Not many people can say they’ve loved going to work for nearly four decades.
But if you ask Crop Quest’s CEO Ron O’Hanlon, he will tell you that he’s loved every minute of it.
“Sure, there have been days that were challenging, but the good always outweigh those difficult days. It’s being able to visit with farmers every day—you get to work with some of the best people on earth—that makes this job so enjoyable. I can’t speak highly enough about the people that work at Crop Quest, they are more than co-workers, they are my family and friends.”
Come this March, O’Hanlon will be retiring after 26 years at Crop Quest, Inc., an employee-owned crop consulting company based out of Dodge City, Kansas.
O’Hanlon grew up on a farm that grew a few crops, but mainly raised livestock. While attending Oklahoma State University, he studied animal science and then went to work at the USDA/OSU Fort Reno Experiment Station. After that he worked at the Extension Service. O’Hanlon recalls, “I took a leave of absence with the Extension Service while I attended Oklahoma State University to further develop my agronomy background and complete their master’s program.”
After completion of his master’s degree, O’Hanlon’s original plans were to become an area agronomist with extension, but after finding no openings, O’Hanlon landed a position with a crop consulting company in 1979, where he worked until 1992.
In 1992, O’Hanlon was the first employee on record at Crop Quest, Inc.
For 26 years, O’Hanlon helped guide Crop Quest, most recently as CEO.
While fulfilling the role as president, he worked alongside former CEO Rollie Stukenholtz.
“Rollie was one of the most influential individuals in my career at Crop Quest. I also watched other successful people and observed what made them so successful. Over the years of being around Rollie, I observed his way of working with people and dealing with issues.”
Another major influencer for O’Hanlon, is his wife Mary.
“Sometimes the spouse gets the brunt end of things, but Mary has always been there to listen, giving a boost when I’ve needed it the most.”
Mary O’Hanlon recalls what it was like raising a young family, while her husband was involved in starting Crop Quest in what seemed like overnight.
“Crop Quest has been good for our family in that it helped our children grow to be the leaders and givers that they are today,” Mary explained. “They were able to grow right along with Crop Quest in its early years.” Mary went on to share how their children “witnessed Dad’s challenges to get a new business off the ground. They learned that “boss” doesn’t mean slave driver, but that it means a person who is willing to work hard and do whatever it takes to get the job done.” Together the O’Hanlon’s have six children with an additional three in heaven and 11 grandchildren.
Mary concluded, “Today, in the professions that our kids hold, they share the compassion and care for their employees/fellow workers that they learned from their dad. Understanding that it’s important to know and care about all the members of their work family and communities is valuable to them and their families.”
O’Hanlon recalls seeing many changes during his career in the ag industry, but specifically notes the swift changes of technology.
“Technology has rapidly changed the way today’s agriculture looks. In the research field, GMO’s [genetically modified organisms] have changed the way farmers grow crops. Out in the field, with precision agriculture we can be more precise than ever in making our recommendations.”
Under his guidance and steward, Crop Quest transformed the way they did business as well. O’Hanlon recalls their move to computerized field reports and data collection.
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“This was a big shift for our company, where all 80+ agronomist had a laptop in their trucks.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is O’Hanlon’s commitment to his work and community. He has been extremely devoted to many organizations including Knights of Columbus, DCCC Agricultural Committee and National Alliance of Independent Crop Consultant. In 2004, O’Hanlon received a very impressive award of “Consultant of the Year” presented by NAICC.
While most of his career was spent as president, in 2013 he passed the baton over to Dwight Koops to step in as president. As part of their succession planning, O’Hanlon took on the role of CEO for the remainder of his career where he has guided and supported the company along the way.
From the beginning, O’Hanlon, along with other key players, worked to set up Crop Quest as an employee-owned company. Any employee-owner of Crop Quest you ask today would tell you that O’Hanlon loves and cares for Crop Quest and his fellow employee-owners, as much as anyone on staff. Some of O’Hanlon’s final advice to those coming in new to the company has been, to develop a passion and love for your career. As so many have observed, O’Hanlon has been an implausible case in point on how to not work a day during your career, when one operates off their passion—just as he has done for the last thirty-nine years.
A note to O’Hanlon from the Crop Quest Staff: While you will be missed by all of us at Crop Quest, you certainly deserve your retirement. Your hard work and diligence have greatly benefited our company and we hope we can all strive to follow your stellar example.