Russ and Kathy Zenner
East of Genesee, Idaho in the Southeast corner of the "Palouse Region" about 100 miles South of Spokane, WA near the WA/ID border.
Part of our farm includes the first ground my grandfather J Peter Zenner had the opportunity to buy in 1935 after immigrating from Luxembourg in 1909 and renting farmland first near Colton, WA then Uniontown, WA followed by the opportunity to purchase farmland near Genesee, ID. Kathy and I decided to join the family business in 1970 and have been sole proprietors of this farm since 1993 and are currently in the process of transitioning our farm to the 4th generation of the Zenner family to carry on the food production tradition. In July of 2003 we became the first farm in the State of Idaho to become Food Alliance certified.
My interest in reducing tillage on our farm started in the late 1970's and progressed to a 100% direct seed cropping system in 2000 based on my belief that the conventional tillage systems that had predominated food production in this region of highly erodible soils and very steep terrain was not going to be sustainable as organic matter of our soils declined and erosion of our topsoil into streams and rivers would have a significant negative impact on soil productivity and water quality. With direct seeding we are able to improve soil organic matter, nearly eliminate erosion, and are continually looking at methods to soften the man made chemistry we are using and to improve the nutrient density of the foods we produce.
I shared the vision of Karl and Fred to look at value added opportunities in the food business based on the environmental benefit of the production system. The Shepherd's Grain business model was a very good fit for the business goals of our family.
The most satisfying outcome for me as a Shepherd's Grain grower has been the opportunity to share the passion for sustainable food production with all the players in our food chain. This starts with the opportunity to communicate directly with the educated consumer that is driving the entire process and then working back toward the farm through the many food service providers, bakers, retail grocery decision makers, food distribution and wheat milling personnel, and many others that recognize the importance of the success of this endeavor. As we all learn the implications of informed food buying decisions and share our knowledge and passion to fulfill that demand we can continually improve the ability to provide food in a sustainable manner by sharing knowledge through these relationships.