Tour information updated for 2017!
I have always found sunflowers to be magnificent and stunning flowers. The vibrant yellow petals and their tall, stoic stance make them not only amazing to look at but also very inspiring. As stated in our recent article listing 5 Reasons to Visit Sunflower Farms, we also know there are amazing benefits for spending the day exploring this flower. Little did I know, however, how much love, care and work goes into creating this magical flower. Nor did I realize how important they are to the environment!
A few years ago, I, along with my family, embarked on an exciting journey through 500 acres of farmland at Donaldson Farms that allowed us to delve into the world of sunflowers. For over an hour, we were provided with fascinating information about farm life and interesting and unique facts about sunflowers all while enjoying picturesque and inspiring views.
It was a perfect and breezy summer night when we boarded the hay ride full of excitement and anticipation. There were about 10 additional passengers with us ranging in age from infants to grandparents. We all sat comfortably on the burlap covered hay bales after we were given a warm welcome from Katie Donaldson, the tour guide and important member of the Donaldson family. We were also extremely lucky to have Lindsay Gafford from the NJ Audubon be a part of our tour.
From the moment we left, my boys were captivated by all the sights and sounds of the farm. Of course, as most boys are, they were fascinated by the tractors and animals. They also listened closely and maintained focus as Katie discussed all the amazing produce that can be found at Donaldson Farms from lettuce and apples to peaches and broccoli. There is something for everyone at this 100 (plus) year old, family run farm.
The Donaldson Farms Sunflower Tour took visitors passed their 30 acres of Black Oil Sunflowers. We learned that for every 1 acre there are 22,000 sunflowers! It was an unbelievable and magnificent sight that must be experienced in person. As we rode by all the amazing sunflowers, Katie and Lindsay shared some very interesting facts about this flower that I did not know. Here is just some of what we learned:
- It takes the seeds 90 days to grow.
- They grow facing the sun; however, once they bloom, the flower stays facing one direction.
- The flower is actually located on the inside of the sunflower while the gorgeous yellow petals are really “false petals” called sepals.
- Black Oil Sunflower seeds contain a high amount of fat which helps strengthen migrating birds.
- The inner flowers grow in interconnecting spirals where the number of left and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. (I bet you didn’t know there was so much math involved in sunflower growth!)
- Sunflowers are harvested in mid to late October once all the seeds have completely dried out.
- Pollinators such as bees, ladybugs, moths and more are critical in the growth of sunflowers.
Katie and Lindsay were incredibly knowledgable and able to answer any questions the visitors had. They shared that the Black Oil Sunflowers grown at Donaldson Farms are grown for the NJ Audubon. The seeds are harvested to create S.A.V.E. bird seed which is critical for birds in the area. In addition, the proceeds help fund amazing conservations work. Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment (S.A.V.E.) not only supports local farmers, it also helps conserve wildlife habitat!
After learning all of this valuable information, the tour stopped at a beautiful section of sunflowers where we were able to explore and take in the wonder of this amazing flower. The kids engaged in a Pollinator Safari which Lindsay was VERY helpful with! My older son (age 5 at the time) loved the science aspect of this activity as he walked around with a magnifying glass carefully looking at each flower to find a pollinator. The rest stop was also perfect for taking breathtaking pictures which I thoroughly enjoyed! Donaldson Farms also offered us cold water and fresh, crisp apples which we happily devoured.
We were provided with ample time to explore the area before returning to the wagon and heading back to the main Farm Market. As we rode back, Katie shared more valuable information about Donaldson Farms and pointed out various produce and farm equipment. We absolutely LOVED this tour and would definitely do it again!
Here is what you need to know to book your Sunflower Tour at Donaldson Farms:
- It is offered through mid/late September.
- Tours take place Saturdays at 9am, 12pm and 5pm; Sundays 9am, 12pm and 4pm.
- Tickets are only $10/adult, $6/kids ages 4-12 and children 3 and under are FREE.
- Sunflowers can be cut right from the field for purchase for only $2 each.
- A Pollinator Safari sheet is provided to enhance your visit.
- The tour takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 hour (but can be longer as our’s was).
- Any pictures you take can be entered into a photo contest through Donaldson Farms!
Donaldson Farms is located in Hackettstown, NJ. It is easy to find and has ample parking. They also hold numerous exciting events throughout the year. For more information go to http://www.donaldsonfarms.net.
Thank you again to Donaldson Farms for allowing us to participate in their Sunflower Tour in exchange for our honest review.
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