Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Culver’s blue barn reveal in southern Minnesota July 16, 2015

The Culver's barn along Interstate 35, photographed early Thursday afternoon.

The Culver’s barn and silo along Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota, photographed early Thursday afternoon.

NEITHER RAIN NOR…shall delay the painting of the former Sugardale barn along Interstate 35 north of the Northfield exit.

Late this morning, in the rain, a worker was touching up the “Thank You FARMERS” lettering now billboarded across this iconic Interstate side barn in southern Minnesota.

The front section of the barn was being painted as we drove along Interstate 35 Monday morning.

The front section of the barn was being painted Monday morning.

Only days ago I noticed the transformation from weathered red to a vivid blue, the blue of Wisconsin-based Culver’s. The restaurant chain has already painted four barns—two in Wisconsin, one in Illinois and another in Indiana—blue as part of its Thank You Farmers campaign. The blue barns symbolize gratitude for farmers who have made the company successful, according to Culver’s Director of Publications and Communications Paul Pitas.

Culver’s is also supporting the Future Farmers of America organization and accepting donations to the National FFA Foundation.

To thank farmers and to support future farmers is a good thing. I grew up doing chores and walking fields on a southwestern Minnesota dairy and crop farm. I understand the value of farmers.

I also understand the importance of the FFA organization. In the early 1970s, I broke the gender barrier and became the first girl to join the Wabasso High School FFA chapter. Decades later my niece, Hillary Kletscher, would lead that chapter as president. Just a few years ago, she served as the Minnesota FFA president.

A snapshot I took of the barn last winter.

A snapshot I took of the barn last winter from the Interstate, before I had a telephoto lens.

Even with my strong rural background, or maybe because of it, I hold mixed feelings about Culver’s blue barns. I cannot get past the hue. A barn should be red. Or white. Or perhaps grey. But not an overpowering Culver’s blue.

Red marks tradition and for those of us with rural roots, tradition holds great value. Sources such as the Farmers Almanac reveal that, back in the day, many farmers sealed their barns with linseed oil (which is orange-hued) and sometimes added rust, which killed moss and fungi. Thus the red barns.

For years this barn along Interstate 35 has grabbed the attention of travelers with Sugardale Foods lettering painted on the face. Now that faded piece of local rural history has been covered with blue paint and the Thank You FARMERS message.

And the silo, well, now that’s Culver’s blue, too. Blue belongs on Harvestore, not cement stave, silos, in my opinion.

In time, this barn will likely become a beloved Interstate landmark. And memories of the weathered Sugardale barn will fade…

FYI: Click here to read my initial post about the blue barn, before I knew it was a project of Culver’s.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “Culver’s blue barn reveal in southern Minnesota”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    Just a few years ago, she served as the Minnesota FFA president.

    Wow! What an honor!

    In time, this barn will likely become a beloved Interstate landmark. And memories of the weathered Sugardale barn will fade…

    You are most certainly right. So it goes…

  2. Well it certainly made a statement. After your post the other day I suggested that we drive 40 miles (one way) to have Culver’s for dinner last night. Yum!!!

  3. Don Says:

    While I too am a traditionalist and agree that red barns are, and should be the norm, I also enjoy an occasional deviation to keep things interesting. I think that Culver’s will get their message out by virtue of this deviation and at some point the “blue barn” will, as you say, become someone’s “interstate landmark. In addition, the blue color is an attention getter and will surely be seen, and thus serve its purpose of getting the message across. For these reason I like it.

    Kudos on breaking the FFA gender barrier!!!

  4. 01rena Says:

    See? Blue IS beautiful, and change can be good. Bravo to the owners for the “bold blue barn” (say that five times real fast).

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    The mystery is now solved. And it makes sense. Not that it is the color a barn “should” be but it makes a statement and I like the message of thanking the farmers. Fun followup post because I know I was not the only one wondering!

  6. I like it – it is growing on me 🙂

  7. Marc Schmidt Says:

    Now I certainly hope there is some free Culver’s thrown your way because of the attention your original post received.

  8. Marneymae Says:

    It’s both super-cool and not surprising that you are the one who broke the gender barrier at the FFA.
    I suppose I have a more traditional aesthetic sense about barn colors (and corrugated tin roof colors…)
    I’m partial to red & grey
    The occasional deviation from the traditional colors I find to be surprising, striking.
    At first I thought the same of the blue until it became known to be part of an ad campaign.
    Even though I’m ALL for appreciating farmers, there are ways to do so without “branding” & standardizing an icon (such as a red barn)

  9. Louise Flom Says:

    I just saw this very barn this morning on my way back from the twin cities. I was going to leave you a note and then I saw your blog. It is eye catching to say the least. You don’t expect to see a vivid blue barn!

  10. hotlyspiced Says:

    That’s definitely the first blue barn I have seen. As you say, barns are usually red. I’ve only ever known red barns but I guess there’s no rule xx

  11. Jackie Says:

    So many thoughts here. Not sure I like the “advertising”, feels like an injustice to the barn, but on the other hand I commend Culvers for their acknowledgment of “the farm”, and the importance of farming. Also that they are supporting the Future Farmers of America organization…cool stuff!

  12. Mary Kubes Says:

    I drive past this barn twice weekly … I LOVE it!!! Thank you! LOVE the “Thank you, farmers!”

  13. Slkath Says:

    The Culver’s wording on the silo has been painted over. Why?

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