After graduating from Kansas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Cereal Sciences in 1952 Christian returned to Norway to help build the family's second mill in the city of Lysaker. His father Christian Alfred passed unexpectedly in 1953. He stayed in Norway for 3 years thereafter, overseeing the construction of the mill. In 1955, CFK returned to Kansas State as an Assistant Professor of Milling Technology –Kansas State University, the International Milling Education Foundation and Grain Millers currently combine to award a scholarship in Christian's name to a Kansas State milling student every year. LINK.
In 1957 he went to work for International Multifoods in Buffalo, NY before heading West to join Fisher Mills in Seattle, WA, a place he loved and came to consider "home" until his last day on this earth. He worked with Fisher for 4 years before joining Continental Grain Company in 1962.
CFK and Continental Grain came together at the perfect time for each. Continental was focused on pursuing emerging markets around the world and CFK was primed and ready to live the explorer's life; using the skills he'd learned through his education and travels and the interpersonal gifts he was born with to change the world through the merchandising of whole grains –moving whole regions from bags to bulk – and the construction of facilities to process them.
The Traveling Years
CFK was nothing if he wasn't a man on the move. The network of connections he built over the course of his career with Continental Grain spanned the globe and was only possible through his ability to find commonality with those whom he worked with. It wasn't just that he was able to speak 5 languages fluently, it was also the way he made his partners feel at ease when he entered the room. He was the kind of man who knew how to get the job done – he always had the numbers right, understood the newest technologies and saw the potential impact of new projects. People liked him, they believed in what he was doing and they invested in his ideas.
CFK's 12 years with Continental Grain were an adventure to say the least. Continental's leadership continued to give him opportunities and continued to thrive. He lived in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Chicago and New York during the first 5 years of career and during that time he spent most of the year traveling and selling grain into places like Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Barbados. He was eventually placed in charge of trading to the developing countries of Venezuela, Colomia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Sierra Leone.
In 1969 he took his family to Huntington, NY for a 3 year stay as the CEO of Continental Grain's subsidiary, Continental Milling Company. During his time in this position he was responsible for the construction of new offices in South America (which set the financial stage for the growth listed below), as well as 8 mills throughout South America in places like Peru, Curacao, Panama, Zaire, Colombia and Guadeloupe.
Life Long Learner
In 1972, after 10 years of phenomenal success in the U.S. CFK began to long for the fjords, mountains and childhood memories of his homeland and he made the decision to relocate, once again, to Norway. Soon after, he realized that the entrepreneurial spirit he'd honed during his time working in developing nations wasn't celebrated in Norway (ground zero of the socialist movement of the time) the way it had been throughout his career. Every attempt he made in business during these years, both on his own and with backing from Friborg was thwarted by regional policies that didn't align with his aspirations. CFK came to the conclusion that the marriage between his ambition and his homeland simply couldn't work, so in 1974 he contacted Friborg about his ongoing problems and they agreed on an offer for Christian to move back to New York. He instead headed for Houston, Texas to again, chart his own path, this time with Food Corporation of America.
After getting back on his feet in the U.S. he again relocated and started his own company, In-Line Mills in Minneapolis, MN. In this role he was able to use his knowledge as an industry expert on milling technology. In-Line lasted for 6 years and he then tried his hand in the pasta manufacturing industry with Prince Macaroni in Lowell, MA. After 1 year there, and the realization that the past industry wasn't built for disruption of any kind, he returned to Minneapolis once more to work with some old KSU friends at Pillsbury Co. CFK's desire to work for himself and his belief that human consumption oats were the next big thing (boy was he right!) eventually resulted in a partnership with his old Panamanian friends, the Nicolini family, and the purchase of a mill in St. Ansgar, IA. They named the company NorOats. This mill was eventually purchased by Grain Millers and is now widely regarded as the largest, most technologically advanced oat mill in the world.
Over the course of his career CFK started 3 different companies. The last company he was formally involved with was Grain Millers, Inc. Grain Millers has grown from a small oat mill in Eugene, OR to an industry-leading international ingredient supply company specializing in the purchasing and milling of a myriad of grains to supply customers in various industries around the world with healthy grain-based ingredients. He started Grain Millers with his dear friend Rolf Abdon at the age of 59.
CFK was a voracious reader and researcher who was adept at identifying trends and technologies he could combine to build successful companies. These companies provided infrastructure, jobs and commerce in places that were hungry for enterprise! When we look back and take into account how many of the facilities he helped build are still in operation today and when we consider the amount of growth he helped create and the civic improvements that followed thereafter we begin to understand that the result of his work was the brightening of human futures! He created opportunity for thousands of people and multiple generations of many families in numerous countries.