Justen Ollendick, Arizona Farm Bureau: This week’s featured leader in Arizona Agriculture is
An interview with
Part of an ongoing series about Arizona Farming and Ranching Families
Tell us about your farm, ranch, or agribusiness operation(s): I am very fortunate that I work for a family that has farming and ranching operations and they have afforded me the opportunity to irrigate, gather cattle, and be involved in production agriculture. I actively look for agriculture companies for the family to collaborate with, which often includes vetting the companies and seeing their operations. Through my legal training, I am involved in policy that impacts agriculture, particularly water policy.
This young up and comer is a legal analyst and an advocate for agriculture.
Why did you choose to go into agriculture? Serving the agriculture industry was a very deliberate choice on my part. I grew up in the City of Tucson and it was through my involvement in the FFA that my love for agriculture began. The more I became involved in agriculture, the more I knew that agriculture would be an integral part of my career.
What changes have you seen in your lifetime as it relates to farming, ranching, or agribusiness? Having the opportunity to work for a cow/calf operation, I have seen the changes in better livestock handling methods and how technology has made farming and ranching a very precise endeavor. I have seen technology allow farmers and ranchers to grow more with less.
Will anyone in your family -
Would you ever consider changing your business model? When I worked for the cattle ranch, we were constantly changing our business model. Through participating in conferences held by the cattle industry, we sought out new techniques and practices that would improve our operation.
What are your community activities? I am currently the chair of the Maricopa County Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers as well as being a class member of Farm Bureau’s Partners in Agriculture Leadership program. I serve on the Alumni Council for Project CENTRL (the center for rural leadership). I continue to participate in FFA through judging events and other opportunities to give back. I have been a running buddy for Girls on the Run, which encourages inner city youth to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. While in law school, I worked pro bono doing criminal defense work for the indigent.
Heavily involved with Farm Bureau activities,
Why are you involved? Agriculture is such an important part of our everyday lives, yet it is an industry that is either ignored or condemned. Consumers are so far removed from where their food comes from and the reality that farmers and ranchers face to maintain a livelihood for their families and produce enough food to feed their neighbors all around the world. Agriculture needs proactive advocates and I feel that I am in a unique position to help bridge the gap between farmers and ranchers and the consumer.
What do you enjoy doing, and what is one fact/achievement that nobody knows about you? I enjoy participating in promoting and informing consumers about agriculture. Something that not too many people know about me is the meaning of the tattoo I have on my wrist. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to have a bilateral mastectomy (both of her breasts removed). The final part of the reconstruction includes getting tattoos in the place of the areolas. It was my mother’s first tattoo, and since I had been there with her every step of the way, I knew it would be my first tattoo as well. I held her hand as the artist created a very beautiful flower that would serve a role in the emotional healing process. To this day when I look at my wrist, I am reminded of the struggle we went through and how my mother persevered. A part of her will be with me always.
Why are you a farm bureau member? Farm Bureau has given me the opportunity to get involved. As an FFA state officer, we met with Farm Bureau and all became members. It wasn’t until later that I learned of the many ways that I can have an impact through Farm Bureau. It is a very welcoming organization that realizes the talent of its membership and makes use of those that are willing to give their time and skills.
How will the next generation of agribusiness leaders have to operate? They are going to have to embrace technology, find ways to connect with consumers, and become engaged in policy more than ever before. Farmers and ranchers work long hours to provide necessary food and fiber to the world, and that used to be enough. The next generation will need to take the time to get away from their farms and ranches in order to tell their story and ensure the future of their industry. I cannot think of another industry that plays such an important part in our daily lives that
What’s the best business advice you’ve ever been given and/or experience? Or, what business-oriented advice would you give young farmers/beginning farmers? The best experience I have had is taking on mentors. Listen to the advice of those that have been there and don’t take things personally. Most people want to help you succeed but you have to ask and make the time.
For young or beginning farmers I would say plan and then have a backup. Don’t be afraid to take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. Never let anyone underestimate you because of your age…. a baby shark is still a shark.