Tina & Orion

“This work changes
the relationship of
humans to the land.”

After 10 days of unrelenting triple digit heat in central Texas, an unexpected gift arrived from Mother Nature in the form of a heaping basket of clouds that set loose the summer rainfall the land had been yearning for. Over the course of the next few hours we would spend wayfaring through Luck Ranch, the 500 acre ranch of Willie and Annie Nelson, it was immediately clear this land had a story and something remarkable was astir.
TerraPurezza, Luck Ranch

Spicewood, Texas





With boots deep in the mud and the sweet serenade of pigs snorting around us, where we stood was the product of the deeply seeded vision of Orion and Tina Weldon, a vibrant husband and wife team combining traditional regenerative agriculture techniques with modern technology systems to regenerate soils and build a more vibrant foundation for nutritionally-dense food with a goal of empowering others to do the same.

They are kind of like Chip and Joanna Gaines of Magnolia, except instead of flipping houses, they flip soil. They met in graduate school at Rutgers University and if you can believe it – regenerative agriculture was the reason they fell in love. Orion recounts it like it was yesterday…

And so their journey to start a regenerative farm began. But with land prices out of reach, their entrepreneurial muscles were put to work to create a business model to allow them to do the work they wanted to do – connecting people to the soil with regenerative land use – without having to own their own land or give up a significant portion of their business to a funder.

Not only did they start out without financial support, they were $38,000 in debt. Then an unexpected move back home to care for Orion’s Dad derailed their plans to move abroad to Turin, Italy where the slow food movement began. This left Tina holding down two jobs as a waitress and cashier at Whole Foods and Orion was collecting unemployment while caring for his Dad. So they found the silver lining in the haystack of obstacles and started to use the 5 acre as testing ground in Spicewood Texas.

“We decided to ‘test’ our hands at regenerative practices while living there and opportunities started cropping up: first a partnership with Apis Restaurant & Apiary, then Whole Foods for food waste collection to feed our animals, and then Barton Springs Mill to make them a zero waste facility. It soon became clear that the Hill Country is where we needed to be, in terms of the most land regeneration potential and business opportunity.”

Every decision they’ve made, since day one, isn’t just a choice, it’s a challenge to stay true to their guiding principles centered around in-field research to ensure their results are data-driven and replicable.

Like a clock that never stopped ticking, it’s this dedication and persistence that caught the eye of Annie Nelson, Willie Nelson’s wife, and ultimately became the opportunity of a lifetime – to regenerate 500 acres on Luck Ranch in the heart of Spicewood, Texas. Annie frequented the Pedernales Farmer’s Market (co-founded by Orion and Tina), watching and learning how they operate. After four years of seeing how driven they were to create a regenerative system within the community, and more importantly, how they were doing the work, day in and day out, year after year, she was convinced and invited Tina and Orion to the ranch where they sat down at a picnic table and invited them to apply their mastery to their ranch.

As we walked through the first segment of the ranch slated to be regenerated, you could see the cyanobacterial layer that happens when you get surface sealing of the soil. When you get surface sealing, you don’t get effective water infiltration so the rainfall dancing around us hit the ground and you could see the instant run off. The signs of degraded land were all around us, but so was the hope for a regenerative solution.

“Every aspect of agriculture can be done better.” 

Orion shared what makes their approach different is that they view every aspect and impact of their operation with regeneration in mind.

Here’s what that looks like in a typical day:

Every single day Orion is up and at ‘em spending nearly five hours on the roads of Austin in an electric vehicle picking up food waste from four local Whole Foods locations that cannot be donated and would otherwise be left disposed of to off-gas methane.

That “food waste” is hauled to the two ranch properties the Weldon’s are regenerating, including Luck Ranch, which gets fed to the heritage breed pigs whose work is to break the soil’s hard surface improving the soil’s permeability encouraging the regrowth of natural vegetation and making way for sowing native grassland seeds. The unknown seed banks that exist deep below the land’s surface, just waiting to be restored over the course of this regenerative project is thrilling.

The land at Luck Ranch, like many parts of central Texas, are not suitable for growing vegetables to do the compaction and desertification due to years of overgrazing. This is why heritage breed pigs, which thrive in open space to roam free, forage their own food and are intrinsically made to withstand the heat were brought in, opposed to conventional farming where specific breeds are used to withstand faster growth rates and smaller spaces.

The Weldon’s have a completely mobile operation which they can apply to multiple properties, pigs included, with little upfront cost and infrastructure. They can take their entire production on the road and apply these techniques on multiple plots of land. They want to show other people who want to get into farming that it’s possible to do even if you don’t have funding or land to start.

“We want to be able to speak to people who don’t have outside investors and not only be able to say yes, this is possible, but have a learning institute where they can learn how.”

Tina shared what she believes to be the grounding undercurrent of their success, “Sticking to our principles with every decision, and never cutting corners has been the key. We put in the hard work and time in order to ensure that we are doing everything the best possible way. We need to show that this is a financially sound approach to agriculture, however we are unwilling to compromise our practices to get there sooner or to make more money. Through this perseverance, it has paid off: people see that we are authentic and are doing what we say we are doing. This has presented numerous new partnership opportunities and access.”

The Weldon’s, and many farmers would agree, it takes a village to raise a farm. Pairing their work on the ground with the microphone of Willie Nelson and his family has astounding potential to place regenerative agriculture onto the global stage making this partnership the greatest hit of all time. The Nelson’s have supported farmers for decades including when Willie joined forces with Neil Young and John Mellencamp to organize the first FarmAid concert in 1985 to raise awareness about the loss of family farms and to raise funds to keep farm families on the land and has since supported The Farmer Suicide Hotline with revernece for the mental health of farmers.

“I’ve always believed that the most important people on the planet are the ones who plant the seeds and care for the soil where they grow.”
– Willie Nelson
The state of Luck Ranch is so fascinating because it’s just the beginning – a puzzle to assemble with an unknown potential of what the end result will be. Tina and Orion let us into their process of how they identify their approach to any piece of land they are going to regenerate.

First, they observe.

They look at the original conditions while taking into account the history of that area asking questions about what species of grass are present and find out if they are native, introduced, or invasive.

Second, they experiment.

They’ll watch to understand how the animals are impacting the earth and calculate rotation time based on weather patterns and rainfall totals. The rotation size and shape varies with available shade and if they have any new piglets on the ground.

After the first pass of pigs they seed cover crops and native grasses, and let them rest for two growing seasons. After observing how the grasses grow, they reassess. They may put the pigs through one more time or set a schedule to bring through chickens and then ruminants for maintenance.

Experience is their greatest teacher as they learn and optimize their process based on what the ecosystem is responding to and what the data confirms to be true.

One of the regenerative practices that sits at the top of Tina and Orion’s list is the restoration of native grassland habitat. Native prairies are critical because within these grasses existed habitat for many wildlife species including native and migratory birds, small and large mammals, reptiles and amphibians, insects, and invertebrates. According to the Native Prairie Association of Texas these grasses also increase water infiltration and reduce erosion–helping to slow down and absorb flood water. This also reduces sediment and pollution from runoff, and improves water quality.
“Plants are the very foundation of a terrestrial ecosystem. Native wildlife populations cannot be recovered without first restoring their home: with intentional livestock impact and native grass reintroduction, we can bring this back.”
Tina and Orion have created a fund dedicated to bringing native prairie and grasslands back to central Texas, which you can donate to here. The average price per pound for native grass seed mix is $18. At a recommended seeding rate of 10lbs/acre, that would be $180/acre or $18,000 per 100acres. Put into perspective, there are 20 million acres in the Texas Hill Country alone (of course, not all of that is grassland but it does give one an idea of sheer size and potential impact, considering how many ranches are in this area). Consider seeding their seed fund with any amount here.

Come rain or come triple digit shine, Tina and Orion have a goal and won’t stop until they’ve made a difference. Like the aged native seed beds laying dormant below the surface of the ground at Luck Ranch, just waiting to be set free, the unyielding vision of Tina and Orion is just beginning and sure to produce an abundance of knowledge, opportunity and viability within the regenerative movement.

Connect and learn more about their work here:



Donate to support their work and native seed fund: www.patreon.com/terrapurezza

Farmer’s Markets:

Pedernales Farmer’s Market
Sundays 10-2pm at Apis Restaurant & Apiary, 23526 TX-71, Spicewood, Texas

Dripping Springs Farmer’s Market
Veterans Memorial Park – Hwy 290 & RR 12
Dripping Springs, Texas – Wednesdays 3-6pm