NEW ULM - Bob Christensen, 51, of New Ulm, formerly of Sleepy Eye, who began the nation's largest pork production companies - Christensen Farms - on a Sleepy Eye farm in 1974, died Saturday of an apparent heart attack while hunting with his son and friends in Missouri.
Funeral arrangements are pending with Minnesota Valley Funeral Home in New Ulm.
A 1980 Sleepy Eye High School graduate, Christensen got his start in the hog business when a neighbor gave Bob and his brother Lynn two bred gilts.
The story of Christensen and his visionary ability and passion to promote the pork industry, especially in Minnesota and Iowa, was featured in a number of national agriculture production magazines over the years.
Christensen was lauded for his independent thinking in the cover story of the May 2006 edition of National Hog Farmer. He received the Siehl Prize of Excellence in Agriculture from the University of Minnesota in 2009.
After touring several large swine operations in North Carolina and Georgia in 1985, Christensen came home with the idea of bringing technology pork production to the Midwest by introducing what are now called integrated systems.
Christensen was among the first producers to use a three-site system for increased bio-security, herd health, contract production arrangements, artificial insemination and genetic improvement programs.
Christensen Farms is part-owner of Triumph Foods, a pork processing firm that opened a $140 million pork processing plant and corporate headquarters in St. Joseph, Mo, in 2006. The facility processes up to 19,000 hogs daily.
About a decade ago, Christensen Farms bought ValAdCo, a 15,000-sow operation in Renville County that was under duress over waste handling issues. Christensen Farms managed the former ValAdCo lagoons in a much improved manner, alleviating previous issues, according to the National Hog Farmer.
A long-time supporter of 4-H and the Future Farmers of America, Christensen donated to the Miracle of Birth Center and the Animal Learning Center. The exhibits at the Minnesota and Iowa State Fairs feature live births of piglets, calves, lambs and other farm animals designed to educate the public on modern livestock production.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org