by Abbie Burnett
You may not notice the table in Steve and Ginger Olson’s dining room when set for four. But the custom-made heritage table expands to seat 24.
The Olsons had it built because it’s important that everyone in their family gets a seat at the table, no side room for their seven grandsons.
If they could sit everyone at the same table when guests come to tour the Olson Land & Cattle Angus seedstock ranch near Hereford, Texas, they absolutely would. For nearly 30 years, the family has hosted ranch tours for the Certified Angus Beef ® (CAB®) brand and upon request, attended events where the public can interact with ranchers.
Every time, people find the Olson hospitality, a quiet comfort and gentle service to others wherever they go. They intermingle with chefs and distributors, answering questions about ranching and how cattle are raised, making each person just as welcome as if they were back in Texas gathered around that table.
These are some of the reasons the Olsons received the 2019 CAB Ambassador Award.
More than education
Ranch days for CAB means sharing the gate in “gate to plate.” Guests gather on hay bales in the barn for a brand overview, then split up and start rotations out to the pastures and back, learning from every family member they encounter.
Steve, a member of the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, will cite four points: animal welfare, protecting the land, caring for the people and profitability to keep it all going.
“I think the cattle industry is sustainable in every aspect, but I also believe that we have that responsibility to share with others,” he says. “It’s other people being inquisitive about where their food comes from, and if we don’t fulfil that need, they will find answers from others who maybe don’t know all of the truth about cattle production.”
Steve addresses consumer concerns, holding up a 100-cc bottle of an antibiotic and quoting the $450 price.
“That statement alone will get some wide eyes across the room,” he says. It soon becomes clear that ranchers don’t use antibiotics without good reason and he tells how they keep most cattle from experiencing illness by regular vaccinations.
Son-in-law Scott Pohlman walks the chefs through cattle handling, husbandry and what they eat while daughter-in-law Kristi might demonstrate artificial insemination and embryo transfers. When they gather back together, the Olsons’ grandsons have their show heifers set up, a demonstrating the next generation of ranchers.
Through each phase, the Olson family has a way of bringing complicated concepts to common understanding.
Scott relates calf weaning to sending your kids to their first day of kindergarten. It’s hard at first, there might even be some crying, but at the end of the day everyone’s happy.
And through all the conversations on care, health and challenges of raising Angus cattle, Ginger and daughters are there to provide the “Southern Hospitality” worthy of capital letters.
Scott has also contributed to gatherings as cowboy chef, cooking up a mean ribeye on his homemade smoker. Served on old-fashioned white enamel plates, tin cups for tea and coffee, bandanas for napkins and Mason jars for wine, guests line up to wait for their ribeye while asking about cooking secrets.
People of faith, the Olsons pause while Steve says a prayer before dinner and then reminds guests to “keep their forks” for dessert. Grandsons begin waiting on tables, filling drinks, picking up plates and engaging in conversation about growing up on a ranch. The family spreads out, answering questions and creating personal relationships.
Going beyond the call
What makes the Olsons stand out as ambassadors, says CAB’s Deanna Walenciak, is their “absolute willingness to help out whenever they can.” There was the time they worked cattle on an early July morning for a photo shoot because, “They knew it would help us tell the story.”
At the brand’s 30th anniversary party, Steve and Ginger flew in on short notice to interact with chefs and distributors. Walenciak watched them connect: “They brought a little bit of Texas right into New York City, that spirit of welcoming everyone to their dinner table.”
Steve was elected to the American Angus Association Board in 2006, to the CAB Board in 2007 and two years as Chairman. In 2015, he was elected Association president.
All three Olson children were on the National Junior Angus Association Board, and both daughters wore red jackets as Miss American Angus. In college, eldest daughter Moriah and future husband Scott worked as CAB interns.
The grandsons are being raised with that same ownership in the brand.
“We’ve been blessed as a family,” Steve says, “to be a part of production agriculture, to live on the land, to raise our family and take care of God’s resources. And to interact with other people and share with them what it’s like to be here and to do this—Ginger and I feel blessed every day that God has given us this path.”
For new friends, shared stories and great beef, all a visitor to Olson Land & Cattle need do is pull up a chair.