Farmer’s sunflower success helps raise money for NHS

A Merseyside farmer has paid his own special tribute to the NHS – planting thousands of sunflowers to create a 200ft-high message in his field.

Olly Harrison wanted to show his appreciation for the key workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic by creating the giant message on his 485ha farm in Prescot, which is also helping to raise money for charities in Liverpool.

Visitors can pay to visit the huge installation, as well as navigate a 7ha sunflower maze that has been created in the neighbouring field.

Olly Harrison

Olly Harrison

Mr Harrison told Farmers Weekly: “Obviously the NHS was high up on the agenda when we were planting the sunflowers in April.

“My saying has been when a clap’s not enough, say it with flowers. If a farmer claps for the NHS on a Thursday night, no one can hear it.

“I’ve enjoyed growing sunflowers for the past four or five years and have always involved charities.

“We had a patch of oilseed rape that had been eaten by pigeons and slugs so in the top corner of the field we’ve sown the NHS flowers.”

Maze quiz

The giant maze in the neighbouring field quizzes visitors on their knowledge of bees and other pollinators, which are vital for the environment.

Correct answers will keep them on the right path and help avoid the dead ends.

Sunflower maze

© Steve Samosa

“It is helping to educate people about farming and our environment, as well as raise money, so it has been great to do.

“The sunflowers, which are more than 6ft tall, have an impressive root structure on them and I am hoping they will last for three weeks so people can continue to look around,” Mr Harrison added.

The seeds were given to the farmer by Syngenta, and drones were used to guide the cutting of the NHS tribute and the maze, which was created with the help of a large mower lent by a friend.

Scotland sunflowers

Scottish beef and pig farmer Bill Smith, from Byres Farm, Morayshire, is also growing sunflowers with strong charitable intentions.

“What we’ve done this year after the start of Covid-19 is to establish a field of sunflowers on the farm,” he said.

“They’re going to be worked on a pick-your-own basis.

“Hopefully, when they flower in the north-east of Scotland, people will come and we’ll donate all the money to Moray Firth Radio’s [MFR] Cash For Kids charity.

“At the start of lockdown, we’d spend all day on the tractor and heard all the heartbreaking stories on MFR about the deprivation of children during Covid – it would make a grown man cry – and so the sunflowers are our way of giving a bit back to society.”

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