One of Carrie Wintle’s parade costumes is made to resemble the colors of a stalk of corn.
One of Carrie Wintle’s parade costumes is made to resemble the colors of a stalk of corn.

By Connie Sieh Groop


How does a money-savvy sheep get into classrooms across South Dakota? Through the ingenuity of Miss South Dakota and donors to her charitable organization Money $heep.

Nearly 11,000 books in the hands of fifth-grade students teach basics of financial literacy in a fun way with an ag twist. 

Carrie Wintle grew up on a farm at Iroquois, S.D. where her parents, Bruce and Susan Wintle, raised Southdown sheep. Active in 4-H and FFA, she loved raising and showing sheep. Her first lamb was Pooky. 

She says, “I learned the potential that from one lamb, you could end up with an entire herd of sheep. During lambing season, I could see how it impacts the business side of the operation. We had to make sure lambs were safe, and that lambing went well to ensure the success of the herd. There is a risk of disease, sickness, and death every year.”

Wintle loved to save the money she earned from raising her sheep. Her parents and mentors helped her along her journey. The family farm started more than 120 years ago and she cherishes the times she spends there. “I’m proud I can use my background in ag to connect to my career aspiration and accounting.”

Bill and Jody Fuller of Clark, S.D. impacted the Wintles and the lives of many 4-Hers by providing club lambs. “My dad and his younger brother bought their first 4-H show lambs from the Fullers. It was incredible that I could get my lambs from the same couple. The Fullers came to our farm and showed me how to trim my lamb and gave me lots of valuable information.” 

She tapped the Fullers to connect with the SD Sheep Growers to get the book she wrote into the hands of students. Through them and other donors, she could give back to some of those important in her life by sharing what she learned raising sheep. 


Creating 

Mr. Money $heep

The idea for the book Mr. Money $heep took shape while she considered financial topics at Vanderbilt University, pursuing her Master’s in Accountancy and Valuation. 

She began with the idea for a program to teach financial literacy and expanded on the unique perspective she had from her personal sheep-raising experience. The creation of the book and nonprofit were simultaneous in 2016. From there, she created curriculum that she could use for the organization, Money $heep.

Basics include budgeting, saving, income, loans/debt, and investment risk into her book. It’s simple enough that third through fifth-graders can understand the concepts and use them in everyday life.

First, Wintle crafted the characters to make them relatable so they would draw kids in. 

Addressing the topics of budget and savings sealed the deal. Wintle says, “I needed to provide a place for students to say, ‘How can I apply this in my life?’  The challenge was to get them to think and apply the concepts of savings and understand needs and wants.”  

“I think the book applies to all kids, regardless of what family wealth level they have. Each child can apply it to their own situation. Eventually, they will have to leave the coop, and be more independent,” Wintle says.

Wintle’s goal through telling the story of Mr. Money $heep and his friends is to show how those concepts can be useful in the lives of the characters and in the lives of students. She drafted the book in a month and her friend Rayna Steffl, formerly Pearson, crafted the illustrations.     

Then she partnered with SD Sheep Growers and 20 businesses to print 10,000 books and distribute them across 66 counties in South Dakota. 


Taking the stage

Wintle won the title of Miss State Fair, then earned the title of Miss South Dakota in 2018. From there, she competed in the Miss America contest where her literacy program involving sheep and financial literacy for young students captured attention. 

“Miss America empowered me to use my education in finance and accounting to start Money $heep, a charitable organization that helps youth build a financial foundation,” Wintle says. “During the competition, it helped me stand out.”  

Money $heep was central to the social impact initiative when Wintle competed in the Miss America pageant. “The curriculum and partnerships I created prepared me to hit the ground running as Miss America.”

This winter and spring, she makes appearances as Miss South Dakota and she stops in classrooms whenever she can. In June of 2019, she’ll surrender her title.

Wintle graduated last May and after completing her year as Miss South Dakota, she’ll figure out the best options for her in public accounting. “Whatever I do, I want to keep the base of money-sheep.com in SD and hope to continue to grow the business.” She’s written a second book for older students, dealing with tough topics such as credit cards and debt.


School visits  

One of the first things she did was visit Pine Ridge and Rosebud Native American Reservations in South Dakota, where there is a very high poverty rate. She partnered with White Oaks Wealth Advisors to donate 800 copies of Mr. Money $heep to students there.  “The students were very engaged, It’s been a cool experience to see how going to different schools  with the book and  how the students learn the concepts regardless of their economic status.” 

As Miss South Dakota, she travels to schools to meet with the students and read through the book with them. “It’s even more impacting to me now. I love it. The kids are awed with the crown and the sash. They love the life-size Mr. Money $heep that I take with me. It’s cool that a sheep with a suit and a briefcase can resonate with kids.”

Depending on the school, some use the book as a resource student can use. Some schools create lessons plans around the story. It really depends on the school and priorities.

“One of the coolest things is to meet with the kids and have them ask questions. I invite them to go to my Facebook page or email me at carrie.wintle@moneysheep.org.“

Wintle has published two children’s books — “Mr. Money $heep” and “Mr. Money $heep and the Financial Foes,” which are both available for purchase at money-sheep.com


Connie Sieh Groop is a freelance ag writer from Frederick, SD.