Lessons Learned: Robin Olson

A Nebraskan speaks of mentors, business and how he’s “grown to love farming a lot more and working with [his] son in the operation.”

By Tharran E. Gaines | Photos By John Peterson

FarmLife: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Robin Olson: It was probably from my Dad who advised me not to speculate in the futures market.

FL: What have you learned from older farmers?

RO: Even though I have a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Nebraska, I have to credit my dad for a lot of my mechanical skills, which has helped in both manufacturing and farming.

FL: Name a mistake that taught you a lesson.

RO: I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I suppose the one I’ve learned the most from is to make sure you have the right crop insurance programs in place at the right time. Back 20 years ago, we didn’t have the crop insurance options we have now. Back then, it was pretty much just hail insurance; and Federal Crop Insurance wasn’t much of a program at the time. Anyway, we had a big hail storm one year and we lost about half our crop because we didn’t have the appropriate insurance in place.

FL: How have you changed since you were younger?

RO: As vice-president of Olson Industries, I’ve obviously taken on more responsibility within the company, but I’ve also grown to love farming a lot more and working with my son in the operation.

FL: How has your lifestyle changed?

RO: It’s busier than ever before. As a result, farming has become more of an escape from the manufacturing business than a job or a chore.

FL: What have you learned about predicting the future?

RO: It’s not easy. Maybe that’s why marketing is one of my least favorite aspects of farming. Of course, it’s not any easier on the manufacturing side. Fortunately, about the time our family was seeing a decline in the irrigation pivot business, Dad was approached by a contractor about making airport lights. And even though it is nothing we would have ever predicted, it turned into a major product line. So, you never know what the future will bring.

FL: What’s something you’d like to do or learn?

RO: There are a lot of places I’d like to go see yet. I’d like to go to Australia someday. If I had the chance. I’d also like to visit Rome and the Holy Lands in Israel.

FL: What advice would you offer FarmLife readers?

RO: Mainly, just think through all the options that may or may not take place, and have a good plan for the operation. Marketing is especially important. Its something I’ve never enjoyed, but it’s an integral part of making it all work.