Owners: Nelson and Kelley Nichols
Location: Fair Grove, Mo.
History: Nelson and Kelley Nichols developed their dream of an ornamental sunflower farm in the midst of a difficult time. Kelley’s adult daughter was undergoing emergency brain surgery in San Francisco, Calif.
“The one thing that could put a smile on our face was that there was a market on every corner in San Francisco and every one of those markets had buckets of water with bunches of ornamental sunflowers in them,” Kelley explained. Nelson had grown sunflowers for years for seed and wildlife habitat at a farm he and his brother own in Golden City, Mo., but he had never worked with ornamental sunflowers. Kelley recalled, “Nelson said, ‘These sunflowers are different.’’’ That spurred the Nichols to start researching the ornamental beauties. Four years ago, they launched Golden Grove Farm in Fair Grove, Mo.
In the beginning, they planted a couple rows of ornamental sunflowers each week in order to harvest as many as 400 sunflowers weekly to sell at local farm stands. Then while reading a Southern Living magazine, Kelley learned about a farm in Virginia that hosts a sunflower festival each summer. Kelley contacted the owners who graciously shared with her how they operate a successful sunflower festival. After much preparation, Golden Grove Farm hosted its first sunflower festival in July 2017.
Sunflower Festival: Nelson and Kelley were overjoyed at the response to their first sunflower festival. “It was a shock to both of us for people we didn’t even know to drive-in and get the whole thing started. We were floored and people were so nice. They said they had fun and appreciated it being an inexpensive thing to do. It was very rewarding,” Kelley said.
The Nichols are excited to host their 2nd annual sunflower festival this summer planned for July 12-18. During the festival, a dozen varieties of sunflowers will bloom on an acre at Golden Grove Farm. It takes several days of intensive labor just to plant the sunflower seeds. The Nichols use a push-planter for proper seed placement and a garden hoe to ensure the seeds are properly covered.
Future Plans: Golden Grove Farm plans to expand its sunflower field in the future and possibly add new fields filled with other cutting flowers.