Rod Nilsestuen was a farm boy who grew up to be a tireless advocate for farmers, a passionate believer in farmland preservation, a dedicated volunteer and a results-oriented public servant. But more than that, he was a visionary leader who championed innovative cooperative development and left an indelible mark on the cooperative movement a well as Midwestern agriculture.
His legacy tells a story of state, regional and national accomplishments:
- Served as Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, providing leadership to create the Dairy Innovation Center, among numerous other achievements.
- Led the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives for 24 years, building it into one of the nations most respected cooperative trade associations.
- Directed efforts to establish the Working Lands Initiative, which helps preserve Wisconsin’s best farmland, promotes wise use of rural land and protects land and water resources.
- Encouraged investment in a “green and growing” renewable energy future that benefits rural communities.
- Established the Cooperative Network, a two-state alliance between the Wisconsin Federation of Cooperatives and Minnesota.
- Was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Rod Nilsestuen Fund
To commemorate the achievements of this cooperative champion and to sustain his legacy, the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, with the encouragement and support of his family, friends and colleagues in the cooperative and conservation communities, has established the Rod Nilsestuen Fund.
The Funds purpose is to sponsor programming that advances forward thinking, research, education and outreach in cooperative business, development, wise rural use and leadership.