In Memoriam: Garit Tenpas

Garit Tenpas, who served for 25 years as superintendent of the UW-Madison’s Ashland research station and for another 10 years as superintendent at the Marshfield station, died Friday, Feb. 1, 2008. He was 84.

Tenpas was hired as superintendent at the Ashland station in 1950 and remained there until 1975 when he moved to Marshfield. He was also on the faculty of the UW-Madison Department of Agronomy. He retired in 1985.

He was well known in agricultural circles throughout northern Wisconsin for research and extension work that helped farmers cope with the challenges of producing milk in an area that was less than ideal for dairying.

“He really put the Ashland station on the map,” recalls Dale Schlough, who served as assistant to Tenpas at Ashland and succeeded him as superintendent.

“The Ashland dairy herd was usually ranked in the top five in the state both for milk production and butterfat. It was amazing to have that happen that far north, under those conditions,” says Schlough.

Tenpas was an expert on grass fertilization, grass management and forage production and was often invited to speak those topics at farm meetings. He also authored many articles, which appeared in scientific journals, university publications and agricultural magazines.

He was a strong promoter of planting birdsfoot trefoil as an alternative to alfalfa or red clover, because it performed better in the acid, poorly drained soils found in many parts of northern Wisconsin. He was also part of a multistate team that encouraged farmers to keep their bull calves to raise as dairy steers as a source of extra income.

Tenpas is survived by his wife, Harriet of Washburn; four children: Howard “Skip” (Alexis) Tenpas of Nekoosa, Paula (Joseph) Johnson of Manitowoc, Tammie (Michael) Baker of Fort Worth, Texas, and Margaret (Russell) Hintze of Menasha; 10 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; sister Joyce Johnson of Kiel; brother-in-law Robert Johnson of Ashland; sister-in-law Alice Johnson of Ashland; and nieces and nephews.