EDGAR, NE (AP)--Mary Alice Corman knows how to add value to her family's wheat crop. She turns it into art.
Corman, 50, is a wheat weaver. She has been making straw ornaments for about 25 years, mostly using wheat she and her husband, Richard, grow on their farm near Edgar.
She grew up on a farm near Curtis where wheat was her parents' main crop, but it was not until she received some wheat weaving as a gift that she became interested in the craft.
Corman and one of her friends taught themselves how to make wheat-woven items.
"We learned the hard way," she said. "Long stems are best for wheat weaving. The first time we tried it was a year when rainfall was sparse and the stems were shortened. I have since learned to go further into a wheat field where the plants are thicker and have to grow taller to compete for sunlight."
Sometimes she gathers wheat in Frontier County, where her parents live. Usually, though, she uses wheat grown closer to her home, especially if the straw item is to be used for a souvenir.
She said she uses the wheat because it is a traditional art tool and because it is a way to promote the popular Nebraska crop.
The ancient craft of working with straw had its beginnings in Europe with the belief that the sowing and harvesting of crops had great religious significance, Corman said.
Through the years, Corman has made various items. Some, like a rooster, a girl and a Victorian doll, are free-standing. Others are made to be hung on a wall.
Corman has demonstrated the basics of her craft at local events.
"Most people find wheat weaving difficult because it is such intricate work," she said.
Corman said she sees wheat weaving as part of the area's heritage and as a way to promote Nebraska products and grains.