Kelly Nieuwenhuis

Kelly Nieuwenhuis – O’Brien County

“A producer. An agronomist. A meteorologist. A financial person. We’ve got a lot of jobs wrapped into one being in the farming industry. I guess that’s one of the reasons I like it, every day is a new challenge.”

Kelly Nieuwenhuis has been farming since the day he was born, quite literally! His parents began their farming operation the year he was born and the family never looked back. For a rural farm kid in Iowa, Kelly’s childhood was pretty standard. Kelly found joy in raising livestock, which he continued to do all throughout his childhood and teenage years. In exchange for successfully completing farm chores on a daily basis, Kelly’s father would provide feed for the livestock.

Kelly’s father successfully farmed for 60 years before passing away in 2019, just after harvesting his 60th crop, but what continues to live on, is the passion and work ethic he instilled in Kelly, his three brothers and their sister. Kelly’s father wasn’t the greatest at sharing his feelings, so after his passing, Kelly’s mother shared with the family why their father never wanted to farm with them. Although their father was incredibly proud of them all, he wanted the five of them to either succeed or fail on their own and never wanted anyone to say that it was simply handed to them. When Kelly and his siblings were ready to start farming on their own, he encouraged them and sent them on their way with a big, “good luck!”

In 1980, Kelly married his wife, Luanne and three short years later they went to a farm sale where they bought their first farm that sat on 80 acres. On top of his farming operation, Kelly worked 60-hour work weeks as a blacksmith to help make ends meet. Kelly’s skill sets from welding came in handy early on in his farming operation, as he was able to build a lot of his own farming equipment. By 1989, Kelly turned his 80 acres into 400 acres and still had his full-time, off-the-farm job.

Kelly farmed alone for the better part of 1983 to 2004 with help from Luanne; however, the majority of her time after 1987 was dedicated to nurturing their four growing children. Today, Kelly and Luanne live on the acreage they bought in 2004. Kelly now has a successful Channel Seed business and farms 900 acres. In 2004 Kelly and two of his brothers decided to sell their individual equipment and go all in together to continue farming as a family, as they once did. Together as a trio, Kelly and his brothers operate 2700 acres collectively. The three plan to continue farming together until retirement.

If you were to ask Kelly, he would candidly tell you that farming has been a constant challenge. In fact, he thought about leaving the agricultural industry in 1987 for a life in banking, before talking himself into sticking it out. Ultimately, Kelly knew it was going to take a commitment to surviving the occupation and although it hasn’t been easy, he’s thankful he decided to stick with it. Kelly is passionate about the promotion side of agriculture and he plans to continue telling his story and being at the table for the big discussions, especially carbon farming.

Kelly also finds purpose in advocating for the production and use of ethanol and biofuels, which is an industry that’s growing fast. Kelly has invested in three ethanol plants and one biodiesel plant in addition to his involvement with countless ethanol committees around the state and the country. Kelly and his brothers also ship 100% of the corn they produce to ethanol plants in the hopes that ethanol and biofuels will become the standard fuel nationally and eventually, worldwide as he knows that Iowa is in prime position to produce more ethanol than virtually anywhere else in the world.

While Kelly is optimistic about the future of farming and where the ethanol industry is headed, he knows that no year, no land, no farmer is the same and that you can only control certain things – optimism being the biggest of them all.