Muralist Tony Stafki paints the mural on the Luthens family’s 100-foot stave silo earlier this fall near Hutchinson, Minnesota. The mural took five weeks to complete.
Muralist Tony Stafki paints the mural on the Luthens family’s 100-foot stave silo earlier this fall near Hutchinson, Minnesota. The mural took five weeks to complete. PHOTO SUBMITTED
    HUTCHINSON, Minn. – Passing through McLeod County, a tall-standing silo tells the story of dairy farming for the Luthens family.
    “We wanted to do something that everyone could relate to whether you grew up on a farm or have never been to a dairy farm,” Melissa Luthens said.
    Luthens and her family worked with muralist Tony Stafki to repurpose a 100-foot stave silo on their dairy farm near Hutchinson.
    The mural features dairy cows and a traditional farmstead as well an array of dairy products from ice cream to kefir to embrace Luthens’ family’s involvement in the industry.
    “The top of the mural takes everyone back to our roots where our farm started when Daryl purchased it in 1969. He and the family had a vision to grow it where it is today,” Luthens said. “The bottom of the mural reminds people of all the dairy options out there that come from all dairy farms, big or small, first generation or a centennial farm.”
    Last spring, Luthens connected with Midwest Dairy to find a muralist who could make her family’s vision a reality.
    Together, Luthens and Stafki developed a design that was both feasible and told the family’s story.
    “Melissa gave me a tour of the farm and told me what they do, what their milk is used for,” Stafki said. “For them, it’s a personalized piece of art, and the more family history, the better.”
    Then, after summer passed and Stafki had time to complete the project, he began. The mural took five weeks and was finished Sept. 21.  
    “The biggest challenge was working on a 100-foot tall canvas that was thin and tall,” Stafki said.
    The former software engineer has painted murals for 13 years and often does personalized home projects or larger, more public spaces. He has worked with 20 John Deere dealerships across the Midwest to personalize their businesses.
    “I’ve done a lot of exterior murals in tunnels and on brick walls but never painted a silo or barn up to this point,” Stafki said.
    Unlike other murals that Stafki is known for, the silo’s design and composition was a new adventure, particularly with the galvanized steel cables that embrace the structure.
    He worked with a professional paint representative to choose paint colors that would adhere to both the cement and cables.
    “We found an industrial paint that is very high quality, commercial grade and it has a high color retention,” Stafki said. “We didn’t want to put a varnish on that was going to drip on the metal or react to the metal. I wanted something that was good.”
    Stafki began the project by using a paint sprayer to spray on the base colors. He then worked from top to bottom, painting the details of the mural by hand with brushes and sponges.
    He worked as a one-man job using a boom lift to navigate around the structure.
    “I actually bought a digital wind reader to test the wind each day,” Stafki said. “It all depended on the weather.”
    The most difficult part of executing the mural was getting the details accurate on the silo, paying close attention to how the cables affected the design.
    “If those weren’t there, it would have been 100 times easier,” Stafki said. “Even at the bottom of the silo, there are over 2,000 blades of grass painted on. It took over two days to do just that portion.”
    Aside from the various challenges that came with executing the design, Stafki’s biggest concern was making the mural appealing when viewed from any angle and having it be one cohesive scene. He was always cognizant of his client.
    “It’d be pretty obvious if it didn’t look like cows up there,” Stafki said. “(The Luthens family) is around this scenery every day, and it would stick out like a sore thumb if it didn’t work.”
    The depth of each design within the mural brings the painting to life with a selection of vibrant colors that can be seen from afar. For Luthens, it was what she imagined when thinking of ways to tell her family’s farm story.  
    “Prior to the mural, most families probably passed by not knowing we were there or what kind of farm we were,” Luthens said. “Now, we have created an amazing opportunity to create conversation about dairy.”
    The silo can be seen from Minnesota State Highway 7 and the Luce Line and Dakota trails. It pairs well with the area community, bridging together agriculture and art.
    “Although agriculture is still an important part of our area, Hutchinson has started appealing to the art community. We even have a statue tour people can take around town,” Luthens said. “This is a way to embrace that and bring agriculture and art together in one place and fit into the art evolution of Hutchinson.”
    For the dairy community, it has also created an opportunity for dairy farmers to continue telling their farming stories.
    Since the completion of the mural, Stafki has received many inquiries about murals, logos and other designs for farms.
    “I hope this opens up people’s minds of what they can do, even if it’s as simple as using a piece of the farm,” Stafki said. “I think this is an opportunity for farmers to do something really interesting.”