Sunflower farms, pumpkin patches prepare for thousands of visitors over next few weeks

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — It’s getting to be the time of year when tourism is big business for area farms. But what will hay rides and corn mazes look like this year with COVID-19?

Whether it’s snapping sunflowers selfies, picking pumpkins or just some time on the farm, the next few weekends are the favorite time of year for many metro families.

“They are wanting to come out and share the joy and post the pictures,” Ted Grinter said.

The owner of Grinter Farms said he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to make sure people are still able to do that and not contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Past years have led to traffic jams. Grinter thinks this year could be even busier. People want to get outdoors. There’s no college football during bloom.

“I don’t think this will be a normal year. I think we’ll have a lot more people out people are looking for things to do,” Grinter said.

But with 28 acres and 92 miles of sunflowers, Grinter thinks people can spread out in the fields.

Across the state line in Liberty, Missouri, there are acres of pumpkins and room for food and drink areas to be moved outside at Carolyn’s Country Cousins Pumpkin Patch.

“We have so much room out here on the farm. That’s one of our big plusses,” Carolyn Raasch said.

But some of their attractions like wagon, train and carousel rides are a little closer quarters. So they’ll be selling advance tickets for certain times to help limit crowds.

The owner of the family business that hosted a hiring fair Monday night said it’s not just that agritourism is important to Missouri and Kansas economies.

“Anytime we can be open to the public and let people enjoy an outing with their family it’s worth it,” Raasch said.

They’ll follow whatever updated health guidelines that are in effect when they open Sept. 19 and, like any business welcoming people onto their property, can just hope the public does the same.

Even if more people overall visit farms the next couple months, farmers are hoping the flexible school schedules will help spread out those visits a little better, avoiding big weekend and holiday rushes.

You can get updates on when the sunflowers are in bloom on Grinter’s website. The peak season usually lasts one to two weeks.

Advance tickets for Carolyn’s can be purchased on Carolyn’s website.

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