Sue Kuennen grew up on a Decorah, Iowa, dairy farm. After her parents’ divorce, she stayed home for a year after high school to help farm. As her life evolved, she moved into city life. Following her marriage and two children, she worked at a substance abuse agency for nearly 20 years before enrolling in college. Fast forward to her children’s college graduation, and her divorce. Sue earned her BSN at age 46, and worked at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for 22 years. Her goal was working until age 70, or until her car turned over 500K. But farming was calling her!

At the age of 56, Sue and her soon-to-be husband purchased their first farm. Less than two years later, she lost him to cancer. As she prepared to manage the 160-acre farm and its debt alone, she participated in Annie’s Project. With help and guidance from the NRCS, FSA, WLL, her banker, ISU and others, she began making improvements to her highly erodible farm. In 2016, Sue received the Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year Award. One of her neighbors nearing retirement noticed her stewardship, and approached her with a contract to purchase his 160 acres. Last June, she bought it.

Sue completed a Master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in education, and just for fun became an ISU Master Gardener in the same year. She also is an ISU Master Conservationist. She’s a lifetime member of several organizations, two garden clubs, the Iowa Basket Weavers Guild, and the Iowa Artists. She donates organic garden produce to the Hope Lodge in Rochester, Minnesota; and antler baskets to Pheasants Forever chapters in Fayette and Winneshiek Counties. She received Best of Show at the 2023 Iowa State Fair, and the highest award for 3D art at the Iowa Artists State Show.

Sue jokes that she bleeds green, but not because of farm machinery. She’s received the 4-H Alumni Award and 25-Year 4-H Leader Award. Sue has served as Fayette County representative to the Norman Borlaug ISU Research Farm board. In 2022, she was selected as a Stewardship Ambassador for the Women, Food and Ag Network.

Sue also is involved in her faith community at St. Peter Catholic church. Her biggest joy is being a grandmother and great-grandmother!

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