It started out as a school art project and blossomed into a countryside landmark.
Now the carefully-maintained murals of Schuster’s Sweet Switchers dairy farm continue to greet travelers as they pass between Sun Prairie and Marshall. Located at 1462 Highway 19, the farm is a source of family pride for owners David and Ruth Schuster.
David’s sister Linda Minor, known to the Schuster’s as “Lefty,” is the primary artist behind the murals, while their daughter Crystal contributed a painting of her own.
“We’ve got a lot of people stopping and taking pictures or stopping and asking (about the murals),” Ruth Schuster said.
Often, the curious visitors are from out of state, traveling to Marshall with the famous murals in mind. The farm is something of a local landmark, with residents using the site to provide directions around the area, Schuster said.
The initial set of murals, completed June 11, 1980, cover the side of a barn and a nearby shed, both within full view of the road. The massive undertaking was a final project for Minor during her time as an art major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The mural on the barn consists of cow looking back at the road with a mouthful of grass, a swinging “switcher” tail and a tagline above providing the farm’s namesake, “Schuster’s Sweet Switchers.” The title of the artwork, which became the name of the business shortly after Minor finished the painting in 1980, refers to Swisher Sweets cigars, known as “super sweet swishers,” Schuster said.
A caption below the painting reads, “We stand behind our business,” along with a written record of each repaint job completed Aug. 13, 1992, Sept. 2, 2006 and May 28, 2015, respectively.
The murals must receive a fresh coat of paint about every 10 years, which takes at least 10 long days to accomplish, Schuster said.
The second part of the mural project, which completely covers two sides of a shed, features a narrative that plays out across rainbow-colored fields.
“The whole story goes through the fight between the John Deere and the International tractor,” Schuster said.
The mural also features a 1980’s-era local bar, Max’s Tavern, with David Schuster’s old Chevrolet Camaro parked out front.
Over the years, additional smaller murals have appeared around the farm, including a bull in need of some fresh paint and a pig painting in another shed. Crystal Schuster, who studied art at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, added her own mural to the farm’s collection in 2006.
Found on the side of the milkhouse is a beach scene featuring more cows and the tagline, “Farmin’s a Beach!”
“I’ve always liked the beach and the palm trees, so I always go to my happy place, ‘Life’s a beach,’” Ruth Schuster said. “And so she just got the idea and she just took it.”
Just up the road from Schuster’s Sweet Switchers is another stand-out mural by Minor, featuring a scene of Christmas trees. Now home to A-1 Landscaping, the property’s previous owner Dave Motl asked Minor if she could paint something on his silo.
“She’s done stuff like that all over the place,” Schuster said. “She just loves sharing her art.”