- Associated Press - Sunday, September 20, 2015

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - More than 25,000 people - including some from other countries - took the time to travel to a northeast Kansas farm this summer to walk among fields and fields of sunflowers.

Ted and Kris Grinter open the fields where they have planted more than a million sunflowers to visitors, asking only $1 donations for each sunflower taken. For years, most of the visitors were from the region but social media has helped spread the word about the Grinter Farms sunflower fields between Lawrence and Tonganoxie. The couple talked to people this year from Japan, California, Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Oregon and New York, as well as thousands of Kansans.

The Grinter Farms Facebook page boasts nearly 23,000 followers and includes updates from Kris, photos from visitors and professionally produced videos. The BBC did a segment on the fields, and people from as far away as Guatemala visited, The Lawrence Journal-World reported (https://bit.ly/1W5dsyE ).

The fields don’t have any tourist trappings. The Grinters carved out a gravel strip to relieve the parking problem on the county road adjacent to the farm. There is no gift shop or visitors center - not even a public bathroom.

Ted Grinter admitted he was surprised by how many people visited the farm this year.

“I thought I had enough parking with the field in front of the house and the grass strip I planted, and that didn’t even begin to cover it,” he said.

It’s too late for any more visitors this year. The sunflowers have begun to droop and harvesting of corn has begun on the farm, prompting the Grinters to ask on their Facebook page for people to stay away until next year.

The Grinters don’t make much off the visitors, other than voluntary donations left in collection boxes. He wouldn’t say how much he collected this year but estimated about 50,000 sunflowers were taken or damaged by visitors. He said the donations don’t offset the $10,000 it costs to plant and care for the sunflowers.

Grinter also sells corn to local consumers and in the coming weeks will harvest the sunflowers for seeds he sells as bird feed.

The Grinters say the payoff is the opportunity to share something special with many people, who usually take pictures. The farm has been the site of senior pictures, engagement pictures and even a wedding party.

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Information from: Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, https://www.ljworld.com

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