A man from Minnesota who supports veteran causes claims to have come up with the original idea to put red-white-and-blue net wrap on big, round bales to mimic the American flag, a design now popular across the plains.
Delvin Drinkall travels to various trade shows across the west recruiting new dealers. He said he came up with the idea in the fall of 2019, but it really took off after he teamed up with custom baler Jerry Renshaw of Fletcher, Oklahoma, in late spring of 2020.
“The wheat froze in May of 2020, so my dealer in Oklahoma had the opportunity to really get it out there first,” he said referring to the sudden need to bale lots of wheat straw in the Southern Plains. “The local news came and did a story about it, and it just went crazy. That’s when it went viral. I couldn’t answer the phone fast enough.”
Drivers were stopping to take photographs next to the bales and some people bought them to use as yard ornaments.
“Why not show your pride?” Drinkall said.
Ironically, though the name of his company is American Family Netwrap, the product is made in China.
His company sells 20 to 25 shipping containers worth of product a year, he estimated. But the manufacturer he works with makes over a million rolls a year. Other companies have also started making and selling their own versions.
Net wrap is made from natural gas, which is first pelletized and then further processed into plastic, Drinkall said.
Since America is the cheapest natural gas producer in the world, he hopes to start a joint venture with an American manufacturer who will also provide employment opportunities for veterans.
Drinkall already supports veterans through a charity called Field of Flags. In the past year, he’s donated two checks of $5,000 each to the organization. His dealers often give to veteran causes in their local communities, he adds.
Nevin McConnell, of Ft. Morgan, Colorado, has been selling a similar product for the past year or so.
“When I first saw it online, it kind of struck my interest,” he said.
He made a call and ended up buying four pallets, one of which he kept to use on his own farm, where he and his family feed out yearlings and also raise wheat, millet, corn and hay.
Selling the rest of it to other ranchers turned into a good side business that has generated a number of repeat customers. McConnell calls his product “freedom wrap” and estimates he’s currently selling at least ten to 15 pallets a year.
The presidential election year of 2020 gave his business an extra boost by heightening the level of interest, he said.
“I’ve made some money with it,” he said. “I like to deliver it, and I get to see some other farm operations that way.”
Like Drinkall, he’s pleased with the price and quality of his product but less than thrilled to sell something bearing a flag motif that is actually made in China.
“One or two of my customers have asked where it was made. Some of them don’t care, but there’s been a couple that backed out because of it,” he said.
Another company that sells their own version, which they call “Patriot wrap,” is Pretty Good Twine, based at Peabody, Kansas. Their product is manufactured in Junction City, Kansas, by a subsidiary of a Northern Ireland-based company.
Owner David Liefer is a farmer and rancher. His family started their business 18 years ago after buying more twine than they needed and marketing the rest. Over the years, they expanded into other products, including tarp covers, silage film and construction materials.
Today they have a staff of four who handle sales and deliveries to multiple states, including Colorado.
McConnell and Pretty Good Twine are both signed up to have trade show booths at the upcoming Colorado Farm Show in Greeley, which runs January 25-27.
An Iowa company also plans to be at the Greeley show and still has a limited supply of red-white-and-blue Great American net wrap in the smaller round bale size.
The Fine Twine Co. is owned by brothers Tony and Rick Kellen, of Alton, Iowa. They were in the custom haying business before forming a distribution company in 2002.
Sales representative Carol Daniels, who attended shows in Texas and Oklahoma this winter, said the company is in the process of changing manufacturers and won’t have any additional red-white-and-blue bale wrap for sale this year.
It’s not unusual to have multiple distributors selling their own versions at the same show, she said, noting that six different net wrap suppliers participated at a recent farm show in Des Moines, Iowa.
Buyers have a number of color choices, she said, but the flag pattern is definitely making waves.
“They do make a field look pretty,” she said.
This article originally appeared on LA Junta Tribune: Flag design makes waves across area fields