ROCKFORD — Today marks the closing day of the SchoolHouse Farms In Bloom Festival, but there is still plenty of time to get out and enjoy sunflowers locally.
Several farms throughout the area have turned to sunflower fields due to their visual appeal and attraction. However, for local farmers, sunflower fields are much more than pretty to the eye.
SchoolHouse Farms was founded in 2016, and the more than 17 different kinds of sunflowers planted across the now 180 acres have created a niche market for products. At each year’s In Bloom Festival, SchoolHouse Farms also sells birdseed, sunflower oil, cornflower, cornmeal, grits and both raw popcorn kernels and gourmet popcorn flavors made from those kernels.
“Fewer and fewer people are actually involved in ag and have any idea about where their food, flowers and things like that actually come from,” Vaughn Davis said. “It’s nice to be able to interact with the public and give them the knowledge about what’s all out there and how we grow it.”
Still, the pick-your-own sunflower aspect of the farm remains to be the biggest attraction. For $1 per stem of $25 for all that can fill a five-gallon bucket, the public is invited to SchoolHouse Farms during designated hours each week to pick their own bouquet.
Whether you are looking to pick your own flowers, take a walk through the fields or practice some photography, sunflower fields have sprouted throughout the region.
Lima’s JK Orchard and Farm is also a popular pick-your-own-produce site, their most popular crops being seasonal strawberries and pumpkins.
Also started in 2016, owners Karen and Joe Wince have been growing the farm and looking for ways to attract the public. They decided to plant six different sunflower patches with cutouts perfect for photo opportunities and a one-acre sunflower maze.
However, like with SchoolHouse Farms, the desire to add the sunflower fields was two-fold for the Winces.
“The other thing, and one of the main reasons we wanted to do sunflowers, is because we are a fully organic farm and sunflowers actually clean the soil,” Karen Wince explained. “The farm has been here for 65 years and traditionally has only had corn and soybean, so we’ve been doing work to clean the soil and put that healthy bacteria and nitrogen back in and sunflowers actually do that.”
Sunflower patches have also popped up in Forest’s Kellogg Farm and at Johnny Appleseed Metropolitan Park District’s Lauer Historical Farm.
“Sunflowers, they just bring about happiness in people and it’s something that goes with this time of year, just like how people get excited about pumpkins in the fall. Sunflowers have kind of taken on the same role,” Karen Wince explained. “There’s just something about standing in a field that has so much beauty that it just makes you feel connected and lights up your soul in a way that nothing else can.”
Reach Tara Jones at 567-242-0511.