Stennie Nelson

Stennie Nelson

Tuuli Farm | Turin, Iowa

NelsonWhy do you want to farm?

I love tangible outside work, with hands-on results that I can eat, wear, share – and being involved in the seasons, the processes of seeds and birth, compost and death, in connection and relationship with these processes. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of food and fiber production that are beneficial to biodiversity and wildlife habitat.

What are you farming right now?  

I’m raising sheep for friendship, fiber and grass-fed meat – paradoxical, though not mutually exclusive. The wool is processed into yarn in small batches so that each sheep’s individual color and character can be showcased in their own yarn.   White sheep fleeces are batched by family for spinning, and then hand-dyed using plants I’ve grown or foraged, including Japanese indigo, marigold, goldenrod and madder. Meat is sold by the whole and half lamb. In summer 2021, I also had a small seed contract with Seed Savers Exchange.

What’s your vision for your farm?

My vision is to live and farm at a scale and pace that encourages appreciation for and celebration of the relationships among the land, plants, animals and people. With a goal of comfortable profitability, the finely crafted fiber products and nourishing grass-fed meat production aspects of the farm are balanced with the re-establishment of prairie and savanna ecosystems.   I manage the grazing rotations to encourage the thriving biodiversity of this land and for the local wildlife. Future enterprises may include vegetable and prairie seed production, agritourism and ecotourism opportunities and the addition of cows for grass-fed beef and/or value-added dairy.

Why do you want to participate in this program?

This program will provide me with the framework and guidance to tackle the business planning that I need to do. I’ve given myself these first two years to grow slowly and try things out – get a feel for managing the sheep for yarn and meat. Now I need to make a plan for economic viability. I’m also looking forward to connecting with other beginning farmers, as well as learning from those with more experience.