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Net-wrapped in red, white and blue, bale displays evoke Old Glory

Farmers in the Agweek circulation and viewership area often celebrate their patriotism through the display of flags of the U.S. on their farms. Hoffman Farms of Bowdle, S.D., in 2020 put special red, white and blue flag-like netwrap on their bales along U.S. Highway 12.

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Maurice Hoffman and his granddaughter-in-law, Fern Hoffman, stand next to a lineup of red-white-and-blue straw bales. Photo taken Aug. 12, 2020, near Bowdle, S.D. Photo taken at Bowdle, S.D., Aug. 12, 2020. Mikkel Pates / Agweek
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Editor’s note: Every year for Independence Day, Agweek reporter Mikkel Pates presents an annual feature called Flags on Farms a collection of vignettes.

“There’s just something about the two that seem to go together nicely,” Pates said. “To survive and thrive, farmers and ranchers must possess a kind of independence and toughness that is emblematic of an American spirit. And the red, white and blue just look great against a farm background, any time of the year.”

BOWDLE, S.D. — Hoffman Farms in 2020 was festooned with a lineup of red, white and blue net-wrapped hay bales about two miles west of Bowdle, S.D., on U.S. Highway 12.

“It’s fun to put ‘em along the highway and show how much we’re Americans," said Maurice Hoffman, then 72, in a field tour in August 2020. “I know there’s a lot of people driving by, and they’re really looking. It’s nice.”

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Maurice Hoffman and his granddaughter-in-law, Fern Hoffman, stand next to a lineup of red-white-and-blue straw bales. Photo taken Aug. 12, 2020, near Bowdle, S.D. Photo taken at Bowdle, S.D., Aug. 12, 2020. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

The Hoffmans fly flags on the farm, at his home in town, and “all over.” Wherever he can.

Maurice established his own farm in 1972. He partners with his son, Jerrad, 48, and grandson, Sean, 24. The Hoffmans do cow-calf operation, farming, custom work — seeding and harvesting — and a corn chopping business.

Hoffman, who hails from Germans from Russia stock, says American farmers enjoy freedoms that not everyone in the world enjoy. Among his freedoms are airplane flying. He has a plane as a hobby but also to check cattle and acquire parts.

“I love my country, and I love freedom and I hope we can keep it,” he said.

Fern Hoffman is married to Maurice’s grandson, Sean. She is a native of the Marshall, Minn., area, is a nurse in town, and helps with food, calving and other duties.

“We love America, we love God, we love our family. It’s one of the things we’ve been instilled with and have carried through with,” she said.

The Hoffmans expected their red, white and blue bales to be in place through the first weekend of December, when they hold a custom hay sale that includes mixed hay, oat, alfalfa and rye.

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The Hoffmans acquired their net-wrap at the local Premier Equipment store.

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Lanny Stiklestad is store manager for Premier Equipment at Bowdle, S.D. The company acquired supplies netwrap suggesting the flag of the United States in 2020, and the product flew out the door. Photo taken at Bowdle, S.D., Aug. 12, 2020. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Lanny Stiklestad manages the store, which is among five in South Dakota, including its home office at Isabel, and then stores at Bowdle, Eureka, Huron and Mobridge. The store sells and services equipment from New Holland combines, sprayers and air drills; MacDon harvesting equipment; Kinze planters and grain carts, as well as other supplies in about a four-county area in South Dakota, and into North Dakota, about 35 miles to the north.

The store has long sold “net wrap” for large round bales. Wrap is about $250 per roll, enough to make about 150 bales. Farmers have largely converted from twine to HDPE (high-density polyethylene) wrap, in part because it is faster to apply — less than 30 seconds to stop, wrap and discharge a bale, versus about 2 minutes for a twine-wrapped bale.

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Hoffman Farms placed a lineup of large round bales, with red-white-and-blue “netwrap,” visible to motorists on U.S. Highway 12, west of Bowdle, S.D., on Aug. 12, 2020. Photo taken at Bowdle, S.D., Aug. 12, 2020. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

In early 2020, Stiklestad saw on Facebook some wrap with a red, white and blue design, suggesting the flag of the United States.

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“I thought, ‘We’ve got to have it!’” He placed an order with a company that didn’t deliver.

Then Monte Lindskov, Premier’s owner, placed another order through their normal channels.

“I think he dropped it at all five locations, and it’s been a huge hit,” Stiklestad said.

The store sold six pallets of the net in 2020 and is on track to sell the same amount in 2021.

The special wrap is about the same price as regular wrap. The manufacturer is UPU Industries Inc., of Junction City, Kan., under the Farmer’s brand name.

Stiklestad noted one customer made a pyramid of bales, used as a backdrop for a banner in the presidential election in November 2020.

“I know one guy had 30 miles of road ditch to do, ‘West River,’ and he bought a whole pallet of it,” Stiklestad said.

The appeal for farmers is clear: “I think America was based and built with agriculture. I think the two go hand in hand,” he said.

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A pyramid of flag-wrapped stand in a field in August 2020, west of Bowdle, S.D., flanked by the Agtegra elevator along U.S. Highway 12. Photo taken at Bowdle, S.D., Aug. 12, 2020. Mikkel Pates / Agweek

Mikkel Pates is an agricultural journalist, creating print, online and television stories for Agweek magazine and Agweek TV.
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