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Sunflowers in the Heartland: Welcoming Farms Where You Can See Sunflowers | Frommer's Dan Renzi

Sunflowers in the Heartland: Welcoming Farms Where You Can See Sunflowers

If you’ve never enjoyed the serotonin boost of visiting a sunflower farm, here are some popular places to go when the cheerful flowers are in bloom. All of them are within easy reach of Kansas City, Wichita, or Topeka.

Just as the Netherlands is famous for tulips, and Provence is known for fields of lavender, there may be no flower that is more American than the sunflower.

Starting each July and lasting through the summer, these bright, cheerful blooms erupt throughout The Great Plains, rising through the weeds of open fields, and growing along highways, flooding any available dirt with hues of yellow and orange.

Kansas is the heart of sunflower country—it is the official state flower, after all. Actual wild sunflowers have smaller blooms that resemble yellow daisies, but giant sunflowers are a product of genetic hybridization, cultivated thousands of years ago by farmers from indigenous tribes throughout the American southwest (before it was the United States). 

The big-bloomed varieties can occasionally be spotted in the wild, but the best giant sunflower encounters usually happen on farms, where professionals grow hundreds of thousands of flowers that stand 5-–10 feet tall, their blooms all pointed in the same direction. 

Farmers might plant sunflowers one summer but some other crop the next, depending on prices or weather—or if they’re not in the mood to deal with tourists running around on their land, taking selfies. 

Of the several farms in Kansas that grow sunflowers reliably each summer, a few also explicitly welcome visitors to walk around and take some photos. 

The official tourism office in Kansas publishes some locations of sunflower farms, but maybe because tourism isn’t a high priority for the current government in Kansas, its information is woefully inaccurate. So we verified the situation by making a tour of the best places ourselves.

If you want to visit one of these sunflower farms, keep a few things in mind. One: Every farmer plants sunflower seeds at different times, so check their social media accounts (usually Facebook) for updates on the status of the flowers. 

Also, these places really are farms, so your shoes might get muddy, the leaves might scratch your legs if you wear shorts, and yes, there are lots of bugs, including bees. The bees are too busy pollinating the massive blooms to care about you, so leave them alone and you should be fine. 

Grinter Farms

24154 Stillwell Rd., Lawrence, Kansas;

Grinter Farms is the most famous sunflower farm in Kansas, drawing tens of thousands of visitors each summer. Located less than an hour drive west of Kansas City, this 2,000-acre farm mostly produces traditional crops including corn, but Farmer Ted Grinter reserves about 40 acres each summer for the sunflowers, which he spreads across two fields. The west field (pictured above) is especially popular for photos, as it slopes gently upward, perfect for capturing maximum bloomage in photos with the setting sun as the backdrop.

The Grinter family has been planting sunflowers for around 40 years, and they’ve built a sunflower mini-empire on their land, including a gift shop, with the Grinter Farms name emblazoned on  sunflower-themed coffee cups, dish towels, and assorted knickknacks.

Grinter Farms is free to explore, but Farmer Ted asks anyone who breaks off a sunflower to keep to please leave some money in one of the donation boxes that are installed around the flower fields. Donations are also expected from professional photographers who host photo sessions in the flower fields. Those photographers show up in droves every evening to capture sunset portraits of gorgeous families all dressed in matching Pumpkin Spice attire. It can be quite a scene, so if you just want to have fun looking at the sunflowers and take some selfies, go earlier in the day. 

Aunt B’s Blossoms

Ottawa, Kansas;

Floral designer Brenda Hayden planted her first sunflower field just a few years ago. The Hayden family had been mourning the loss of her brother Steve’s son, who passed away at a young age after a battle with cancer, and as a way of coping, Brenda and Steve dug up 10 acres of land and planted sunflower with the hopes that a few people might stop by to take a look.

Sunflower fans did come, and thanks to the powers of social media, now Brenda and Steve are thrilled to see folks wandering up and down their rows of yellow blooms at Aunt B's Blossoms. Adopting the Grinters’ voluntary donation system, they collect money from the field, which they donate to local cancer charities in the name of Steve’s son.

When the flowers are ready to bloom, Brenda (pictured below) manages the number of daily visitors with a reservation system on her floral design website. Reservations are free. 

Klausmeyer Farm and Pumpkin Patch

8135 S 119th St W, Clearwater, Kansas;

Farmers David and Debbie Klausmeyer are best known for their fabulous pumpkin patch in central Kansas, located around 20 miles southwest of Wichita. Besides pumpkin picking, people can come watch pig races, get lost in the sorghum maze, or perhaps enjoy an evening of “zombie paintball,” which involves riding on the back of a flatbed trailer equipped with paintball guns and ammo. 
Sunflower blooms usually last for only a couple of weeks, but the Klausmeyers plant three fields of approximately 10 acres each and stagger the seed dates throughout the summer to (hopefully, weather permitting) extend the time that they have flowers in bloom.
Originally, the Klausmeyers let everyone enjoy the sunflowers for free, but crowds would swarm the fields from every direction, parking their cars higgledy-piggledy all over the road, and the neighbors couldn’t get their farm equipment through the traffic jam. So now, the sunflower fields have a designated parking area where you’ll be greeted by one of the 17 Klausmeyer grandchildren and pay a nominal admission fee of $2 per person. Debbie Klausmeyer says it isn’t about the money: “It’s worth it to get our grandkids out of the house.”
The rules here are simple: Each flower that you take costs $1, photography is welcome, but the Klausmeyers kindly request that there is no nudity, please.

Britt’s Farm

1000 S Scenic Dr., Manhattan, Kansas;

Located near Kansas State University in the town of Manhattan, Britt’s Farm also staggers the timing of its sunflower fields, with two plantings each summer.

It likes to gamble with the fall weather and hope that some late-season rains will keep sunflowers in bloom until early October. This hopefully draws in crowds to not only see the sunflowers, but also to stop by the farm store, where Britt’s sells sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, turnips, and, of course, pumpkins. Entrance is $7 per person. 

Kansas Maze

13209 E. 82nd Ave, Buhler, Kansas;
In the tiny farming town of Buhler, located almost exactly in the center of Kansas, the Gaeddert family runs one of the biggest sunflower attractions in the state: the Kansas Maze. 

It isn’t an actual maze, but a field of sunflowers with a long, winding trail carved through the blooms. There’s only one path in and out, and the experience of walking through the swaying yellow crop is a sensory delight. 
The Gaeddert family promotes their blooming season as the Sunflower Festival, but they also host several events through August and September, including the Sunflower Trail Run, where participants either run a 5K or take a brisk 1-mile walk, ending with the trail through the sunflowers.

It also runs a Sunflower Market, where visitors can enjoy painting classes, live music, and vendors selling crafts and pies. Perhaps needless to say, farmers in the middle of Kansas know how to bake delicious pies. 

Donation box at Grinter Farms