What the hay?

Family turns bales into stunning art

-Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
The Haselhuhn family has been constructing art from bales of hay for about five years now. This year’s masterpiece is a 9260 RX John Deere tractor.

HUMBOLDT — Drive 4 miles east along Iowa Highway 3 out of Humboldt, look to the north and there’s one thing that stands out on the landscape this time of year –amazing, eye-catching hay bale art. It’s a tradition that has been maintained about five years now, thanks to the Haselhuhn family.

“We try to come up with new ideas every year and encourage people to stop by and take a look,” said Jeff Haselhuhn, who creates the bale artwork with his wife, Shelly, and their four sons.

The bale art project started when Haselhuhn’s son, Jesse, earned his American FFA degree with hay production. The hay opened up a whole new opportunity when the family began baling hay in a variety of sizes and shapes to create bale art.

After choosing a theme for the year’s artwork, the family selects net-wrapped, double-wrapped hay bales and creates the design, a process that usually takes a couple days. Latex paint and lights for night viewing bring each year’s design to life, including this year’s 9260 RX John Deere tractor.

Previous years’ designs have included the R2-D2 and C-3PO robots from “Star Wars,” superhero Iron Man and a character from the popular “Minions” movie. The details that make the designs pop often come from odds and ends around the farm, as contributions from Jeff Haselhuhn’s clients. The eyes for the Minion art, for example, were created with old motorcycle tires from the farm, while the tracks for this year’s John Deere tractor are made from worn-out conveyor belts.

Jeff Haselhuhn, from Humboldt, along with his wife, Shelly, and their sons, have designed a number of bale art creations featuring characters from popular movies, including Olaf the snowman from the 2013 animated film “Frozen,” produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Tree branches added character to Olaf the snowman, a star of the 2013 animated film “Frozen” produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

“We like Disney characters and things that appeal to children,” said Haselhuhn, a Farm Bureau insurance agent in Fort Dodge who serves as president of the Humboldt County Fair.

This reflects the fact that Shelly Haselhuhn is a preschool teacher in Humboldt. Since the bale art is displayed from late fall into the spring, the Kings’ Kids preschool from Humboldt has the chance to get their photo taken in front of art when they come to the Haselhuhn’s place each spring for A Day on the Farm.

“Even in a rural community like Humboldt, there are kids with little or no direct connections to agriculture,” said Jeff Haselhuhn, who has been a Farm Bureau insurance agent for 20 years. “We give them the chance to visit horses, pigs, goats and ducks, ride in a tractor and take a hayrack ride.”

Not only do nearly 60 kids visit the farm each year, but many parents come along to experience A Day on the Farm, added Haselhuhn, who enjoys showing people the importance of agriculture in everyday life.

The Haselhuhn family created beloved Star Wars’ characters R2D2 and C3PO from hay bales in 2015.

After the preschool kids visit the farm, the paint is removed from the bales, which are fed to livestock. Then the design brainstorming begins again for the Haselhuhn family, including sons Jarod, a teacher in Humboldt; Jesse, a precision ag specialist at Van Wall Equipment in Story City; Jason, a medical school student in Des Moines; and Jonah, an Iowa State University senior who is majoring in engineering.

The family looks forward to carrying on their bale art tradition, Jeff Haselhuhn said. “It’s one of the ways we give back to the community.”

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