If you are in any way connected with the farming business in the USA, the voice of Orion Samuelson has been an important part of your day for as long as you have been farming. For more than forty-five years so far, Orion has been the radio voice of agriculture in America.
He has been broadcasting since the 1950s on Wisconsin radio stations and started at WGN radio as director of farm news in 1960. In 2006 he is heard on a syndicate of 260 American radio stations that carry his National Farm Report program. He also has a TV audience of more than thirty million viewers on 190 cable, satellite, and broadcast TV stations for different shows on his own and with his colleague Max Armstrong.
In his lecture called "From Reaper to Satellite," Orion, a resident of Northbrook, Illinois, shares his entusiasm for farmers and their vital work with millions each week. He exudes good will for the two percent of Americans who raise food from the ground and take care of the livestock that feeds three hundred million Americans and millions more overseas. He both reports on the market news of agribusiness and also is an advocate for farmers who understands their professional challenges.
His awards are almost countless but among some of the most significant are the 4-H Hall of Fame, the 1998 Distringuished Service Award of the American Farm Bureau Federation, the 2001 Lincoln Medal--the highest award from the State of Illinois, and his 2003 induction into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Orion Samuelson was born on a dairy farm near LaCrosse, Wisconsin in 1934. The farm had no telephone or electricity and the radio could only be operated with rationed V-batteries during World War II. There was rural free delivery of mail to a mail box one and a half miles away from the farm house and there was no daily newspaper. Orion told Illinois Country Living in 1998 that he recalled the day President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in April 1945 because a neighbor hollered the news.
He also recalled in the same article how he remembered the night of April 11, 1948. It was the day that the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) brought electricity to his family farm. Suddenly he could throw away kerosene lamps and push a switch to put on a light at the top of the stair. They could get a milking machine and irons, a refridgerator and other electric appliances.
When Orion was in eighth grade, he was confined to a body cast, bed, and wheel chair for two years to keep a bone disease from spreading. He had a lot of time to listen to radio and he dreamed of becoming a Chicago Cubs announcer. Eventually he was able to go to regular high school and rejoin the activities of Future Farmers of America. But later in life, the combination of his radio skills and his farming background made the perfect platform for his farm broadcasting career.
He considered the idea of studying to become a Lutheran pastor but went to broadcasting school instead for six months. For almost a decade he worked for WKLJ in Sparta, WHBY in Appleton, and WBAY in Green Bay. But starting in 1960 it was clear channel 720 AM WGN Radio that gave him a platform to reach to a national audience.
Orion Samuelson is now 72 and continues to work as the preeminent farm broadcaster in America on both radio and TV. He keeps a full schedule of personal appearances at state and county fairs and winter time agricultural shows of all kinds. He continues to work in Illinois where he has lived for the past 46 years.