Farm Horizons, May 1998

Artist recreates ag agent painting

By Russell Victorian, McLeod County Chronicle

Artist Bonnie Mohr of rural Glencoe was commissioned by the Minnesota Association of County Agriculture Agents (MACAA) to do a painting that updates the image of what a county agent does in working with farm families.

The painting, "Generations of Extension Knowledge," celebrates the 85 years county extension agents have worked with Minnesota farmers, Mohr said.

A 1948 painting by famed illustrator Norman Rockwell, "County Agent" also depicted the image of county agents working with farmers.

Rockwell's painting was of a county ag agent explaining to a 4-H club member how to weigh tape his Guernsey calf while family members watched.

Bob Byrnes, extension educator for Lyon County, who co-originated the idea for an updated painting with Joe Neubauer, county extension agent for McLeod County, said they were not interested in an update of the Rockwell painting. "That is a work of art that stands alone," he said.

But, Byrnes said they wanted to show the extension educator working with the farm family of today, including the ideas of the farm family, and the research and generations of knowledge being passed along.

Both Byrnes and Neubauer are officers with MACAA who commissioned Mohr to do the painting.

Mohr said she was commissioned to do a more modern rendition of how county agents work with farm families.

Her painting depicts a three-generation farm family out studying a freshly cut alfalfa crop with a county agent.

She said grandparents often continue to help out on the farm after they retire. In the painting, the grandfather is listening carefully to the county agent while chewing on a blade of wheat. The granddaughter is not as interested in what the county agent has to say as she is in the features of her grandfather as she mimics him by also chewing on a blade of wheat.

But the detail in the oil painting brings out a much broader story.

Mohr said the painting also reflects a larger grain operation; a recent barn addition, which signifies the younger generation taking over and the need to expand; and the importance of seed choices in test plots and more.

"The painting acknowledges the hard work and challenges faced by generations of farm families, and the vital research and education provided by the University of Minnesota Extension over the years," Neubauer said.

Mohr said she felt special to be a part of such a project and to follow in the footsteps of Rockwell.

She said she was hesitant at first because most of her work deals with farm animals and buildings and not usually people.

It took Mohr two months to shoot pictures and piece together the different elements of the painting, including selections of livestock, farm sites, implements, people, etc.

She said she was very pleased with the results. "It was a time in my career where I felt I was growing; taking a step.

"This picture pushed me to grow, which was exciting," Mohr said. "It also was exciting to be a part of history."

The original painting will be at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus, agricultural building, for probably the next 30 to 40 years, until another more modern rendition is done, she said.

Mohr said artists extend themselves in their work. "It comes through.

"Agriculture is where I come from, where I am, and what I believe," she said.

Mohr said limited edition prints of the painting are being sold to help fund agricultural scholarships for those entering the field or for extension agents extending their education.

Byrnes said one of the goals of the painting was to support scholarship funds. Limited edition prints of "Generations of Extension Knowledge" are available through MACAA, c/o Bob Byrnes, 502 Dogwood Ave., Marshall, MN 56258, tel. 507-532-9001.

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