Growing Strong Connections To Agriculture

If you ask Julie and Jim Christensen about their greatest accomplishment they will tell you—it’s their children’s connection to agriculture.

“All four of our children have a deep love for agriculture and they are proud of those roots,” says Julie.

Jim (’80 farm operations) adds, “They are proud of where they came from and they understand the responsibility of caring for the land and animals.”

The Christensens own and manage a farm and feedlot near Royal, Iowa, where they have raised corn, soybeans, beef cattle —and a crop of ISU agriculture and life sciences graduates—for more than 30 years.

“We enjoy what we do,” Julie says. “We have chores every day and we like getting up and getting going.”

They agree there isn’t an average day at the farm, but that’s what makes it exciting. Their philosophy is simple.

“The care and comfort of our animals is our first priority every day,” Jim says. “As long as we stay focused on the principles of animal care and land sustainability, the business should continue to support our family for generations to come.”

In 2012, Iowa ranked fourth in the nation in the number of cattle and calves in feeding operations in the state. Jim grew up on a cattle-feeding farm and says beef demand at the global level is a challenge and an opportunity. Last year’s drought presented some challenges as producers deal with high feed costs, cow liquidation and negative feeding margins.

“We’re seeing smaller domestic cattle numbers, increased global competition and a growing protein need in the world’s population,” Jim says. “This has created a need to develop safe, healthy and efficient food animal production systems that are based on sound science, grounded in basic research and use applied technology.”

Iowa State played an important role in bringing Julie and Jim together—they met when Jim lived in the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and Julie lived across the street in the Kappa Delta house. While Jim grew up raising cattle, he says he gained a better understanding of animal science at Iowa State. His favorite classes included meat science taught by David Topel, an emeritus professor of animal science, and a graduate class on ruminant nutrition from Wise Burroughs, a Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished professor in animal science.

Today they see Iowa State as central to helping producers like themselves remain on the front lines in developing the science to feed a growing world population.

“Iowa State University is a leader in the five critical areas of scientific development that are needed to meet the future challenges we face: genetics, animal health and well being, food safety, nutrition and the environment,” Jim says.

The Christensens are active members in the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and Jim serves on the Iowa State Department of Animal Science External Advisory Board.

“Jim and Julie are strong supporters of Iowa State University. Their passion for making Iowa State stronger and more able to support the beef cattle industry is greatly appreciated,” says Maynard Hogberg, chair of the Iowa State animal science department.

Their passion for ISU athletics also burns strong. It drives them to attend as many Iowa State football and basketball games as possible. Julie’s dad, Dick Ludwig (’53 agronomy) was an avid Iowa State sports fan and her grandfather, Fred Ludwig, played basketball for Iowa State from 1925 to 1929.

Three of the four Christensen children attended Iowa State, and Jim and Julie are happy to share all are finding their own success.

Jennifer Hosch (’05 animal science and ’09 veterinary medicine) is a practicing veterinarian in Farley, Iowa. She and her husband, Mike (’05 animal science), farm near Cascade, Iowa.

Lee Christensen (’10 animal science) received her master’s degree from California

Polytechnic State University in 2012 and is working as a food scientist for Kraft Foods in Madison, Wis. Lee married Mark Pierce (’10 agricultural business) this summer.

Anne Soto graduated from the University of Minnesota and taught in the Teach for America program for three years. She received an MBA from Indiana University and is an education investment analyst near Oakland, California. Anne and her husband Luis live in the San Francisco Bay area.

Wes graduated from Iowa State in May in agricultural studies. He was an active student ambassador and recently took
a study abroad trip to Panama to learn about tropical agriculture production and international business and trade.

Wes plans to work outside the farm for a few years before returning to Royal where he hopes to be part of the family’s sixth generation that will operate and manage the farm.