The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Farmer Q&A: Organic Corn, Soybeans and Wheat

Farmer Q&A: Organic Corn, Soybeans and Wheat

From the Farmer's Tractor

February 12, 2015

Carolyn Olson, 47, grows corn, soybeans and wheat on her farm near Cottonwood, Minnesota. Olson’s farm was named Fairview Farm in 1914, but they also go by Olson Organics of Cottonwood. Olson farms 1100 acres, all certified organic.

How did you get into farming? 

My husband, Jonathan, grew up on this farm. I got into farming 26 years ago when we married at age 20.  

How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years? 

Ten years ago, we were still transitioning land from conventional to organic. We have been fully certified organic since 2008. We have learned new ways to manage for weeds, pests, and disease, and how to build soil health through crop rotations and the use of cover crops. 

How will farming evolve in the next five years? 

My hope is that the availability of high yielding untreated non-GE hybrids will increase. That is our biggest limiting factor right now. We will continue to fine-tune our management decisions to make improvements in our soil health, and weed management. 

What is your greatest challenge as a farmer? 

As an organic farmer, seed availability and weed pressures are our greatest challenges. Looking at agriculture as a whole, the greatest challenges are government agencies who want to place increased restrictions on agriculture.  

How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now? 

Instead of “educating” the consumer, we need to listen to them. Consumers will dictate what the retailers will want. We just can’t be too stubborn to listen.  

What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm? 

We use RTK auto-steer guidance systems on all our tractors and our combine. This helps to prevent overlap, leading to fuel savings. We also have CRP acres and buffer strips along all ditches and waterways. In the fall, we use conservation tillage practices and cover crops to reduce soil erosion.  

What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person? 

When consumers meet us, they don’t think we look like farmers, let alone organic farmers. Once we engage them in conversation, they typically feel comfortable enough with us to ask us questions about agriculture and food production. It is very important to both Jonathan and I that we never put down another farmer or farming practice. We tell our story, and let our neighbors tell theirs. We know our story best!