Hanor Farms President Myrl Mortenson discussed the history of the company during Enid Regional Development Alliance’s quarterly luncheon Thursday.

An FFA teacher in high school always challenged students to do whatever they did with passion, he said. The teacher told Mortenson if he really wanted to set himself apart, he needed to do something off mainstream, and suggested he get some pigs.

“I kind of grew a passion for pigs,” Mortenson said.

 Employed with PIC for 18 years, he became senior vice president of all the operations in the United States, Mexico and Canada, and was involved in helping establish modern-day pig production around the world.

In the early 1990s, Mortenson came to Oklahoma, on behalf of PIC, to open operations in the state.

“I finally decided, you know, I’ve done this for a long time, and now I really know the value of good genetics, good production practices and I’m going to go do this on my own,” he said.

Mortenson made a deal with PIC, and bought some of the company’s production facilities in Wisconsin. He laid out a vision and plan, and said he wanted to grow the PIC pig in the food business.

“I said, ‘Really and truly we’re not pig farmers, we’re developers of food. We’re food farmers,’” Mortenson said.

Taking 200 people from PIC — including scientists, nutritionists and production people — he came to Oklahoma and started Robert’s Ranch of Oklahoma.

“From that point, it’s kind of been a whirlwind,” Mortenson said.

He got the genetic rights to the concept of a specialized pig when he left PIC, so no one else can use the pig.

“We spent 20 years developing that pig at PIC for the Japanese market. The Japanese market is a market that’s very unique. What they want is a pig that has the right color, they want their loins … to have kind of a pale red color, they want one that’s very juicy,” Mortenson said. “I knew that that would be our signature pig someday.”

 The company has bought 18,000 acres of land in the U.S. — in Illinois, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Montana, Utah and Missouri — and there are about 780 sites where pigs are located in the U.S.

When a plant, currently under construction, is finished, the company will have 6,000 employees, he said.

Hanor, the parent company of a number of regional companies, including Robert’s Ranch — just finished building and moving into its corporate office in Enid, Mortenson said. More technical people will be based out of the office.

“We like Oklahoma, that’s the reason we’re still here,” he said.

Along with being pig farmers, the company has a research group to study animal nutrition, animal health and food science, Mortenson said.