Sanger, Calif.-based Ballantine Produce closed in 2009 after 65 years in business.
A U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, Rasmussen took over management of the company in 1948. David Albertson purchased it in 1951 and formed a partnership with Rasmussen. Under Rasmussen’s leadership it grew to include two packinghouses, a network of growers and a worldwide market.
At the end of its run, Ballantine had volume of about 9 million cartons of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, apples and Asian pears. Besides California fruit, it imported from Chile and Mexico.
In 2005 estimated annual revenue was $12.8 million, according to Hoovers Online. Between its own land and that of other growers, Ballantine represented more than 5,000 acres of production. That same year, the company was named the agricultural business of the year by The Greater Fresno Area Chamber of Commerce.
The company was named for a brand of beer. Ballantine Ale Co. was the third-largest brewer in 1950, and the partners thought the namesake would boost marketing.
Rasmussen also served as board director of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League from 1953 to 1954. The league honored him with its Mentor’s Award in 1992.
He was among the founding directors of the Ag One Foundation to benefit the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno. In 2005 Rasmussen was an Ag One Community Salute honoree.
Memorial donations can be sent to Ag One Foundation-CSUF, Virgil E. Rasmussen Scholarship Endowment, 2910 E. Barstow, M/S OF115, Fresno, Calif. 93740; or to Hinds Hospice, 1616 W. Shaw Ave., Suite A-5, Fresno, Calif., 93711.
Survivors include his children, Craig Rasmussen, Kristi Rasmussen and Lisa Rasmussen; daughter-in-law Judy Rasmussen; 11 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.