Bob Christensen may have been an unlikely person to become a giant in American agriculture. With his beginnings in a small farm outside of Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, and tending to the farming needs of the family as opposed to getting a college education for himself, one might have predicted a competent solid citizen; not a world class entrepreneur. But Bob has always wanted to defy the odds. Using the values and experience of his simple beginnings, Bob became a pioneer for modern animal agriculture and a role model to those who seek excellence.
In his work life, evidence of Bob’s imagination, intuitive business sense, and hard work are apparent. Bob built a pork production company that is, today, one of the largest family owned livestock production operations in the world. Bob’s company, Christensen Farms, employs over a thousand people across the Midwest. The Christensen Farms herd is the backbone of farming operations of hundreds of independent contract producers in Iowa and Minnesota. The professional staff that Bob has assembled continues to advance the Company’s goal of producing the highest quality product at the lowest possible price for consumers both in the United States and abroad.
Evidence of Bob’s creativity is apparent elsewhere in the industry. Bob was a pioneer with respect to animal housing, genetics, nutrition and nutrient management, and a host of other specialized activities that have made livestock production more cost effective and profitable. His methods have been adopted by many of his fellow producers.
While Bob loved farming, he also knew that in the modern world, successful farming operations are dependent upon integrated production systems. To that end, he led a producer effort which established, owns and operates the first modern pork processing facility to be constructed in the United States in over a decade. Triumph Foods today delivers U.S. pork products to consumers all over the world. Like Christensen Farms, Triumph also employs well over one thousand people and is a center for innovation and excellence in the creation of the food that we all eat.
While Bob was committed to his business enterprises, he was equally committed to support of education about agriculture and making opportunities available for youth. To this end Bob established scholarship funds for deserving students, funded numerous character building programs for youth, and provided substantial support for the Miracle of Birth/Animal Learning Centers at the Minnesota State Fair and the Iowa State Fair.
In recognition of his many outstanding contributions, Bob has received numerous awards. Noteworthy is the recognition from his peers. Bob was the 2007 winner of the Minnesota AgriGrowth Council Distinguished Service Award recognizing individuals who significantly contribute to strengthening Minnesota’s food and agriculture industry. Bob was the 2009 Production Agriculture recipient of the University of Minnesota Siehl Prize for Excellence in Agriculture. Both of these awards recognize the contribution of someone who is the best of the best in leading American agriculture.
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Bob certainly was not all business. He loved the outdoors and was especially committed to the sports of hunting and clay shooting. Bob participated in shooting events worldwide. He may have not been the best shooter in the world, but he certainly tried harder than anyone else to be one.
Finally, Bob loved his family deeply. Bob’s union with Mary Ann resulted in two wonderful children, Cubby and Kellen. Bob’s happiest moments were traveling with Mary Ann, riding horses with Kellen and hunting with Cubby.
Bob is survived by his loving wife Mary Ann Martin Christensen, his son Robert Alan Christensen, Jr. (Cubby), and his daughter Kellen Camille Christensen. He is survived by his parents Larry and LaVonne Christensen, his sister Lisa and her husband Wally Jaster, his brother Glen Christensen and his special friend Valerie Lyman, his brother Lynn Christensen and his wife Laura, and his brother Mike Christensen and his wife Lisa. Bob is also survived by nieces Kalli Christensen, Emma Christensen, and by nephews Caleb Christensen, Keegan Christensen, and Joshua Christensen. Bob is also survived by his mother-in-law Mary Martin, his brother-in-law John W. Martin III and his wife Mary Jane, his brother-in-law Thomas Martin and his wife Lisa, his nieces and nephews John W. Martin IV and his wife Kristin, Jarrett Martin and his wife Sophie, Jamie Martin, Nora Martin, Elizabeth Martin, and Madeline Martin. Bob was preceded in death by brother-in-law Carey McLeod Martin and father-in-law John W. Martin, Jr.
Visitation will be held at Minnesota Valley Funeral Home – North Chapel in New Ulm, Minnesota from 3 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 7. Visitation will continue from 9 to 11 a.m. on Thursday at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Bob will be laid to rest at the Prairieville Cemetery on Friday, November 9 at 10 a.m. Prairieville Cemetery is located 4 miles west of the intersection of Highway 4 and County Road 29 in Brown County, Minnesota, which is near the farm where he began his life and his career. To sign the guest book or to leave an online condolence for his family, go to www.mvfh.org.
In lieu of flowers, the family encourages contributions in support of scholarships for agricultural education or other character building youth programs as selected by the family. Financial gifts should be addressed to: The Robert A. Christensen Memorial Fund, Attention: Mary Ann Christensen at P. O. Box 3000, Sleepy Eye, MN 56085. Mary Ann also encourages you to write down any special memories that you may have of Bob and which you would like to share - and either leave them at the funeral home, the church, or send them to the address above. www.mvfh.org