Last night, I caught word on Twitter that Bob Christensen, owner of one of the biggest pork operations in the world, had passed away of a heart attack. Bob was only fifty-one, and a leader in the swine industry. Credited with essentially bringing what we now know as modern pork production to the midwest, I doubt there’s a pork producer in the country who hasn’t heard of him and I was certainly no exception.
What I didn’t know about Bob though, what I found when I began reading about his legacy last night, is that his world-class operation began with just two bred sows — both given to him and his brother, Glen, by a neighbor — just a few decades ago.
It’s these two to two-hundred thousand Cinderella stories that give us little guys hope, we beginners a reminder that it can be done.
The truth is, I’ve been fretting a lot lately about the state of the swine industry — the animal ag industry as a whole, really. For livestock producers, business is chaotic. Inputs keep climbing, while the live animal markets continue to piddle away. Meanwhile I’m teetering on the fence of change here at home, wondering what I should do. Expansions that were planned a year ago now seem far scarier than they were, and I wonder daily if I’m stepping off the risk cliff, putting our family too far into harm’s way for this thing that took me heart and soul against my will. Is this the right thing to do? Will any of it pan out? Will I lose everything? I have more questions than answers.
So, when I ran across two quotes from Bob in an article last night — both that spoke directly to the precarious position in which I find myself — I knew exactly what today’s Little Thing would be.
“Substantial changes in the scope of the business have corresponded with times where the agriculture sectors — typically, in the swine sector, as well — were in periods of some chaos,”
“Good times never last and bad times never last. Be proficient enough at what you do so that you’re there towards the end.”
Today I’m grateful for Bob — and all the other hog men who have gone before — those who have been willing to leave nuggets of wisdom behind. You’ll be missed.
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Thirty Days of Little Things is the daily incarnation of my (mostly) weekly gratitude practice. It will run everyday throughout the month of November. It also (conveniently) coincides with NaBloPoMo. To join in tell me what you’re grateful for today in the comments, or write your own post and leave me a link so I can check it out. I’d love it. No really. Of course, you can also read about more of my Little Things while you’re here. Because I’d love that, too.
*Picture from the archives. Right about this time last year. She was so cute. Can you believe that adorable little pig is now a 300+ pound sow? She’s sometimes surly, too.