Sunflower Serenade

Written By: Julie Hostetter

THEY SAY A SUNFLOWER FIELD IS LIKE A SKY WITH A THOUSAND SUNS, for there is

nothing that warms the soul more than basking in its beauty. They draw wanderers like honeybees, and let’s face it, is there any family photo more charming than those among these smiling beauties? Thankfully, North Georgia is home to the picturesque Fausett Farms in Dawsonville, which begins its long bloom season in mid-September and continues into late October.

FAMILY FARMING SINCE 1858

The Fausett family has owned the 850-acre Dawnsonville farm since 1858. For 60 of those years, the farm’s main business was chickens not flowers. But in 2011 that

all changed when Brett Fausett chose to plant 900,000 sunflowers on more than 30 acres of farmland because growing chickens was no longer economically feasible. According to Fausett, he gives fellow farmer Johnny Burt from Burt’s Pumpkin Farm in Dawsonville credit for planting the idea in his head. “[Burt’s] planted the area’s first sunflowers along with his pumpkins, but he just did it for that one year. We started planting them after that, so he kind of got us started.”

Since then, the community’s interest has been “overwhelming,” to say the least. The 162-year-old farm still raises cows and also operates a successful lumber tree farm, but it’s the sunflowers that made the Fausset name famous. In fact, Fausett Farms Sunflowers boasts nearly 20,000 Facebook followers who count the days until they open each September.

Part of their success has been that fall planting not only offers a cooler time to visit the fields but also coincides with nearby fall favorite locations like Burt’s Pumpkin Farm and Ellijay’s admired apple picking orchards. But what really gives their blooms their biggest bang is the three expansive sunflower fields that continually bloom for nearly six weeks in fall. Each sunflower field blooms for 10 to 14 days, so by the time the first field wilts, the second field begins blooming and so on.

“We plant the sunflower fields at different times,” explained Fausett. “We do that because they won’t last long when they bloom. If we plant them all at once, we wouldn’t be open more than two to three weekends.” The excess of rain has made planting a bigger challenge this year, but don’t worry: Fausett has repeatedly replanted sunflowerseeds that have been washed away by summer showers, and he still plans to be open six weekends this fall.

A WHOLE DAY EVENT

Fausett’s sunflowers reach heights of 5 to 7 feet, creating a perfect setting for group family photos and you are more than welcome to spend as much time as you need capturing that perfect shot. Fausett recommends arriving in the morning, when temperatures are at the mildest and the sunflowers are at their sunniest. “The sunflowers are really bright in the morning,” Fausett explained. “Nearly all of these flowers face the east so when the sun rises, they are really bright.” But, he added, there is another picture-perfect time to consider. “In the later afternoon, as the sun passes over them, is another good time. A lot of photographers like to catch the shadows.”

The farm is practicing social distancing guidelines, which shouldn’t be too hard to achieve as the field is expansive and allows for lots of beautiful vignettes to enjoy. While the sunflowers take center stage, there are a variety of “photo ops” to enjoy, whether posing with historic farming equipment, glossy red tractors, or simply a fluffy bale of hay.

“We throw out round bales of hay and you wouldn’t believe how many people go crazy over a hay bale,” Fausett said with a chuckle. “I also bought an old truck this year [we will display] and a really old hay rake from the early 1900s.” They also put out a trailer decorated to the hilt with hay bales and other fall decorations, such as pumpkins, scarecrows and a rustic bench, perfect for your fall family photo. “My wife is the decorating expert around here, I just plant flowers,” he added with a smile.

There is more to the farm than a photo op, however. The farm also sells pre-cut flowers to take home, souvenir T-shirts and locally made honey products, from raw natural honey to lotions and lip balm. Back by popular demand from years past, fresh-made barbecue will be served to guests via a local roasting aficionado known to longtime farm guests as just good ole “Porky.” So be sure to bring a blanket for a southern fall feast among the sunflowers.

And equestrians take note: Fausett Farms has 30 miles of horse-riding trails so you can “BYOH” (Bring Your Own Horse) and ride all day for just $10, or purchase an annual pass for $100. Horse riders can even take a leisurely ride through the sunflowers for a truly magical day on horseback.

Weekends are definitely the busiest time to visit Fausett Farms, of course, with nearly 2,400 people visiting alone one Saturday last fall. If you can, visit on a weekday, where you may even be blessed with the fields all to yourself for a spell.

Fausett Farms Sunflowers 11336 Hwy. 136 West, Dawsonville 706-265-9661. fausettfarmssunflowers.com

PLAN YOUR SUNFLOWER VISIT

Open daily from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m., Saturday, September 19 through the end of October, Fausett Farms Sunflowers charges an entry fee of $5 per person, while kids under 5 are free. If you are booking a professional photographer, there is a $35 fee, which includes your entire family’s admission. And yes, fur babies are invited to the farm as well, but please keep them on a leash.

For horse lovers, bring your own horse and enjoy a day of riding on miles and miles of trails for $10 per day or purchase an annual pass for $100.

Even those wanting a beautiful outdoor social-distanced setting for their upcoming wedding, these picturesque fields are ripe for your big event.

To be sure the open field is in full bloom, call before your planned arrival and ask about the sunflower status. We suggest if the second or third field is just about to open, you might want to wait until the field freshly opens for snapping the best pictures.

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