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Russ and Kathy Zenner

Bumper crops and healthy prices for wheat have allowed Genesee farmers Russ and Kathy Zenner to give back generously to the University of Idaho through the Gifts of Grain program. Their donation of wheat supports the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Cereal Research Enhancement Fund. 

The Zenners gifted 1,000 bushels of wheat to the program, bringing in $7,507.64 to support agricultural research at the University. Russ, a 1968 agricultural economics graduate, noted that the timing was right for this gift to the University. He is getting close to retirement, and his farm has received “a lot of benefit” through the years from University research efforts.

“We’re at that stage of our career where we’ve had success, and we’re very blessed to have this opportunity,” Zenner said. “We decided it’s time to give back and further the opportunity for the next generation.” 

After graduating from UI, Russ went to work for Farm Credit Services before returning to the multi-family farm near Genesee established by his grandfather in 1936. 

“My ultimate goal was to be a farmer,” Zenner said. “I wanted to get a degree in an ag-related field. I thought it was a very good background degree for what I ended up doing.”

In addition to farming, Russ has been involved in efforts to support the best practices of the agriculture industry. He served on the Latah County Soil Conservation District and with UI’s STEEP project – the Solutions to Environmental and Economic Problems group, a decades-long, multidisciplinary effort at UI that connected directly to farmers to target the region’s alarming soil erosion rate. The project succeeded in reducing soil-erosion rates by 75 percent.

Russ hopes the family’s investment in agricultural research pays off in more graduates armed with the insight and commitment to practice sustainable farming.  

“Hopefully we can inspire a generation of food producers that are more conscious of sustainable cropping methods, are more conscious of trying to improve the health and nutrition of the food we’re producing, and lead us down that path of being able to sustainably feed the world,” Zenner said. “There’s going to be tremendous amount of pressure on the natural resources of this planet to feed that many people and do it in a sustainable manner.

Read more stories or learn how you can make a commodity gift to the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. 

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