Olson are the fourth generation to farm near Atkinson in Holt County. They raise 85 head of cow/calf pairs and grow corn, soybeans, and hay on about 900 acres. Both grew up on farms, James near Atkinson and Katie on a dairy farm near Spencer. Both graduated from Northeast Community College in Norfolk with James receiving a degree in Farm and Ranch Management and Katie in Agribusiness.
The Olson’s keep family a top priority, balancing a busy schedule with farm life and working with Nebraska Farm Bureau. James and Katie have five children, 12-year-old Luke, 9-year-old Hannah, 8-year-old Elizabeth, 4-year-old Rebekah, and 10-month-old Sarah. 12-year-old Luke has shown some interest in being the fifth generation on the farm.
They got started farming when James’ grandfather, Carroll Olson, sub-leased an irrigated school land quarter. The farm has grown enough to take over that lease. James also works part time for his grandfather and does all the planting and harvesting, the majority of the tillage, and the majority of the irrigating for eleven irrigated quarters for his grandfather. This is all in addition to their own field work and irrigating. They are very diligent about taking good care of the land, so conservation is always in the back of their minds. In 2014 they purchased an Aerway, a vertical tillage machine, which has greatly reduced the amount of tillage they do in the spring. It has been a great tool for the Olson’s.
Katie does the majority of the trucking, haying, making sure the weaned calves are healthy, and taking care of the cattle. She also helps out with tillage, planting, calving, and servicing pivots. The couple work together, using each other’s strengths to make things on the farm run as efficient as possible.
“We have started using cover crops to help with erosion and keeping organic matter back in the ground. This method saves us money on fertilizer. We have our cows graze on those fields in the spring, which saves us from having to hay the cows until they can go to pasture. The fields also have moisture probes so we know just how much water is available for our crops, so we save money by not overwatering and we can easily monitor if the ground is getting too dry. The pivots are also linked to our smartphones so we can manage them wherever we are,” Katie Olson said.
The Olson’s try to find better ways to measure and evaluate the management of the operation. On the cow/calf side of the farm, they have been buying feeder calves and putting them in a feedlot. The Olson’s take the corn they grow to the feedlot to feed it to their calves. All of these methods help them to become as self-reliant as possible with the farming operation.
“This has allowed us to sell our corn for a fixed price where our profit is locked in. We also try to minimize our risk by hedging the cattle. We can lock in a profit on the corn side or the cattle side,” James Olson said.
The Olson’s currently are serving their second term on the state YF&R committee, representing district six. Katie is active on the local Holt County Farm Bureau board, currently serving as vice president. Both are very active in 4-H and their church. As winners of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award, the Olson’s will receive a $500 cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to the 2017 American Farm Bureau convention in Phoenix, Arizona, in January, where they will compete in the national contest.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 61,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.