2800 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Oklahoma City, OK 73105-4912



March 22, 2017


Betty Thompson, 405-522-6105, betty.thompson@ag.ok.gov

Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture

Highlight: Juanita Bolay

By Bryan Painter

PERRY – It all adds up.

It’s important to have a good crop that translates to a solid harvest. It’s important to get good gain on cattle. It’s a blessing if the ice storms and hail storms miss you, but yet you receive good and timely rains.

However, for it to all add up there’s that business end of farming and ranching. Juanita Bolay of Perry has been taking care of that large share of the family’s farming operations for decades.

In the late 1980s, a reporter asked Bolay about her role, specifically marketing. She replied, “The farmers used to be able to work hard from dawn to dusk and make it. Now you better have a market plan.”


Back in time

Born May 1, 1932 to Nick and Mary (Gengler) Wagner, Juanita, was raised on a wheat and cattle farm.

“My role at 9 years old was to prepare breakfast while they both milked the cows,” she said. “We also raised chickens and spring always brought the time to dress chickens. That training really came into play when Bob and I were given a live chicken shortly after moving to the farm. As a child I was taught discipline, promptness, respect and work ethics.”

While growing up, she attended church with a young man named Bob Bolay, whose parents were also ag producers. Juanita and Bob went to a Valentines dance, dated for some time and then married on November 14, 1953.


Bob was honorably discharged from the military in the mid-1950s.

“We’ve been farming since 1955, when Bob was discharged from the Army,” she said. “We both had been raised on farms and wanted to come back.”

Their operation started very small, raising chickens and grading and marketing hatching eggs that were delivered to a commercial hatchery.

Milk cows were part of their livelihood in a family that included three sons at the time, Mike, Brent and Kurt.

“As my parents began the aging process, they asked us to move to their farm,” Juanita said. “Then came another addition to our family, number four and a daughter, Brenda.”

As the family grew so did the farming operation as they increased acreage both through purchases and land passed down through inheritance.

“Bob did some custom hay baling on the side, and when he would bale at night, I’d sometimes go out at 10 or 11 p.m.,” she said. “I spent most of my time preparing meals and taking them out. The custom baling grew into a business our sons could do to relieve the cost of college education. Brenda fueled up Dad’s tractors while he ate lunch and helped me supply meals.”

In addition to work on the farm, Bolay was asked to finish a term of office on what is now Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s Women's Leadership Committee and went on to serve two more terms. Plus, she remained active at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church where she taught Sunday school. She also kept busy as each of their four children participated in 4-H and FFA.

“Our family has been our life,” she said. “I thank them for helping us reach our goals.”

Today the family has a small grains operation – wheat, corn, soybeans, milo and cotton – and primarily a stocker calf operation with a small cow herd.

“Recently part of the transition has been Grandpa partnering with grandsons on the stocker cattle and share cropping the farm ground,” said grandson Mason Bolay. “It’s good for him to help justify equipment cost and it’s good for the grandsons to grow into the operation without significant capital investment. With that transition it has allowed us to manage the records. We (sons and grandsons) have had good teachers on how to be successful.”

All three sons and some of their family are part of the family operation.

“We work together and share equipment cost, but all own land separately,” Mason said.

When he talks about his grandparents, Mason said that part of what he appreciates so much are the tough decisions that they made together, along the way.

“I can remember my grandpa tells the story of buying a farm that grandma and he both agreed that they wouldn’t buy,” Mason said. “Even though they had agreed not to purchase it they had to re-work their budget and have made it work.” 


The business of it all

As her children began to grow up and the farming operation began to expand, Bolay became increasingly interested in the business of agriculture.

She once said, “I had been doing the bookkeeping all along, but as our operation got larger, it began to take more of my time, and I became more aware of things like marketing techniques. I started charting the changes in the different markets over time and I began to see how important it was to keep on top of those changes.”

She has held a lot of roles through the years: She’s kept records, handled marketing, prepared meals and served as a “farm chauffer.”

“My brother Madison and I are actively involved in the farming process,” said Mason, 33, who is also an ag loan officer at First Bank & Trust, Perry. “She (Juanita) has transitioned some of the record keeping and marketing to us. Her daughter-in-laws and granddaughter-in-laws have assumed the meal and chauffer responsibilities.”

However, just as Bob still works on the production end of the operation, there are days Juanita can be found either in the kitchen office or sitting at her Dell Windows 7 computer in the multi-purpose room.

Teams, like families, establish and pass on a tradition. It can be enhanced, or given a new look with time, but that tradition persists.

Mason Bolay sees that in the tradition established by his grandparents, Juanita and Bob. It’s not just production agriculture, it’s not just business, it’s a team.

“Together everyone accomplishes more,” he said. “Very conservative, yet progressive. Maximize each and every dollar and acre. Up early and out late. They’re willing to try new technologies. Those comments all describe their business strategies and philosophy.”

It all adds up.




Editor’s note: This is part of a continuing series of stories on Significant Women in Oklahoma Agriculture. The project is a collaborative program between the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food & Forestry and Oklahoma State University to recognize and honor the impact of countless women across all 77 counties of the state, from all aspects and areas of the agricultural industry. The honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by a committee of industry professionals.


Photo Caption: Juanita Bolay of Perry has played a key business role in the success of her family’s farming operation. She is being recognized as a Significant Woman in Oklahoma Agriculture.