Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Hayfield, Part I: Snapshots of a Minnesota farming community November 14, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I pulled this logo from The City of Hayfield, Minnesota, website.

I pulled this logo from The City of Hayfield, Minnesota, website.


HAYFIELD. EVEN THE NAME sounds rural. Hay. Field.




This Dodge County farming community of around 1,300 reminds me of my hometown, Vesta, a much smaller town of around 330 on the southwestern Minnesota prairie.




Both are rooted in agriculture, most visually evident in the local grain elevators.




But it was the discovery of seemingly abandoned vintage grain wagons in Hayfield that drew my primary personal interest. I remember such wagons brimming with corn and soybeans. I remember hiding inside these empty cavities as my siblings and I played out the 1960s TV westerns we watched. Such memories.

Today I am drawn to explore small towns because they connect me to my past, to the place and the people that shaped me.




There’s something about a rural community that weaves people together through the commonality of living in the same intimate space. Lives crisscross in school hallways, in post offices, inside churches, at the bank, outside the grain elevator…in grocery stores (if a small town still has one, and Hayfield does).




Most often, but not always, community pride runs strong. I see that in volunteer fire departments; in local Legions that, despite dwindling membership, remain open; in annual community festivals; and Friday night steak fries. Bingo, too.




And, especially, in the schools, if a small town is still fortunate enough to have its own school. And Hayfield does.

TELL ME: How do you define a small town and do you have a favorite?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


16 Responses to “In Hayfield, Part I: Snapshots of a Minnesota farming community”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    This definitely looks like your kind of place. I can see why you were drawn to it. As for me—I love small towns as well but would be hard pressed to choose my favorite one today. They all offer a step back in time which is a fun thing to experience.

  2. The small towns keep our personal history alive while the big cities seem to blend those histories into the album of the many.

  3. I love the smaller community I live in within the greater Bay area 🙂 My little slice of paradise that has that sense of community and is less than 3 miles from the water. It has been a long time coming in being part of a community again and it feels great. Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. Don Says:

    How do I define a small town? First of all a population of 2,000 or less, an active school, and no stoplights. I certainly could be happy in Hayfield! Do I have a favorite, hum tough question as there are so many but Pepin Wisconsin is at the top of the list, along with White Pine Michigan, Aurora Wisconsin, Lake Crystal Minnesota, Hendricks Minnesota, oh my, I may need to get a motor home to live in and thus be able to enjoy all the small towns! But the drawback to that is you never become part of the community which I believe is and important part of calling a place HOME!

  5. Jackie Says:

    I love small towns probably for the very same reasons you do Audrey. I still consider Rochester a small town although I know it’s much BIGGER then the rural small towns. I often find myself road tripping to the small communities, enjoying a look at Yesteryear. I love the history that is embedded in a small town, especially those that are near and dear to me. Mabel, Canton, Spring Grove, West Concord, just to name a few.

  6. Valerie Says:

    I considered moving from the metro area suburb to Northfield MN, population 20,000, was moving to a small town and I have enjoyed living here since 1994.

    • It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? If you move from the metro, Northfield would be considered a small town. But, if you’re like me, moving from a farm (near a town of 330), Northfield and Faribault are not small town.

  7. “Some Gave Some -Some Gave All” every town needs some art work like that. Thanks for sharing

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