SIMCOE, Ala. – Sunflowers, also known as the “happy” flowers, have a knack for sparking joy and creating smiles. That is what the Haynes family hopes the fields of sunflowers they planted along Alabama Highway 69 in Simcoe bring for passersby. The sea of huge yellow flowers is in perfect bloom now for the community to enjoy.
When The Tribune caught up with Darrel Haynes, he was at his barn unloading corn with his sons Ben and Bart. A friendly Siamese barn cat played in and around the farm equipment, unfazed by the sounds of the busy farm. Haynes grew up on the farm in Simcoe and still farms full-time today.
He explained how the sunflowers came to be, saying, “A few years ago, just on a whim, we planted a patch of sunflowers. We had bought some dirt that was nasty. We bought a big farm and this one spot was just kind of a trash dump. We didn’t have it cleaned up in time to plant soybeans. In was in July and we got that spot of dirt cleaned up and wondered what to do with it so we planted a patch of sunflowers.”
Haynes planted the first sunflowers on a back road with very little traffic, but the huge blooms caught people’s attention.
“When they started blooming, it just exploded with curiosity and people wanting to take pictures,” he said.
The next year, they decided to plant sunflowers in a more prominent location for everyone to enjoy. They chose to plant them in a field located on Alabama Highway 69 across from Taylor’s Produce in the Simcoe community.
“We do it as a gift to the community, a gift for people to enjoy. We get the enjoyment of people enjoying it,” he smiled. “There’s not a whole lot of farmers compared to the rest of the folks. Folks get frustrated following tractors, smelling chicken litter or maybe somebody’s cow being out. We decided it was just a gift of a peace offering or whatever you might want to call it.”
Haynes laughed as he recalled a recent request from a woman interested in the sunflowers.
He explained, “A lady came and wanted to buy 40 blooms. I told her that they weren’t for sale. I could see the rejection on her face. She said, ‘My daughter is getting married and we just thought it would be so pretty to have a bouquet.’”
Haynes replied, “I didn’t know it when we planted that bunch of sunflowers, but the good Lord had you in mind and we planted that patch of flowers for you and your daughter. If you need every bloom in that field, you can have every bloom in that field. That’s why we planted them.”
Haynes said she began to cry as he told her to gather all the flowers she needed.
He said, “That’s the way we feel about it. Sunday, someone called and said that I needed to ride down to my sunflowers. When I asked why, the person said, ‘It’s Grand Central Station!’ I drove down there and I started crying because there were so many people down there taking pictures.”
Haynes referred to other farmers in Alabama who have sunflower patches who charge people for pictures or for blooms. He said that was never his intention. It was a selfless gesture to others and he welcomes visitors.
The visitors to the colorful field are steady according to Vanessa Taylor, who runs the produce stand across the road.
“People started coming in Friday or Saturday to take pictures and there has been about 10-12 cars just this morning!” said Taylor, who shared that sunflowers do well in the heat. “Those sunflowers, this time last week, you might find a dozen or so. Overnight, they just popped.”
Taylor recalled last year’s sunflower patch.
“They had them on the backside of the hay field and you couldn’t get through the dirt road for all the people. It was unreal.”
This is the fourth year Haynes has planted sunflowers and the second year at their current location. He warned that the sunflowers will be pretty for the next few days but will soon begin to fade. He loves that people come to take pictures.
“Just enjoy them. That’s my pay,” he smiled.
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