For those of you yearning to pose next to giant sunflowers, the time is now … and quickly fading.
Pockets of Kansas fields of summer are bathed in lush hues of yellow and green. These crop sunflowers should not be confused with the Kansas state symbol, a tinier version called Helianthus annuus, which bloom throughout the summer along roadsides across Kansas.
Late August through mid-September is when crop sunflowers in Kansas are at the height of their bloom.
And scattered across the state are photographers and young couples eager to photograph themselves standing next to the dinner plate-sized sunflowers.
On the internet
Within the past five years, photographs of people standing next to the giant flowers has become trendy. Blame Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
“Someone puts a photo up and everyone sees them,” said portrait photographer Valerie Shannon of Wichita.
In recent weeks, she said, she has had three requests from teens wanting their senior portraits taken in fields and some requests from local models wanting the same.
One teen was 17-year-old Lindsay Cowin of Mulvane who asked to have her senior picture taken in a field.
“I just really like sunflowers, they are my favorite flower,” Cowin said. “I’m from Kansas and stuff and thought it would be a good place for one of my senior sessions.”
The challenge is finding those fields of sunflowers. The fields aren’t necessarily near population centers, and farmers really don’t want trespassers.
The majority of sunflower fields are in western Kansas where Goodland has a plant for transforming the seeds into healthy oils, in-shell sunflower seeds and bird seed.
And while there are some pockets of fields in central and north-central Kansas, finding them is somewhat difficult.
“I can’t tell you the number of calls I get from people saying, ‘I am going to be in Kansas on this date and need to know where there is a field within 10 miles of Kansas City,” said Steve Swaffar, executive director of the Kansas Sunflower Commission. “I tell them to just go to a roadside ditch and look for the wild sunflowers.”
The sunflower fields last seven to 14 days before the flowers begin to drop their petals and droop, awaiting late September and October, when combines roar across the fields.
When the fields are in full bloom depends on when and what area of the state sunflowers were planted and what variety, Swaffar said.
“It depends on where you are; some of the dryland crops aren’t doing so good after that brutal hot week we had,” Swaffar said. “There are some that are still hanging on.
“There’s lots of full-season flowers in northwest Kansas with irrigation where it is less risky.”
For the past 40 years, Ted and Kris Grinter near Lawrence have grown about 40 acres of sunflowers for birdseed.
But in the past five years, as the popularity of taking photos of sunflowers against sunsets has become trendy, his field has easily become one of the most photographed in Kansas.
“This has just exploded into people taking photos,” Ted Grinter said.
Grinter’s Sunflower Farm, 24154 Stillwell Road, doesn’t charge for people to come take photographs, but he does ask for $1 if people decide to take a sunflower head home with them. It’s on the honor system.
“Although why one would want to take a flower home with them, I don’t know,” Grinter said. “They are full of pollen.”
The 2017 sunflower seeds on his farm were planted July 9 and the peak blooming should be around Labor Day, he said. When they are in full bloom, his farm is like a “Field of Dreams” movie scene: cars and more cars lined up waiting to park. Professional photographers schedule sessions. Amateurs take photos of everything.
“We’ve had so many people out here, several generations,” Grinter said. “Some take pictures of pregnant mothers, then the baby and all the way up through high school. It is kind of neat.”
Lawrence photographer Erin Dunlap likes her frame to be full with sunflowers up close and personal.
“I look for nice patches where all the flowers are standing up; don’t really want to see any walking paths through the field,” Dunlap said.
Wichita photographer Mickey Shannon, Valerie’s husband, is hoping to take a landscape photo of the sunflowers against the Milky Way.
“I always look for a good sunrise and sunset,” he said. “My best shots are at Grinter Farms.”
Kansas ranks fourth in the nation for producing sunflowers, harvesting more than 135,000 acres. It trails South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
The biggest fields are found in northwest Kansas. Sherman County produces more sunflowers than anywhere else in the state.
And in Goodland – the Sherman County seat and the sunflower capital of Kansas — you can find a giant reproduction of Vincent van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers in a Vase.”
Looking for sunflower spots?
Here are some spots closer to Wichita, and information on Grinter Farms in Lawrence. Remember to ask permission before entering a field and not to trespass.
▪ A sunflower field is between the 4400 and 5300 blocks of West Illinois Avenue in Hutchinson.
▪ Traditionally there is a field of sunflowers in the 2900 block of East 79th Street near Haysville.
▪ Grinter Farms, 24154 Stillwell Road, Lawrence. Grinter Farms also has a Facebook page that keeps visitors updated with the status of the flowers.