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Wheat Turned Into Art
Rays of the morning sun stitch a golden outline around Linda Bisnett as she wades through a sea of amber wheat. The sea rolls westward from her farm near Pendleton, Oregon, to the Horse Heaven Hills on the horizon. Bisnett is in search of perfect wheat – not for baking, but for art. She creates detailed wall and table decorations from bundles of wheat stalks. Her studio is located on her historic farm in Oregon’s Columbia Plateau country. The farm was homesteaded by her great-grandfather in 1886, and she’s logged 33 years on the place.
Bisnett gleans wheat off of about 2 acres of land each year for her work, storing the bundles of “art supplies” in a huge stack in her shop. Her work has been displayed in over 1,000 restaurants, in the Pendleton Center for the Arts, and as decorations at corporate events. She also sells the wheat creations online and through retail suppliers.
Her business started 22 years ago when she took out a booth at the Pendleton Round-Up, one of the largest rodeos in the world, to sell pieces of her art. She sold out.
“I was always looking for ways to use wheat as a medium,” she says. She now fills custom orders for weddings, memorial services, corporate events, government offices, and state capitols. She’s even sold her work to clients in Russia, China, and Japan.
Conservation is a theme
Bisnett takes special care to incorporate into her work the themes of farmland conservation, wildlife habitat enhancement, and the natural beauty of her century-old farm. West of her house is a wetlands that used to be under constant tillage, but it is now, six years into a restoration, full of cattails and wildlife. She’s seen coyotes, deer, songbirds, red-winged blackbirds, finches, robins, and pheasants.
“I really like the birds,” she says. “This place now is a gift of green in this sea of wheat. During the fallow-ground year there’s just dirt around here, but this little place is always pretty.”
The acreage, once covered with wheat, now sports an abundance of plants, such as snowberry, water birch, quaking aspen, chokecherry, streamside hollyhock, sitka willow, smooth sumac, blue elderberry, and longleaf pondweed.
A plant addict
Bisnett, a member of the Oregon Wheat Growers League, is also a Master Gardener and former flower-show judge. She enjoys growing expansive flower, fruit, and vegetable gardens around her home. Her greenhouse is bustling with young plants, ready to be planted in the next garden.
“I’m a plant addict,” she says with a laugh. “I can’t seem to stop. I get all done and the next thing I know, I’m moving fences back to plant more. With this land, I’m not limited by anything!”