Despite the recent poor weather across much of the Prairies, a giant oat plant now stands in the small, but vibrant community of Ituna, Sask.
Dennis Muzyka, a Melville high school shops teacher and local metal sculpture artist, designed and created the powder-coated steel structure.
After intensive study of a single oat plant, Muzyka initially thought that in order to create an oat statue on a scale of 1:25 for the width he wanted to use, it would have to be more than 100 feet high. Returning to the field for further study, he discovered that no matter the height, the width of the plant was always the same.
With three stems to represent Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the sculpture weighs about one tonne. It stands almost 34 feet tall and is 15.5 feet wide. Muzyka set the structure on its side and rotated it so he would not have to stand on a ladder while individually welding all 106 kernels hanging from the panicles.
Four commemorative plaques surround the oat stems in the specially created park, Avena Gardens, next to the CN Rail main line, which passes through Ituna, located about 160 kilometres northeast of Regina. (Oats are known by the scientific name Avena sativa.)
The significance of this sculpture is both current and historic.
Canada is one of the largest oat producers in the world (behind only the European Union and Russia) and the Prairie Oat Growers Association was officially formed in Ituna in 1998. Prairie pioneers relied on oats as food for both themselves and their horses, as well as bedding. In the late 1890s, it was discovered that sawflies would infest wheat crops but not oats. A crop rotation of oats and wheat kept sawfly numbers down.
The sculpture was officially unveiled in late June.