Sunflower farm owners hope to see new blooms by late June
By Allison Law | Photos by Mark Stevenson
It’s impossible to not be drawn to – and give a little smile to – a big field of summer sunflowers. As tall as a man, standing at attention, their bright faces put on a show for all who stop by.
And at Kim and Todd Sheridan’s farm west of Autaugaville, the hope is that this summer’s crop will be as beautiful as last year’s. They started prepping about 18 acres of fields in late April, with planting in early May. Depending on the weather, the plants should begin blooming in late June and continue into the first couple of weeks of July.
The Sheridans keep their farm’s fans up to date on the blooms on their Facebook page, titled simply “The Sunflower Field.” It has more than 20,000 “likes” and is the best way to plan a trip to the farm.
It’s a popular spot with families and garden clubs as well as photographers; the farm has even had its share of engagement proposals.
“We haven’t had anyone say no yet to one of the proposals,” Todd says during an interview at the farm in July 2019, as the blooms were at their peak. “We’re 100 percent on that,” Kim adds with a smile.
As they have for the past few years, they plan to open to the public once the blooms open. “I think we all need this more than ever,” Kim said in the late spring, when Alabamians were still under a stay-at-home order to combat the COVID-19 virus.
This is a happy place, the couple says. “Everybody who comes here has a good attitude,” Todd says. “They’re coming because they want to be here. Except for the few husbands who get drug along,” he laughs. But even curmudgeons are usually pretty cheerful by the time they leave.
Asked to explain its allure, Kim says, “It’s kind of simple, but spectacular, if you can use those two words in the same sentence. It’s something to see.”
Sharon Samples, who is originally from Mobile, told Alabama Living on a July visit to the farm that she wanted to experience nature. She’s a photographer but was taking just personal photos on this trip.
“I’m like, did I take enough pictures? Can I actually capture the beauty?” she says. Even if her photos couldn’t – we’re pretty sure they did – she was taking some stems home to her family, just in case.
The farm draws many from central Alabama, but the Sheridans are surprised by the number of travelers who come by, often taking detours to or from the beach. It’s not uncommon to see travelers from all across the Southeast; one woman came from Tampa, Florida, just to see the blooms.
The flowers are undeniably pretty, but Todd thinks a major draw is that fields such as his are rare in Alabama. “Ninety percent of the people who come here have never seen a field of sunflowers like this,” he says. “I’d never seen a field of sunflowers like this until I planted them.”
Admission to the field is free; a long wander through the fields can eat up a good part of a morning or afternoon. For $1 per stem, you can cut your own flowers to take home, or get a bucket for $10 and put up to 14 flowers in it. The fee for professional photographers is $20 per session, no appointment necessary. The Sheridans plan to have produce available for sale at the entrance to the farm, as well as kitchen tea towels and T-shirts (cash and check only).
The farm will have two plantings, to allow for a longer viewing season. But each planting only blooms for about 10 days, so be sure to follow their Facebook page for frequent updates on the blooms. The farm’s address is 3301 Highway 14 West, Autaugaville, AL 36003.
Taking them home
If you want to cut some flowers to take home, Todd Sheridan offers some advice. “The most important thing to making them last is to re-cut the stem about every three days.” When you cut your flower in the field, be sure to leave enough of the stem to be cut several more times. Todd says to put four parts water, one part regular citrus soda and about a thimble full of bleach to kill any bacteria in the flower water.