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A discussion of the supplies needed to create crop art written by David Steinlicht in 2014. For the official rules for competing in the Minnesota State Fair Crop Art exhibit, go to www.mnstatefair.org/competitions/ag-hort-bee/crop-art-and-scarecrow. The Fair usually posts guidelines for the upcoming competition in the spring of each year. If you still have questions after reading the current rules on the Fair website, you can direct questions to competition@mnstatefair.org.

A board and some Elmer's glue

Besides seeds and a design, all you really need to make Crop Art is a board and some Elmer's glue.

Put down a small amount of glue on your board. Maybe a square inch or so at the most.

You might want some toothpicks to help you pick up the seeds and maneuver them into place.

Use just a tiny dab of Elmer's on the tip of the toothpick and you can pick up a seed very nicely. Use an amount that is just enough to lift the seed out of the seed-pile, but not enough to keep it stuck to the toothpick when you try to put in on the board.

The board should be something that will hold up to getting wet with the glue and not warp. You are going to spend a lot of time working on this thing, so you might as well put it on a durable background.

Light plywood is good.

Update: I used to recommend masonite, but the rule book strongly recommends against it. I've talked with the State Fair about this and the argument against masonite is: It's difficult to hang. Nothing sticks to the back of it. The Fair has had many people improvising hanging solutions that don't work. Tape doesn't work on masonite. Glue doesn't work on masonite. So, the pieces arrive and are hung and they fall down. And nobody's happy with that.

So, now the rule book says no masonite.

What if you want to use masonite? You can use it, but it darned well better have a solid hanging system! I use a frame -- usually -- and screw in eye hooks and attach picture hanging wire to those. I've also attached a wooden armature to the back of the board by putting screws through the front of the board before starting to paste seeds. Here's what that looks like.

Sturdy canvas board available at art supply shops would work if they are inflexible enough.

Cardboard will probably warp. Foam-core or Alligator board may or may not warp, but they will flex and your seeds may not stay stuck.

A dark board is better background for the seed picture than a light board. Seeds pasted on a light background look dirty. Seeds pasted on a dark background look colorful. I use a complicated system of prepainting the design on the board using approximate colors of the seeds used, but that's just me.


You may want to consider a frame before you get the board. While not strictly required for Minnesota State Fair Crop Art, a frame can really add a nice finishing touch, and it makes the piece easier to hang.

There are frames for reasonable prices at most hardware stores, and at department stores.

Another good frame source is an antique store or junk store. Sometimes a nice frame will have a bad picture in it. Buy the whole thing, ditch the picture and get a board cut to match the frame size.

Hang it

However you make your piece, you need to make some provision for hanging it. Seeds and boards can be heavy, so better to over-do it than under-do it. I like to rely on eye hooks and picture hanging wire available at your local hardware store.

Finishing up

After you've got all the seeds pasted on a framed board you might want to slather the whole works in polyurathane. You can get it in glossy or in matte finish. The polyurathane coating helps keep all the seeds on your board, and it helps keep your art from rotting. Plus, it may discourage rodents and insects from dining on your art.

For long-term storage, consider a sealable plastic box with some mothballs.

Hey, these things are seeds after all!

Legend has it

For official entry in the State Fair's Crop Art competition, you will want to include a legend card. That is, a sturdy card that measures 4 x 6-inches with the names and a small sample of all the seeds used.

Attach the legend card to the back of your Crop Art with a long piece of string, so the legend can be easily displayed along side your work.

[tiny seed]

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