You just can't take a bad photo of a sunflower, Carolyn Forster agrees. And each time she sees the friends and strangers capturing the flowers in all of their glory, she has to smile and know she did the right thing.

Forster, who owns the farm at 1046 Nina Delozier Road with her sister, Debbie Franklin, said she was handed a photo three years ago of a sunflower field with mountains in the background. "That could be your field," the friend who showed her the photo said.

"There are two farmers who lease the farm from my sister and me," Forster said. "They happened to be at the barn so I went straight to them. I talked to them and showed them this picture and said, 'Look guys, would you all do this for me?' And they went, 'no.' I mean (they said no) immediately."

One of them said it would cause too many wrecks. But Forster wasn't giving up. She convinced them to plant a small patch at the back of her house, not really for public view.

That was in 2017. Forster said it was neat to enjoy the eclipse with the sunflowers that August.

Then last year, a persistent Forster brought up the topic once again. She told the farmers, Bill Beason and David Coppinger, they didn't have to make it a huge bed of sunflowers. She also asked that there be space for people to park.

The flowers were planted and Forster sat back and watched as people came — and came. That's when she decided to plant again, in 2019.

This year, the sunflowers peaked a little earlier than before, Forster said. They stay beautiful for about two weeks before the heads get heavy and droop. She said by this weekend, they will start that process.

In a couple of weeks, the seeds will be perfect for collecting to use as birdseed. Forster said she hopes people will come and get them to take home.

Twice as many visitors came this year, she said. "What is so neat is I am seeing people with their grandchildren out here taking photos," Forster said. "Everything is happy. I love it because it makes people happy."

She credits Beason and Coppinger with doing all the work. They gave up space they would have used to grow soybeans, she explained. 

Beason and Coppinger researched the idea of harvesting the sunflower seeds, but learned it wasn't really cost effective to try it. The closest processing plant is in Alabama. The flowers have to be replanted each year.

Come next year, Forster hopes to do it again. As one admirer of the sunflowers told her, "It's become a summer tradition."

"I will keep doing it as long as my farmers will do it," Forster promised.

Melanie joined The Daily Times in the early 90s and has served as the Life section editor since 1993. A William Blount and UT alum, Melanie is generally the early arriver who turns on the lights in the newsroom.

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