Cottonwood farmer impressed with Trump, Perdue
COTTONWOOD — Lyon County farmer Carolyn Olson didn’t know what to expect from President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue when she attended the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention earlier this month.
“The importance of agriculture is a big thing,” she said from her Cottonwood farm Monday morning. “Whether or not you like the president, it’s a big thing to be recognized as an agriculture group by a sitting president, that they’d put it in their schedule.
“Trump is the first president to accept the invitation to speak at the AFBF annual convention in over 25 years, and every president has received an invitation,” Olson said.
She also said Perdue’s address to the convention crowd touched on every agriculture topic of the day.
“I went in with low expectations (of Trump’s speech) because Secretary Perdue had covered it all,” Olson said.
“It’s nice to have a secretary of agriculture who ‘gets it.’ He’s planted crops. He’s raised animals, he knows what we’re going through. It’s refreshing.
“The president touched on trade and talked about getting broadband into the rural areas to help the farmers with their marketing.”
Olson wears many hats, especially when it comes to the farm bureau. She moderated an agriculture marketing panel and was on an organic farming panel in addition to addressing the delegates on policy changes at their general assembly.
As Minnesota Farm Bureau District III director, Olson served as an alternate delegate during the AFBF convention that ran from Jan. 6-9 and was held in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We stayed at the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center, which was like three massive hotels in one with gardens and a river boat ride,” Olson said.
“I gave a speech on the delegate floor a couple of times,” she said. “My knees were knocking, when you stand in front of your peers for the first time, it can be intimidating, but they’re a pretty great group of people.”
Olson spoke to the delegates regarding making small changes in wording in some of the policies the farm bureau has developed and have already been approved. They just needed a little language updating, she said.
“All the policies in our policy book came from farmers on the county level, but some of them just needed word changes on some that had already been made into law,” Olson said. “The one thing I really like about our policies is that they come from the county level.”
Among her other duties as delegate was to facilitate an agriculture panel with two Tennessee farmers, Brandon Whitt of Baty Farms and Sharla Mortimer of Mortimer Farms. Their theme was “building relationships with your customer base.”
“Brandon markets his produce to area restaurants and Sharla runs a farm store with an outdoor play area,” Olson said.
Olson also participated as a panelist on an organic farming panel, answering questions about her and her husband, Jonathan’s, specialty: organic farming. On this panel, she and two other panelists gave brief PowerPoint presentations about their organic agriculture operations and then fielded questions from the audience, including the theme, “Is organic for you?” and “What is organic?”
“It’s the first time we’ve had a niche marketing track as one of the sessions at the American Farm Bureau convention,” she said. “For me, it was a big thing because I came out of it feeling like we made a difference.
“It was actually something that Jonathan and I talked about that (the convention) needed,” Olson said. “Seeing that come to fruition was a highlight. I appreciated that a lot.”
Olson was also impressed with an AFBF interview with country music star Reba McEntire, Olson said.
“It was everything I’d hoped it would be,” Olson said. “She is genuinely nice, funny, candid and inspirational.”
While Jonathan Olson was not a delegate or a presenter, he did attend his wife’s sessions as a “cheerleader,” she said.
“It was a really good convention,” Carolyn Olson said. “It makes you realize how really good it is to be in agriculture.”
Next year will commemorate AFBF’s 100th annual convention. Olson encourages Farm Bureau members to watch their county organizations for more information and to get registration forms from the MFBF office once they are made available.
“And if you’re not a Farm Bureau member, I can help you with that,” Olson said.
Anyone looking for more information on Farm Bureau, its services or local contacts may call Olson at 507-828-2643 or Lyon County Farm Bureau President Brad Hennen at 507-828-0276.