a different kind of crop

Farming has inspired all manner of amazing feats in this world, and here’s another jaw dropper that can be traced back to the seat of a tractor: the “monumental earthwork” of Kansas artist Stan Herd.

More than a mere master of crop circles (amazing in their own right), Herd has spent the past 40 years honing a technique of actually planting his enormous artworks, which are best viewed bird’s eye, from high above. The crops, in essence, create the image—with considerable input from the weather, as you might imagine.

“I have gravitated to the idea that the earthworks need to be more than just something to look at … that the background story of mankind’s relationship to the earth, in agriculture, and in stewardship of pristine nature, is what the act of creating the work is about,” Herd explained to Modern Farmer.

The latest of his many creations, completed this year, is a 1.2-acre reproduction of Van Gogh’s Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun in Eagan, Minnesota, comprised of native plants, gourds, oats, and other various natural materials.

For comparison, here’s the original Van Gogh painting (oil on canvas):

Vincent van Gogh, Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun, 1889, via Wikimedia Commons

Now, watch in wonder the video below, which follows Herd’s fascinating method of cultivating Van Gogh’s classic as a commission for the Minneapolis Institute of Art:

“At 65, I only have a limited amount of time to create these massive works,” Herd said. “I am reminded that I need to choose my work carefully.”

He is now drumming up funding for his in-progress collaborative earthwork, Young Woman of Brazil, in São Paulo, Brazil. You can contribute to this sustainable community garden for people who reside in the surrounding favela (urban slum) by becoming a “Root Supporter” via the Herd Arts website.

“I want to see if an image of this sort can add something to the community for the long run,” Herd says. “All art doesn’t have to have a utilitarian purpose, but at their best, I believe my earthworks do.”