Samuelson will officially sign off this month after a 60-year career

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and legendary farm broadcaster Orion Samuelson at the 2017 FFA National Conference.

His voice is synonymous with agriculture news and after January Orion Samuelson will be stepping away from the microphone.

Well known ag broadcaster Orion Samuelson will retire this month after 60 years in the field. Samuelson began his broadcasting career in Wisconsin and will officially sign off from his job at WGN radio in Chicago.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue recently honored Samuelson with a proclamation heralding the broadcaster's long career in ag journalism.

“There’s a saying that today’s news is tomorrow’s history,” said Perdue. “Orion Samuelson’s decades of agriculture reporting has helped farmers understand the latest Washington policies and he has also helped all audiences appreciate the importance of agriculture to our communities and to the economy.”

While at WGN radio in Chicago, the "Big O" covered agriculture and food production, met with U.S. presidents, travelled to dozens of countries, and encountered many foreign dignitaries, all while reporting on the contributions of American agriculture to the U.S. and world economy. Samuelson is a 2003 National Radio Hall of Fame inductee.

Wisconsin roots

Samuelson was inducted into the Wisconsin 4-H Hall of Fame in 2017. According to the website, the country's best known ag broadcaster had deep roots in Wisconsin, with his first 4-H project being a Guernsey heifer calf.

At the time, Samuelson credited 4-H with igniting his passion for agriculture and his first experiences with public speaking, ultimately leading to his broadcasting career.

Luckily for farmers, Samuelson had once considered becoming a Lutheran pastor before heading off to radio school. His early work was based in Wisconsin and he was working in Green Bay when his big break came and he headed south to Chicago in 1960 to work at WGN Radio where he served as head agriculture broadcaster, presenting 16 agricultural reports daily.

His big booming voice was heard daily on 260 radio stations with his “National Farm Report” and on 110 stations with his “Samuelson Sez.” He co-hosted the Morning Show on Saturdays and currently hosts “This Week in Agribusiness” on RFD-TV.

According to his impressive resume, Samuelson is the only broadcaster to receive two Oscars in Agriculture from the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. He also made history by being the first agribusiness broadcaster to be inducted into the National Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 2010, the City of Chicago named the corner of Illinois Street and Cityfront Plaza Drive ‘Orion Samuelson Way.’

Through the years Samuelson has remained active in organization dear to his heart including 4-H and FFA. He has has served on the National 4-H Council Board of Trustees and in 2017 began working with the Wisconsin 4-H Foundation to raise $500,000 to support livestock programming.