|Cupid used technology to bring Nate Kliebenstein and Morgan Welper together. Nate and Morgan met by way of an Internet dating site, and were married on her parents’ farm near Lansing, Iowa, last September. Now they’re farming together on Nate’s 160-cow dairy near Darlington, Wis.
By Ron Johnson
DARLINGTON, Wis. - You've seen the sign: Wanted. Good woman. Must like farming and have her own cows. Please send a picture of the cows.
Nate Kliebenstein didn't resort to putting up a sign. Instead, the young dairy farmer from Darlington, Wis., found his darling by way of the Internet. He posted a brief profile and picture of himself on FarmersOnly.com.
At about the same time, Morgan Welper, way out in Ithaca, New York, posted her picture and profile on the same site. Now, 34 months later, she is Morgan Kliebenstein.
Morgan grew up on a dairy-beef farm near Lansing, Iowa. About 100 miles to the southeast, Nate was growing up on a Lafayette County dairy farm.
After high school, Nate earned a degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In 2004, he went home and rented the family farm from his parents, Ron and Jan. Over the next six years, Nate labored diligently, building the herd up from 13 cows, to 160 now.
Morgan, meanwhile, earned her degree in dairy science from Iowa State University. In 2009, she went to work for Genex/CRI as a dairy procurement specialist. The job took her far away from Iowa and Wisconsin - and seemingly, far away from any chance of ever meeting Nate.
But chance - or luck, or fate - stepped in. A friend of Morgan's was poking around on the website and showed it to Morgan. "I thought there was some potential there," she said.
The potential stayed untapped into the winter of 2010, when Morgan's employer moved her to Shawano, Wis., just west of Green Bay. That was when she reactivated her profile.
As for Nate, his mother told him about the dating website.
"I'd been single for quite a while after I started to milk cows," he said. "She started to get concerned."
Like many farm people, Nate did not have much time for dating. For Morgan, it was a different story.
"I meet a lot of people with what I do. But as far as meeting somebody local and getting involved in the community, that was really hard, because I travel so much," she said. "I did meet people, but it was such a brief interaction, and not anything you could build a relationship off of."
When she was still in New York, Morgan had very bad luck with internet dating.
"I actually ended up going on a blind date with a gentleman that tried to convince me he was the prince of Iran," she said. "I really got a sour taste in my mouth from that."
Nate had his profile on the dating site just four months when he found Morgan's profile. He described himself as the owner/operator of a dairy farm and said he was looking for someone who wouldn't turn away and run when they found out that he milked cows and work all the time.
The picture he included was of himself with Zoey, a farm employee's Border Collie.
Morgan's picture was of her hugging a Holstein show heifer she worked with at Iowa State. As for what attracted him to her profile, Nate said, "She had a pretty good description of herself. She sounded fun and easygoing and was hugging a cow."
Nate did not find Morgan's profile right away. He had his search radius set around the Madison, Wis., area. But, he eventually expanded it to a 300-mile radius, which took in Shawano, Wis., where Morgan was.
Her profile stated that she traveled a lot for work, that she liked to sleep late and she wanted to marry a farmer, Nate said, laughing.
"I put in that I tend to park crooked and sleep too much and sing along to annoying '80s power ballads," Morgan said. "But deep down, I saw myself marrying a farmer and having a whole passel of kids and baking apple pies and wanting to live the rural life-style."
In April of 2010, Nate took the initiative and e-mailed Morgan.
"It was the first time I'd ever noticed his profile, because I wasn't looking far enough away," she said. "I didn't have internet in my apartment, so to check my e-mails or do anything on this website, I had to take my laptop and go sit in my car in the parking lot of the Super 8 hotel in town."
Nate and Morgan e-mailed back and forth for 10 days, and then he asked if he could telephone her. "That led to conversations that lasted hours at a time, every other day," Morgan said. Right after finishing milking at 7:30 p.m., they learned more about each other.
By May 1, it was time for that all-important first date. Morgan visited her parents at their farm, then drove to see Nate at Darlington. After a tour of the place, it was time for the traditional dinner and a movie.
"The farm was everything I expected it to be," said Morgan. "He had sent me some pictures."
Nate said, "She was everything she said she was - a lot of fun, very easygoing, very pretty. I was very impressed. She didn't even ask for any directions to get to the place. She just found it all by herself. I was impressed when she showed up."
But, that first date did not come off without a hitch. Nate came down with a bout of food poisoning.
After a couple of months of dating - and Morgan driving an hour-and-a-half to visit Nate - they each got to musing, this might be the one.
Nate drove to Shawano once, and Morgan drove to Darlington every weekend for nearly two-and-a-half years. She estimated that all that driving worked out to "21 days nonstop."
During that time, people who visited Nate's farm began noticing differences. Potted plants and flowers were there, and the smell of cooking. Had to be a woman's touch.
Nate gradually met Morgan's dad and mom, Rick and Carol Welper. Morgan refrained from telling many people about her farmer boyfriend.
"A couple of years ago, people were really skeptical about the Internet," Morgan said. "I didn't want my family to not trust Nate just because I met him online."
There was a certain stigma about needing to turn to the internet to get a date, too.
"I guess at first I was a little ashamed of the fact that I could not meet anybody (naturally)," Morgan said. "But then, when I thought of all the times I'd met somebody at a bar or a party in college, you know, they were really just up to no good anyway. People only have one thing in mind when they go to a bar, looking to meet somebody."
Nate had a different take on internet dating. He said, "I just never went anywhere. So I figured it was worth a try, and I got good support from my family and friends. I think you need to go into it with an open mind and take it as it comes."
Fast-forward to Nov. 19, 2011. That's when Nate popped the question.
Nate waited longer than he might have wanted, partly because he was accumulating money for an important part of his proposal. Morgan said, "A lot of cull cows went into that ring."
Sept. 8, 2012 turned out to be a beautiful, beautiful day with a blue sky, according to Morgan. Nate and she were married in a hay field on her parents' Iowa farm. The wedding party posed for photographs in front of a barn and silo. Some 170 guests witnessed the ceremony, while 300 danced and toasted at the reception.
Nate, being a practical farmer, had it written into their vows that she would not only love and honor him, but that she would also cook. He said, "I was living on frozen food. She was a really good cook, and it was going to be nice to be fed all the time."
Now, 17 months later, how is married life treating them?
Morgan said, "It's nice that we get to see so much of each other. It's nice that we get to work alongside each other as a team."
Nate said, "It's magical."
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