Who knew that public sunflower fields, courtesy of Fish Sunflowers, were going to save Minnesota’s summer in 2020? They were an unexpected savior, but oh so needed. And the summers to come could bring an even bigger response.
It all started with Johnny “Fish” Olson, who has planted sunflower fields in the north Twin Cities metro area for more than five years. In 2020, there were 10 fields open to the public, all free of charge. To keep them free going forward, Olson set up a GoFundMe campaign and has met with farmers, local government, and foundations.
In 2021, field locations include Monticello (open until August 1), Big Lake, Kimball, Montrose, Gibbon, Andover, Braham, Otsego, and Albert Lea.
Until July 27, two fields surround the Allina clinic in Buffalo, where a deadly shooting took place in early 2021. “We want to help bring healing, peace, positivity and sunshine to a hurting community,” Olson wrote to the Fish Sunflowers email list, which posts estimated bloom times. The Fish Sunflowers Facebook group, which has more than 32,000 members, is another great resource.
Bloom time for each field usually lasts about 10 days, and the height of the season is mid-to-late summer. For visitors, Fish Sunflowers requests that people spread the word, share in the positivity, and post photos to social media. The fields are open during daylight hours. Because the fields are on private property, visitors are asked to respect the closing dates.
In 2020, my fiancé and I visited the field in Monticello. It was more of a trek than we had initially expected. But, spoiler alert, it was so very worth it. I naively thought that not a ton of people knew about the fields and that it would be a quieter excursion. I was wrong. A whole field was dedicated just to parking, and the lot was nearly full. Despite the full lot, the fields themselves were not overly crowded. For smaller crowds, try going on a weekday.
No one can see a large field of sunflowers in full bloom on a 70-degree sunny day and not be filled with absolute joy. Families brought strollers and put sunflower headbands on their babies. Friends headed to the fields for beautiful portraits. Photographers wandered around, getting close-up shots of the flowers.
The best comment I overheard was from a photographer taking photos of her friend: “Oh. My. Gosh. How are you so cute?” There’s nothing better than seeing friends supporting friends, kids smiling genuinely for photos, and couples wandering through the paths, taking in the yellow glory.
We spent half an hour at the field. But even after a 50-mile drive, I left feeling satisfied, hoping that I would always remember how light and happy I felt surrounded by sunflowers.
Head to fishsunflowers.com for open fields and estimated bloom times.