Henk Schuurmans opens farm to sunflower-seekers

While most farmers might not take kindly to passersby helping themselves to the fruits of their labour, Henk Schuurmans wants people to do just that.

Schuurmans is inviting people to pick their own sunflowers from his dairy farm in Elmira, Ont., in exchange for pay-what-you can donations to the Woolwich Youth Centre.

The DIY fundraiser is in honour of Henk Schuurmans’ wife, Bettina, who died last year during the couple’s cross-country tractor trip to promote supply management in the dairy industry.

“My wife … she really liked the sunflowers,” Schuurmans said.

“We continue to grow these things in dedication and memory of my wife and share these beautiful flowers with the general public.”

A guest book is set up on a table next to the sunflower field, along with several pairs of scissors to help visitors pick flowers. There is also a cash donation box for the Woolwich Youth Centre.

Schuurmans said he and his wife often employed local high school students as evening milkers at their farm, and wanted to choose an organization with a focus on young people.

‘Really special’

On Monday morning, a steady stream of cars drove in and out of the farm to collect bouquets and leave donations.

Andrea Jantzi, who knew Bettina through the church they both attended, was at the field Monday with her three kids. She said Bettina would have enjoyed seeing visitors coming to the farm to spend time together as a family.

“I think it’s a great way to honour someone and people can give money to something that mattered to her too, so I think that’s really special,” Jantzi said.

Schuurmans said he plans to continue the fundraiser in the future, choosing a different charity every year.

Although sunflower season will likely only last another few weeks, Schuurmans said visitors are welcome to keep coming to gather seeds to plant for next year or to feed to birds.

“This is for everybody to enjoy and there is so many of them,” he said. “Please come out and take some home.”

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