WROF Establishes Renk Legacy Award

February 20, 2018 by Marcy Heim | No Comments

MADISON, Wis. (February 20, 2018) – In recognition of the Renk Family’s extraordinary service to rural Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. (WROF) established the Renk Legacy Award.

Based on Sun Prairie-based Renk family members’ leadership of WROF and many contributions to advancing education that addresses the evolving needs of rural Wisconsin, the award will be given at board discretion.

In a resolution inaugurating the award, the WROF board noted the Renk family’s history in Wisconsin agriculture, innovation, forward thinking and efforts to establish and grow WROF.

WROF was established as the Wisconsin Rural Rehabilitation Corporation in 1934 by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Its purpose then was to purchase FHA guaranteed farm loans to stimulate the agricultural economy following the Great Depression.

During the decades that followed, it evolved into today’s Foundation supporting educational opportunities for rural Wisconsin citizens at a variety of educational institutions throughout the State of Wisconsin.

With the leadership of Walter Renk in the 1970s, the organization that is today WROF moved to invest more in the people who were striving to rekindle and expand a vibrant agricultural enterprise and a prosperous rural Wisconsin. It launched a comprehensive educational support program, providing scholarships and loans that are administered through several Wisconsin schools of higher education.

In the 1990s, with Richard Renk’s leadership, the organization updated its name to the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. to more properly reflect its expanded scope and service.

In response to an interest from individuals and corporations to invest and expand the organization’s work, the Wisconsin Rural Opportunities Foundation, Inc. converted from a 501(c)(4) into a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation, so it could accept tax-deductible gifts and contributions.

The Renk family has called Wisconsin home since 1836 when Joseph and Katherina Renk came here to farm after leaving Germany. Over the years the farm slowly grew and in 1936 the farm under the ownership of William, Joseph’s grandson, and William’s two sons Walter and Wilbur, became the first family farm to incorporate in the U.S.

The Renk Seed Company has at one time or another raised sheep, hogs, dairy, and beef in addition to selling corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, alfalfa and grasses. Renk Seed still farms to this day producing the vast majority of what it sells.

The Renk farm had the first silo erected in Dane County in 1898, had one of the first tile drainage systems installed in Wisconsin in 1916 and had the first dairy herd to go on DHIA in Wisconsin. When universities started to advocate hybrid corn in the 1930s, Renk Seed was in the forefront, growing and selling hybrid seed corn — the cornerstone of its business today.

Renk Seed did groundbreaking work on narrow-row corn in the late 1960s. The Renk farm was one of the first to adopt no-till in its area. The seed company was one of the first to offer Farm Plan, first to use a robotic palletizer and first to offer radar-in-motion and commodity markets on its website.

William Renk helped set up the Production Credit Association in Wisconsin and Michigan. Wilbur Renk was one of the founding members of the World Dairy Expo. Walter and Richard Renk were instrumental in starting the UW-Madison Veterinary School and started an agriculture business degree at the UW.

“The Renk Family has been committed to making rural Wisconsin stronger through education for many years,” noted Carol Ward Knox, president of the WROF board. “It’s an honor to recognize their many contributions with this award.”

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