In Memory

Robert Bignami VIEW PROFILE

Robert Ralph Bignami, 79, passed away on August 30, 2022, from cancer. Bob was born on February 17th, 1943 in Oakland, California. He grew up in Lafayette, California, and graduated from Acalanes High School in 1961. From an early age, he visited his aunt and uncle’s dairy farm where he developed a love of Jersey cattle. Bob began showing Jersey cows in 1957 at the Tehama County Fair and later traveled by boxcar throughout the country exhibiting at fairs and shows. After high school, Bob studied Dairy Science at Chico State University and later continued further studies in genetics at UC Davis. Bob met and married his wife, Pamela, in San Francisco and they celebrated 53 years of marriage this year.

After working for Borden and Wolfe Dairies, Bob and Pam purchased his aunt and uncle’s dairy herd and they began what would eventually become Brentwood Farms. In 1974 he began a partnership with Harlan Askeland, which along with their combined Jersey herds included their shared passion for training racehorses. Bob loved to farm and he grew everything from roses to corn and alfalfa. He was extremely proud of his corn crop this year and declared it the best he had ever grown.

Along with Richard Clauss and Phil Nyberg, he explored the possibility of cheese pricing for Jersey cattle which revolutionized the industry. This prompted him to build Jerseyland Cheese in 1983, a diversified farming, dairy, and cheese manufacturing company that produced over 15,000,000 lbs. of cheese yearly. This initiated cheese yield pricing which spread worldwide and has generated over a billion dollars in income for dairy farmers.

Bob sold the cheese plant in 1986 and returned to his aunt and uncle’s original dairy where he began a cheese marketing company, Western Dairy Services. In 1995, Land O’ Lakes, Inc. purchased Jerseyland Cheese and he became involved in the cooperative leadership of the company. In 1998 he was elected Chairman of the Policy and Resolutions Committee and later to the Board of Directors of Land O’ Lakes, Inc. He also worked with legislators in both political parties to benefit the dairy industry.

Brentwood Farms is recognized as a world leader in Jersey cow genetics. In 2007, Bob and his partner, Harlan Askeland, received the Master Breeder Award given by the American Jersey Cattle Association Board of Directors. This reflected their success in breeding Jersey cattle over five decades, including achieving the #1 ranked JPI males and females, High Herd Production awards, All-American show winners, and over 100 sires in A.I. In 2011 Bob was elected President of the American Jersey Cattle Association. He was also the catalyst and initial donor for the Jersey Youth Academy which educates and prepares high school and college students for a career in the Jersey dairy business.

Bob was a man of many talents. Once a hobby was discovered, he would pursue it and study it until it was mastered. He loved vehicles and could drive anything including airplanes, motorcycles, sailboats, and semi-trucks. He loved taking his dog, Reddy, for rides in his pickup. Music was a lifelong love. He began building stereo systems in high school and taught himself how to play the piano later in life. Bob was playing his favorite classical music pieces up until his final days.

An early advocate of computer technology, he taught himself how to program computers in the early 80s and created software that he used in the cheese and dairy industry. Bob was an expert Ham radio operator as well as an amateur photographer. He loved athletics and was an avid runner, golfer, softball player, and cyclist. At 71 years of age, he fulfilled a lifelong dream and climbed both Galibier and Alpe d’Huez on his road bike, tracing two of the pinnacle climbs of the Tour de France. He was a staunch supporter of the San Francisco Giants, the Golden State Warriors, and the San Francisco 49ers.

Bob is survived by his wife, Pamela, a sister, Carolyn, a brother, Gary, four daughters, Wendy, Cheryl (David), Laurie, Alane (Michael), and 5 adored grandchildren. The family will have a private celebration of life.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Jersey Youth Academy (In Memory of Bob Bignami) 6486 East Main St. Reynoldsburg, OH 43068

Click here to see Robert's last Profile entry.