ADawn and Travis Nelson own T and A Farms in rural Thief River Falls. Here, they are pictured with Alice, a recent addition to their menagerie of animals.

by April Scheinoha
Arriving at T and A Farms in rural Thief River Falls, one can’t help feeling welcomed. There are numerous welcome signs and the welcoming committee, Chex and Donald. That is unless the two dogs are having a fit of love that only two brothers can express with one another.
Travis and ADawn Nelson started T and A Farms four years ago. The couple met online even though they lived four miles apart at the time. ADawn recalled learning they both knew the same neighbor. She called the man to verify Travis wasn’t scamming her. Obviously, he wasn’t.
Travis recalled meeting ADawn earlier at Carpenter’s Corner. Separately, they had gone there for pizza. ADawn doesn’t recall that encounter.
Both were farming at the time. Before long, they merged their lives and farms.
Travis has farmed his whole life. “It’s in my blood. I enjoy it,” he said.
ADawn has dabbled in farming over the years – raising horses and 4-H project animals.
Both also work full-time in ag-related areas outside of the confines of their property. Travis works full-time as a foreman at Goodwin Farms in Angus. He also repairs trucks, tractors and vehicles as part of his repair business at their home. Travis also does welding repairs and Department of Transportation inspections. ADawn works as an ag program manager and instructor at Northland Community and Technical College.
The couple grows 220 to 260 acres of hay on owned and leased property each year. Sometimes, they plant oats as a cover crop. The majority of the hay is sold to customers feeding horses, goats, cattle and deer. The couple sells the hay in round bales and small square bales.
Many animals live at T and A Farms. During a recent visit, it seemed like most of the female animals were pregnant or had just given birth.
The menagerie includes 24 cow-calf pairs and a bull. The cattle are a Hereford-Angus cross-breed. The calves are sold once they reach 700 to 750 pounds.
Then there are the two show pigs. Three more are on their way. ADawn referred to an epic six-month battle with the boar, who may take up residence elsewhere.
There are also seven sheep, eight lambs and six meat goats. The couple sells the sheep, lambs and goats.
Six chickens and three guinea hens also call T and A Farms home. Travis said the chickens serve as the grounds crew, keeping the wood tick population low. They also dig up ADawn’s flowers, much to her dismay.
Let’s not forget the seven cats. Then there are Chex and Donald, too. ADawn holds the naming rights to the animals. However, Chex arrived at the Nelson home with his name.
ADawn also plans to buy a horse. “I’m constantly looking,” she said. “It’s like looking for cars for some people.”
ADawn has raised horses over the years. They have since gone on to greener pastures, and she has decided now is the time to buy another show horse.
Travis and ADawn enjoy working on the farm together and miss it when they have to go back to their normal weekly routines.
“We’re in sync,” said ADawn. “We don’t even have to talk.”
Haying may also make the heart grow fonder. “She hardly sees me during haying season, and I think she enjoys that,” Travis said.
ADawn is also part of the haying process. Travis said she becomes mad if he doesn’t allow her to operate the round baler. The reason: ADawn listens to books on tape while baling hay.
Sometimes, problems ensue with the round baler. ADawn then texts a photo of the problem area to the “guru of fixing.” Travis will tell her what she needs to do. Other times, he will say, “Don’t move. Don’t touch anything.” Before long, he arrives at the scene to fix the problem.
ADawn’s 13-year-old son, Blake Melbye, also assists at the farm when he can. His mom arrived at a farm field this past summer to see Blake driving a semi in the field. His stepdad taught him how to drive it. ADawn was shocked.
Travis’ sons, Dillan and Treston, also work on farms. Dillan occasionally helps at T and A Farms when needed.
The Nelsons’ farming lifestyle has obviously had an influence on their children. They also help increase agricultural literacy in the area. They noted their farm is open to anyone who has an interest in any aspect of farming. ADawn noted that kids don’t know if they like something if they don’t have an opportunity to try it.

It’s lambing season at T and A Farms in rural Thief River Falls. These lambs recently joined the crew at the farm. (Submitted)
This curious calf decided to investigate a photographer and her plans during a recent visit at T and A Farms in rural Thief River Falls. The farm is home to 24 cow-calf pairs and a bull.