Joy Nelson is the beating heart of Joy Ranch, both the non-profit organization and the acreage itself. It all started in 1989 when she purchased the land and started work on her vision: a place where folks of all ages and abilities could ride horses, follow trails, enjoy a lake, and explore a beautiful wilderness.
Over time, Joy continued her vision with the addition of more buildings. In 1997, Joy purchased a vintage, fully-restored one room schoolhouse from a local farmer. To this day, public school groups visit the school every year. In 2000, Joy purchased a beautiful old church and moved it from Erwin, SD. Restored in the years that followed, the church is still visited by some of the Erwin locals. A barn and granary were moved to the ranch. In 2012, work was finished on the sprawling 1880’s town addition, designed to be a unique historical attraction.
Through it all, Joy made sure the ranch would be accessible to all ages and abilities, even working with an architect to ensure it.