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Board Member Spotlight: Ken Rau


One doesn’t really hear of having many firsts in life when you’re 46 years old, but Ken Rau will be having a few of them this year.

Since he was five years old and farming with his toy tractors in freshly turned soil, Rau dreamed of farming his family’s land.

“I love the dirt; just the smell of it has always stuck with me,” Rau said. “Farming is all I’ve ever wanted to do, taking care of the land and leaving it in better shape than when I got it.”

Rau’s dad gave him a 60-acre field to farm when he was 18 years old, and over the years he rented additional non-family acres. But this year will be the first he will farm all of the land that his father had.

“This means everything to me,” Rau said. “My whole life has been about taking over the family farm. It’s been my goal since day one.”

Rau and his wife, Lana, work together on the farm with their kids: Lane, 24; Tate, 19; and Madison, 16. Both boys are interested in coming back to farm, and his daughter and wife are active in rodeo barrel racing.

Another first for Rau is that he will plant soybeans this year as a new addition to his line-up of corn, sunflowers and wheat. New technologies and advanced seed varieties have made soybeans a viable new crop in the McLaughlin region where he operates his no-till farm.

Rau’s diversified operation also includes a 125-cow herd that he partners on with his sons, as well as custom trucking, spraying and combining businesses.

The third first for Rau this year is being elected to fill his father’s seat on the Wheat Growers Board of Directors, after his dad had held it for 15 years.

“To be able to take over for him is an honor. I felt fortunate to be voted in,” Rau said.

Joining the Wheat Growers board isn’t Rau’s first interaction with the cooperative. He worked for Wheat Growers for five years as a grain grader and also utilizes their agronomy, marketing and grain receiving services.

While he was very familiar with Wheat Growers as an employee and customer, he has been exposed to even more capabilities as a board member.

“I have been amazed at all of the things Wheat Growers covers and what they’ve accomplished,” Rau said. “Everyone on that board is visionary, and learning from forward-thinkers will help me be competitive in the future.”

One of Rau’s goals on the board is to encourage the cooperative to expand to the west.

“Farmers are driving to the McLaughlin location from 120 miles away. If Wheat Growers expands their territory, we could serve more customers,” Rau said.

Rau was an accomplished athlete, starting competitive swimming at the age of 5. In high school his McLaughlin swim team won a state title against schools with student populations larger than their entire town. He was also a running back in football, played basketball and ran track. Rau has been pacing his farming goals to reach the finish line of farming his family’s land, and, in many ways, Rau is taking the baton from his dad this year, from his Wheat Growers board position to the farming operation.

“I’m continuing my dad’s work,” Rau said. “My dad has meant the world to me, and, just like the saying goes, he gets smarter every year.”