By Madeline Schultz | December 8, 2022
Susan Kuennen is a 2022 Women Impacting Agriculture Honoree. She recently retired from her career as a staff nurse at Mayo Clinic and manages her 160-acre farm in Fayette County.
When Sue lost her husband due to an illness in 2011, she sought out and built a team of knowledgeable supporters to assist in her farm related decisions.
With an artistic flair, she established various conservation practices on her highly erodible farm. Waterways, stream buffers, edge of field buffers, rotations with alfalfa hay, and cover crops all help minimize the loss of topsoil. She continues to work on the diverse wetland complex which includes a silt pond, water retention pool, artesian springs, and a fen. She also enhanced the upland wildlife areas with hardwood tree plantings of black cherry, red oak, white oak, swap oak, and evergreens. In 2016 Sue received the Iowa Conservation Woman of the Year award. “My reward is to know that I am able to make a difference on my farm and be an example to others,” shared Sue.
This past spring, Sue participated in the Extension Annie’s Project for the third time; she also participated in 2012 and 2017. Sue says that with the constant changes in agriculture and tight margins, she needs all the helpful resources available to her. Sue feels Extension programs are very important to her and the state of Iowa as they have afforded her the opportunity to connect with like-minded women farmers and landowners who are striving to make improvements with research-based decision-making tools. Sue was elected as the Fayette County representative to the board of directors at the Norman Borlaug ISU Research farm for four years.
Sue is part of the ISU Master Gardner Programs and Clubs in Chickasaw County and Fayette County. She hosted educational garden tours on her farm for the community. Sue maintains a vineyard, an orchard of apple, cherry and plum trees, a variety of berries, herb gardens, and a large vegetable garden that provides sustenance for herself, family, and friends. Sue also donates her organic produce to the Hope Lodge in Rochester, MN.
Several varieties of willows are planted on Sue’s farm for use in making baskets. Her Plow’n Snow antler and willow basket earned Sue a solo exhibition in the Macnider Museum in 2021. Sue has been weaving baskets since 1985 and is a member of the Iowa Artists and a lifetime member of the Iowa Basket Weavers guild.
Sue was an active 4-H member. In 1972, Winneshiek County participated in a 4-H youth exchange to Highland County, Ohio. Sue maintained her bond/friendship with the family that hosted her, and three of their four daughters graduated from Iowa State. Sue often jokes that she bleeds green. She said, “4-H gave me the pledge to live my life accordingly.” Sue received the 4-H Alumni Award and 25 year 4-H Leader award for her many years of volunteer service. “My greatest joy/accomplishment is seeing the youth I worked with becoming successful in their work and life. Some have also become outstanding 4-H leaders,” added Sue.
Sue is very involved in her faith community at St. Peter’s Catholic church and served as the and Dubuque Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women executive board secretary 2014-2018.
After working in a substance abuse office for nearly 20 years, Sue attended college and graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree in 2000 at the age of 46 and began her career at Mayo Clinic. She earned her Master of Science in Nursing with a Specialization in Education in 2006. She continues to teach at the Northeast Iowa Community College.