The Renk Agribusiness Institute was established during the 1996-97 academic year with an endowment from the Walter and Martha Renk and Richard and Sharon Renk families of Sun Prairie, WI. The purpose of the Renk Agribusiness Institute is to manage and coordinate agribusiness teaching, research, and extension/outreach at the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the School of Business and UW Extension, and to serve as a focal point for scholarly activity relating to agribusiness on the UW-Madison campus.
The Institute is currently housed in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Renk Agribusiness Institute originated with a gift from the Renk Family of the Renk Seed Company located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Renk Seed took root when Joseph and Katherina Renk came to Wisconsin in 1846 to farm after leaving Germany. The Renk family along with the Renk Seed Company has always been very innovative and forward-thinking, erecting the first silo in the county in 1898 and one of the first in Wisconsin to install a tile drainage system in 1916. They also had the first dairy herd to go on the DHIA in Wisconsin.
In 1936 their grandson, William, and his two sons, Walter and Wilber, incorporated the first family farm in the U.S. as William F. Renk and Sons. Robert, another son, joined the company later. During the early 1930’s, when universities were realizing the benefits of hybrid corn, the Renk Seed company was in the forefront. Growing and selling hybrid seed corn continues as the cornerstone of the business today as with the addition of soybeans and alfalfa. Today, the company is run by three of their grandsons, Jeff, Alex and Brett. Jeff is the sales director and corn manger, Alex heads soybean and alfalfa production and administration, and Brett is the overall production manager.
Their fathers grew the Renk Seed business throughout the transition from a major livestock farm while incorporating modern farming and seed technology. William Renk helped set up the Production Credit Association in Wisconsin and Michigan, Wilber Renk was one of the founding members for the World Dairy Expo, and Walter and Richard Renk were instrumental in starting the UW-Madison’s Veterinary school and setting up an agricultural business degree at UW-Madison. Today the Renk Seed Company is the only one that is still thriving as an independent, family-owned farm seed company.
The Renk Agribusiness Institute is pleased to announce its current Advisory Board:
- Tom Bressner – Executive Director, Wisconsin Agribusiness Association, Madison, WI
- Nick George – President, Midwest Food Products Association, Madison, WI
- John Umhoefer – Executive Director, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Madison, WI
- Jeff Renk – President and Sales Manager, Renk Seed Company, Sun Prairie, WI
- AAE Department Chair (ex officio) — Jeremy Foltz – Professor, Ag & Applied Economics, UW-Madison