You’ve seen the sunflower pictures from Grinter Farms on Instagram and Facebook. The ones with people posing amongst a seemingly endless field of sunflowers. The pictures have exploded in popularity recently. It seems everyone has made the trek to Grinter Farms to snap a photo with the sunflowers. But the sunflower field was never intended to be a destination for photos; it began because of the OPEC oil crisis by the great-grandfather of MHED substitute teacher Sidney Grinter.

“My grandpa was ahead of his time,” Sidney said. “He wanted to harvest the sunflowers and grind them to make biofuel.”

When he couldn’t get his biofuel idea off the ground, Sidney’s great-grandfather sold the seeds for bird feed and continued to plant the flowers because of the beauty they brought to the farm. The sunflower field became a Grinter Farms tradition.

As the popularity of the sunflower field grew, Sidney’s dad Ted almost stopped planting them in the 1990s because people kept taking the first six rows of flowers.

“My mom told him that these were good people who just wanted to take some of the beauty home with them,” Sidney said. “She suggested a ‘donation box thingy’ and told him that she’d slap a sign on it for him. He didn’t think it would work. But he humored her and was happily proven wrong.”

After that, more and more people came to see the sunflowers. Then in 2014, Sidney suggested creating a Facebook page for the farm to answer people’s questions about the sunflowers. Suddenly, the sunflowers were all over social media and the farm went viral. Pictures of people with the sunflowers were everywhere. The farm made national and international news. The popularity even caused an epic traffic jam in 2016.

“That was the craziest year! The sunflowers caused what we lovingly refer to as ‘traffigedan.’ The interstate exit was backed up for miles and the cops shut down the field and directed traffic away
from the field for three hours on Labor Day.”

After working with the local police and getting the word out through the local news to come out during the week if you can, things have run much more smoothly. Last year, an estimated 30,000
people visited the sunflower field.

Before visiting, Sidney suggests checking out the “Rules of Engagement” post on their Facebook page.

“Wear comfortable shoes and long pants; it’s muddy and sunflowers are scratchy. Abide by traffic regulations. Please take only memories, photos, and maybe a sunflower or two and leave only footprints and donations. And above all, be kind. I hope you enjoy the view and have a wonderful time.”

When she’s not helping on the farm, Sidney is working on her master’s degree and substitute teaching.

“I’ve been a substitute teacher for almost two years,” she said. “I really like the flexibility that being a substitute gives me. I also really like having the opportunity to help students. Making a connection with a class is very rewarding.”

To see pictures on the sunflowers, check out the Grinter Farms Facebook page and search #grinterfarms on Instagram.