It’s no secret that CAAR Board team members seem to like the Great Outdoors, and this issue’s all-star is no exception. Taylor Olsen, Operations Manager of Olds Fertilizers & Agri Services in Olds, Alberta, talked with the CAAR Communicator where we learned more of himself and career, ag retail leadership, his role with the CAAR Board and why a relaxing time for him involves doing something non-relaxing.
Q: What is your current role in the ag retail sector?
Taylor Olsen: I’m the Operations Manger of Olds Fertilizers & Agri Services, a full-service ag retail shop offering fertilizers, seeds, CPP (crop protection products) Custom app (custom application of fertilizer, seed and crop spraying), and Grain Marketing (market growers’ feed grains – mainly wheat and barley).
Q: Can you describe your ag retail journey?
Taylor: The company I work for was started by my grandfather, Ivan Olsen back in 1975—as such, I’ve been in the business my entire life. I began by sweeping floors and washing equipment as a young kid. After high school, I began working full time at our Olds location as a yard labourer, was promoted to field operation involving floaters and sprayers—and was really enjoying the industry. It’s why I enrolled in a two-year Agricultural Management diploma program at Olds College. When school finished, I traveled for a year in Australia for some additional “life” experience—mostly surfing and backpacking. But I did spend two months working for a great family on a grain farm near Warialda, New South Wales. We harvested wheat, chickpeas and sorghum, and I operated the chaser bin aka grain cart. Returning home battle-hardened, I continued to work for our family company, learning as much as I could about all aspects of the business, and continuing the same as I moved into the offices with more responsibility, to where I am now in my current position. The experience of starting in the business sweeping floors and working my way up has proved invaluable, as I find myself wearing multiple hats to help get the job done. All of us are very proud of the growth of the family business, now with the third generation—my sister Kirsten and myself—as part of the team.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
Taylor: I have lots of hobbies taking up my so-called “free time” depending on the season. Work is always busy, so I have to make sure I give myself some free time, and then make sure I actually take it. In the summer, I like to go golfing, do some canoeing, head off and go camping and take some quality lake time. In the winters, after planning for next season, I enjoy cross-country skiing, snowmobiling—basically mention anything outdoors and I’m interested.
Q: Okaaaaaay… but surely there’s something here that we’re missing…
Taylor: In the words of The Tragically Hip: “No one’s interested in something you didn’t do” (from The Wheat Kings, 1992). In the spirit of these lyrics, I’m always planning a trip. For example, this past summer’s trip was canoeing from White Horse to Dawson City, down the Yukon River. It was just my buddy, Tim, and I doing a 715-kilometre trek in a 16-foot Tripper canoe. It took us 12 days with an old paper map—no GPS or cell service. When we set off from Whitehorse, the Southern Lakes—it feeds the Yukon River—were at historic high levels, creating fast flow while at the same time affecting our ability to find quality places to pull in and set up camp. It was “refreshing”, even with the high water and a forest fire—we didn’t see a single other group during the entire journey. Perhaps later on in life I will do this river again, but for now it’s on to the next river. I’m thinking about North Saskatchewan—doing as much as we can every year until we reach Lake Superior. How cool would it be to say “I’ve canoed across Canada”? It doesn’t get much more Canadian than that. Rivers aside, next on my list of to-do’s, is a five-day cross-country ski trip into Jasper’s Tonquin valley this winter.
Q: Aha! We knew you were holding out! So, Taylor, are there any parallels between your high-active relaxation sessions and your day job? Taylor: The biggest parallel is that I have to do a decent amount of research and planning before my trips to make it a success. I believe that is the same in my “Day Job”. Preparation and planning is crucial for an Ag Retails season to go smoothly.
Q: Why do you enjoy working in the agriculture sector?
Taylor: For me, I believe that the best part about the agriculture sector as a profession is getting to work with and learn from our growers and industry partners. I firmly believe that it’s the people that make this industry so rewarding to be a part of.
Q: If you could change one thing about the agri-culture sector in Canada, what would it be?
Taylor: I would like to see the general consumer education regarding agriculture improve. There is a big disconnect between what we as an industry do and what people think we do to grow their food. Right now, our story is only reaching the consumers who actively look to or care to hear the “other side” of the story. It’s interesting when I go to dinner parties or a friend’s place in the city and farming always comes up. People are astounded about the facts I tell them and how what they have been led to believe is incorrect or only partially true. We need more of a concerted effort from the industry to tell our story. Perhaps a “know the farm” campaign.
Q: What is your role in the CAAR Board?
Taylor: I’ve been a part of CAAR since 2018. Currently, I sit on CAAR’s Advocacy Committee. Some of my past duties included the planning of the annual CAAR Conference—our 2022 conference will be held February 8 - 10, 2022, by the way; make sure you attend. Q: Why did you join the CAAR Board, and how do you apply your industry experience to the board? Taylor: I joined the Board because I wanted to be more involved with the Ag Industry. I believe that my willingness to throw my hand up and participate is what I bring to the CAAR Board.
Q: What role do you see CAAR playing in the agriculture industry moving forward?
Taylor: I believe that ag retailers, in general, have a lot of time constraints heaped upon them. With proper communication to its members, CAAR can be a voice to the ag retailer to inform them on current government policies and all changes to regulations that will affect the way they go about their business. Also, I want CAAR to provide a voice for all ag retailers—allowing the membership to share their opinions on how it fits with the reality of agriculture. Being the voice for and to all Canadian ag retailers should always be our focus. We do a great job of that, but it should always be our prime motivator as an organization.
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