“A Sunflower field is like a sky with a thousand suns” –Corina Abdulahm Negura
Ask a summer lover to describe their idea of heaven, and they might tell you it’s to land smack dab inside a field of sunflowers, as far as the eye can see. Inform them their divine vision awaits each July, down Rt. 16, between Cambridge and Church Creek, at Emily’s Produce.
Emily’s devotees don’t need any special reason to visit the 22-year-old Dorchester County favorite. But 7th generation farmer owner/operators Kelly and Paul Jackson keep coming up with ideas to celebrate each season working the land they love.
Initially inspired by fellow farmers in the North American membership group they’ve been active in for the past 15 years, the Jacksons and their dedicated team decided to cultivate a breathtaking bevy of sunflowers in botanical maze form, much to the delight of moms, dads, and grandparents desperately seeking engaging outdoor family activities. Turns out, kids and adventurers (of all ages) loved it. So, too, did fantastic floral aficionados. Shutterbugs, as well, couldn’t wait to capture a loved one’s image (or their own) against a beaming backdrop of giant yellow blooms.
The sunflowers grew so popular that, three years ago, the event rebloomed as a full-fledged “spectacular.” Now covering four acres with up to 25 varieties, the mazes to journey through remained but a platform “tower” was added to provide a birds’ eye view overlooking the golden field of dreams.
The logistical groundwork begins mid-April with first planting, followed up with additional plantings every 8 to 10 days to ensure constant blooms.
“We plant about 10 weeks before they bloom, then cut pathways and move the viewing tower as needed,” Kelly noted, adding that Paul relies on his agricultural knowledge of maturity dates, colors, height, and seed size in deciding where to locate each variety. She stressed that weeds are managed via several rounds of cultivation, and no chemicals are applied.
Initially scheduled to run this year from July 8 to July 18th, the Spectacular carried over through August 7th, by popular demand and possibly the 2021 benevolence of Mother Nature, who seemed to be making amends for last year’s destructive wrath from Tropical Storm Isaias, which derailed the event.
Amateur camera buffs were welcomed daily between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., aided by a myriad of picturesque props, including rustic photo frames, a bench to accommodate seated group portraits, and chairs—wooden and vintage velvet–“planted” amidst the winding pathways. Professional photographers could reserve after hour appointments for client photo shoots.
Throughout the season, the $5.00 admission fee also included selecting, cutting, and carrying home a bounty of 5 huge sunflowers.
While Saturday’s steady downpour dampened the current display, the sun hasn’t completely set on the Spectacular yet. Smaller patches in initial stages of bloom remain and sunflowers will be available for individual cutting at $1 apiece through October, weather permitting, Kelly advised; the $5.00 entry fee has ended.
She also looks forward to continuing Emily’s practice of delivering complimentary sunflowers to local businesses. “And we have a ‘smiles for seniors’ initiative coming up, with Delmarva Community Services distributing sunflowers with its home delivery meal program,” Kelly mentioned.
Even as the blooms fade away, the patches continue providing an array of sustenance to birds, butterflies, bees, and bugs, who in turn offer even more natural beauty for visitors to enjoy.
For more information, visit www.emilysproduce.com.
Debra Messick is a retired Dorchester County Public Library associate and lifelong freelance writer. A transplanted native Philadelphian, she has enjoyed residing in Cambridge MD since 1995.