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Longtime media man Orion Samuelson speaks at South Texas Farm and Ranch Show

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.
Updated Oct. 24, 2013 at 5:24 a.m.

Vendor booths completely filled the Community Center Dome area as a large crowd showed up for the opening day of the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show.

About Orion Samuelson

• Grew up on a 200-acre dairy farm in Wisconsin

• Has been on Chicago's WGN Radio and television since 1960

• Served as emcee at President Ronald Reagan's hometown birthday party in 1984

• Name was added to Junior Livestock Building at the Illinois State Fair in 1997

• Honored with the American Farm Bureau Federation Distinguished Service Award in 1998

• Autobiography "You Can't Dream Big Enough" released in 2012

Whatever the commodity, whatever one's selling, Orion Samuelson said one thing remains true: Prices never go the same way forever.

"The challenge we have in marketing agricultural products is when markets are going up, we think they're always going to go up, and when markets are going down, we think they're always going to go down," he said. "And it doesn't work that way."

Samuelson, host of RFD-TV's "This Week In AgriBusiness," spoke Wednesday at the South Texas Farm and Ranch Show luncheon. There, he talked marketing strategies, discussed his history with the industry and encouraged the youth to dream big.

Young people today can't imagine the opportunities available to them in agribusiness, he said, and the industry needs the new generations to get involved.

Plant geneticists, agricultural engineers, environmental attorneys and large animal veterinarians are all in short supply, he said. And, with today's global agriculture, international marketers are important, too.

"Let me tell you this. Learn more than how to speak the language," he said. "Learn how to read it; learn how to write it. And yes, Asia and Southeast Asia are probably the countries to look at."

Samuelson, 79, agribusiness director for Chicago's WGN Radio, stressed a few key messages he said he hoped producers took to heart.

Learn the cost of the agricultural production, he said. After all, a person can't know whether he's making a profit until he knows what it costs to produce the animal or crop.

He also advised people to determine ahead of time what they would accept as a fair profit for crops or other goods. Once it gets there, it's time to pull the trigger and let the market do what it will.

"I know a farmer in McLean County Illinois who has $15 soybeans in his grain bin. They've been there now for 14 years," he said. "Because when that bean market was going up about 14 years ago; man, it was into the $14 level; and he said 'Not selling 'til they get to $15.' And they're still there."

Howard Witting, who lives between Wharton and Bay City, attended Wednesday's luncheon, but it wasn't his first time crossing paths with Samuelson. The two met about 15 years ago during an event in San Antonio, and they kept in touch from time to time, Witting said.

He said he enjoyed the presentation because food is essential, and Samuelson speaks with authority about issues important to the agricultural industry as a whole.

Jackson County rancher Sammy Rippamonti, who said he has attended the show almost every year and called Samuelson one of the best speakers he's heard. What stood out to him, he said, was the way the speaker related to people his age.

The overall message was good, too.

"When times are bad, they won't always be that way," he said, paraphrasing Samuelson. "You just keep on trucking."

Samuelson - who stepped away from a life in which he woke at 5 a.m. to milk cows and into one in which he wakes up before 3 a.m. to create a broadcast for people who milk the cows - ended his speech with one more tip. This one related to one's morning routine.

Set the alarm clock for the time one needs to wake up, he said. Don't bother waiting 20 minutes beforehand and hitting snooze.

"When it goes off, get up," he said. "Put both feet firmly on the floor, take a deep breath and say, 'Good morning, God.' Not 'Good God. Morning.'"

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