Industry loses two pioneers
April 14, 2005
Max Campbell passes away
Max Campbell, 88, founder and long-time owner of Valley Bean Co., Oslo, Minn.,
has passed away.
Campbell is credited with helping start the commercial dry bean industry in North
Dakota and Minnesota.
According to a history of the dry edible beans in the Red River Valley written by
Rod Armour, former manager of Agri Sales, Olivia, Minn., there was some commercial
production of navy and great northern beans in Minnesota during World War II, but
it ended shortly after the war.
"In 1952, when Campbell was traveling through Wyoming he came across a truck
load of pinto beans at a processing plant," Armour writes. Because of his curiosity,
Max stopped to discuss this strange looking crop with its growers and bean plant
manager. Max got so carried away with the potential of this crop that he spent a
week talking to growers on how to grow the pinto beans and potential profit and
the marketing of this crop.
"It wasn't until 1960 that Max grew his first pintos. Not having a market closely
by, he loaded them on a truck and struck out for Fairview, Mont."
"In 1961, knowing that the valley needed an additional cash crop and a place
close by the market this strange crop, Max proceeded to form Valley Bean
Association and built his first plant in Oslo, Minn."
With success in hand and the desire of farmers to grow pinto beans, Max built his
second plant at Cavalier, N.D., in 1962. Later this plant was sold to Valley Bean
Company. Max's son, Dan, continues to operate the Oslo plant.
Captain Ken dies
Baked bean entrepreneur "Captain Ken" Freiberg has died. The St. Paul, Minn. fire
captain, who turned his firehouse baked bean recipe into a commercial label, died Feb.
1 at the age of 91.
Though he sold his company to employees in the late 1980s, Freiberg continued to
cook beans. His wife Minna told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that as recently as three
years ago, he took a 100-pound bag of dry beans along to their Texas home in the
winter so he could cook for friends.
"Once every couple of weeks he'd say, "I am cooking beans tomorrow," and he'd
give it away," she said. "He'd make the rounds of his friends down there."