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Blanca producer chosen for state’s western region

Posted: Thursday, Apr 18th, 2013

Ben Christensen

BLANCA — Ben Christensen of Blanca loves to farm and ranch. It doesn’t matter if he is on a bull-buying trip, or spending his day painting the barn. He loves it all. For his dedication to the agriculture way of life, and his excellence in operation management, he has been selected the Outstanding Regional Colorado Young Farmer for the Western region by the Colorado Young Farmers Educational Association.

At age 26, it appears that his ability to make a living off the land, will become his lifetime work.

As a child, he grew up on a family farm where raising sheep was the main event. However, he longed to be a cattleman instead. For his eighth birthday and as his first 4-H project, his parents bought him an orphan bottle calf.

“A neighbor heard about my steer calf and gave me another orphaned Hereford heifer calf,” Christensen said. “That was the start of my cattle herd.”

Today Christensen raises both alfalfa and grass hay, Coors barley, sorghum-sedan, sunflowers, seed canola and grain and hay oats and has a growing Angus-cross cow herd. He also does some custom harvesting for others.

In the shadow of the Sangre De Cristo Mountain Range, Christensen, together with his parents, Jim and Kathy Christensen, is doing his part to feed and clothe America and the rest of the world. The three run a self-contained operation, doing all of the labor and management of the place themselves. Day to day decisions about genetics in the cattle herd, crop planning, equipment purchases, equipment maintenance, financial planning and banking decisions are made about the kitchen table, usually at lunch time.

Christensen graduated from high school and at the coaxing of his parents, went to Trinidad State Junior College to study and receive a certificate in diesel and heavy equipment mechanics.

“I worked a short time in a local body shop and realized that agriculture is truly where I want to be, so I went back home,” the younger farmer said. “With help from my father, I was able to get an equipment loan, buy my first combine and start custom harvesting within the San Luis Valley.”

Christensen would do well enough at the custom harvesting he was able to add a semi-truck, some tractors and other various pieces of equipment which gave him the ability to be financially secure farm ground of his own when the opportunity arose.

In the recent drought, Christensen has stopped the custom harvesting work. He has focused more on the livestock operation and has added a U.S. Forest Service grazing permit as well as building a small feedlot on the place to background calves. In addition to his own cow herd, he also summers 30 bred heifers and backgrounds up to 100 feeder calves in the winter. As the drought subsides — and he is optimistic it will soon — the Christensens plan to expand the farming operations once again.

“We are in the process of developing an on-farm biodiesel plant,” Ben said, excited about the potential in this alternative fuel source. “We have successfully grown, crushed and created our own fuel on a small scale and we hope to expand it across the whole farm.” This he said, will add stability to both the farm and livestock operations if they can provide their own fuel.

This San Luis rancher’s plans also include adding some cows to a girlfriend’s homestead north of Pagosa Springs in the near future.

Christensen is a member of the relatively new San Luis Valley Young Farmer Chapter. He has been a state officer for several years, serving as the western vice president, the reporter, secretary, treasurer and was recently elected vice president. He is also a member of the Colorado Cattlemen’s, Colorado Farm Bureau, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and was previously a board member for the San Luis Valley Cattlemen. He recently served as a voting delegate for Costilla County at the 2012 Colorado Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.

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