The Custom Harvester
Custom harvesters have been described as part farmer, part gypsy, and part stupid, according to Chad Olsen owner of Olsen Custom Farms, a custom harvesting business.
Olsen laughingly admits he may fit the parts of farmer and gypsy, but the stupid part only applies if it means taking driving and hard work and turning it from a one-combine-for-hire operation into an 85-combine-for-hire business.
Olsen’s company, founded in 1992, grew mainly due to his drive, and the challenge he saw in running his own company. He also wasn’t afraid of continuous expansion: If someone came to him with a job that they were not equipped to do, he would go out and buy the equipment.
“It was a challenge, basically, a challenge to see if I could do it,” Olsen explained.
This attitude has given Olsen the ability to create a company that reaches much farther than the state of Minnesota into 15 states as well as Canada.
Chad Olsen started working in a tractor his father bought him by the time he was in seventh grade. After graduating high school he took on milking cows for about four years before buying his own farmland and fixing up an old barn for his cattle. Within 63 days, that barn would burn down, Olsen’s livelihood with it.
With mounting debt, Olsen was forced to reevaluate how to earn money for every-day living expenses and pay off everything he lost in the fire. There was no nest egg to fall back on. Olsen, then in his early twenties, soon began combining a neighbor’s land for him and as he gained more customers the company continued to expand.
“Now we’re harvesting seven months out of the year,” Olsen said.
As the company traveled farther south, Olsen picked up more business at each location.
“We’d line up all of our work in the winter time and if we had more work lined up than combines, we’d buy another combine,” Olsen said.
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