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Farmer turns art into cash crop

With commodity and livestock prices being what they are, many farmers are looking at alternative crops as a possible solution for soft markets. Hemp, aronia berries and different cover crops are being experimented with.

One farm family, Randy Schnebbe and his wife AJ (Amy Jo), south of Victor, turned to art. Most farmers are jacks-of-all-trades (and masters of none). They know how to weld and make things with their hands using what they have. Most farms also have junk iron scattered around and even a rock pile or two, from rocks they drag in out of the fields.

What if?

For the Schnebbes, on their 300 acre family farm, it was “get big or get out.” He had to do something “to support my farming habit.” The Schnebbes were operating a business, Amish Creations in Victor, selling indoor and outdoor Amish furniture. Along with the outdoor furniture, they added a line of Mexican yard art. But a lot of the yard art was cheaply made and Schnebbe would have to re-weld or repair it. He told AJ, “You know, I can do better than this.”

“Go ahead,” she said. “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

At one of the outdoor shows they attended, Randy and AJ met a man from Oklahoma who made yard art. He showed Schnebbe a few tricks of the trade. Randy and AJ were off and running.

One of their first purchases was a plasma cutter and table for $21,000. It was a huge investment, but compared to a tractor or combine — small potatoes. They also licensed their business, RS Welding Studio, with the University of Iowa, Iowa State, Drake, University of Northern Iowa and Kansas State University (where AJ graduated), so they can legally make the universities’ logos, emblems and nick-knacks.

The rest is history. They never dreamed their business could do so well. Randy is the artist, AJ is the detail person and business head. They’re a great team. On any given weekend they are off separately in a truck pulling a trailer to lawn and garden shows in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska. Their biggest market is the Farmers Market in downtown Des Moines, which is the second largest Farmers Market in the country. Their iron art is all over the United States and the world. Check out the website at www.rsweldingstudio.com.

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Call or text Curt Swarm at 319-217-0526, email him a curtswarm@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.empty-nest-words-photos-and-frames.com

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