Sunflower farm shows off state icon
Sunflowers are in full bloom and fans don't have to travel far to take in their beauty.
Ted Grinter has 27 acres of row after row after row of sunflowers on his farm southwest of Tonganoxie.
"Come on out. Take all the pictures you want," Grinter said.
You also can pick a few without getting permission. Grinter has a drop box at the field for donations. He suggests a $1 contribution for each flower picked.
"It's on the honor system," he said.
Grinter has been growing the state's official flower for years in the area of Stillwell Road and 246th Street. Not only does the field draw motorists from nearby U.S. Highway 24-40, but also area residents.
"A lot of people come out and have their family picture taken there," Grinter said. "Students have their senior pictures taken."
The sunflowers are harvested in late fall after the first freeze, which is usually around Halloween, Grinter said. Then he cleans the seeds, bags them and sells them as bird seed at area farm stores. He also sells them from his house.
At the beginning of the week, 94 percent of the sunflowers in the state had bloomed, compared to 79 percent last year and 88 percent for the 5-year average. Sixty percent of the state's sunflower crop was rated good, 10 percent excellent and 21 percent fair.
Kansas ranks third in sunflower production behind North Dakota and South Dakota.
Sunflowers are known to track the movements of the sun across the sky when they are in the bud stage. Once the flower blooms, however, it faces east and that could be the flower's efforts to avoid direct heat.
The recent heat wave doesn't appear to have hurt Grinter's sunflowers, he said.
"They can stand the heat better than corn or (soy) beans, but they don't like this kind of heat that much," he said. "They are just like the rest of us."