Farm Progress

Nutrien, marketers of ESN, sponsor a unique in-field art installation near Farm Progress Show.

Willie Vogt

October 4, 2022

2 Min Read
This art installation was commissioned by Nutrien reads “Feed your fields: Environmentally smart nitrogen”
SEEN FROM THE SKY: This art installation was commissioned by Nutrien. Stan Herd, an internationally known earthworks artist, took on the task of creating art that can only be seen from the sky near the Boone, Iowa, airport. The message: “Feed your fields: Environmentally smart nitrogen.”Willie Vogt

The invitation in the middle of the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa, was intriguing: “We’d like to invite you to take a flight to look at a field art installation.” What might that mean? What was the idea?

The invitation came from Nutrien, the diversified supplier of crop nutrition products, but the focus was on ESN — Environmentally Smart Nitrogen. The product has been available to farmers for some time, providing an encapsulated urea granule that is 44% nitrogen and designed to be released  slowly to be made more available to the crop as needed.

But how do you draw attention to an idea farmers may already know? How about a unique art installation highlighting ESN near the nation’s largest outdoor farm show?

Nutrien turned to artist Stan Herd, known for his “earthworks” art installations. And just south of the Boone airport off primary runway 15/33 sits a “smart nitrogen” granule depicted in living materials. The installation, started June 9, had its share of challenges with the weather and the need for some replanting, but Herd stuck with it.

The result is a colorful work of art that’s just north of Highway 30 and visible only from up high, which required going airborne. Piloted by Dale Farnham at Farnham Aviation, a two-seat Bellanca Citabria was flown at a lower altitude, allowing the windows to remain open for a better view. Farnham once worked at Iowa State University Extension.

This Bellanca Citabria carried a journalist up to see the ESN art

ARTISTIC PURSUIT: Not often does one get to ride in a two-seater like this Bellanca Citabria to view art only seen from the sky.

The colorful artwork used natural materials. The corn in the art was raised using ESN nitrogen and the rest of the installation used natural, found materials to incorporate those elements of color.

You can learn more about Herd’s thoughts on the design and implementation of his art in this YouTube video. And you can learn more about ESN at


About the Author(s)

Willie Vogt

Willie Vogt has been covering agricultural technology for more than 40 years, with most of that time as editorial director for Farm Progress. He is passionate about helping farmers better understand how technology can help them succeed, when appropriately applied.

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