New Jersey blooming with sunflowersIf you love birds and the sight of sunflowers makes you smile, you can support both interests during the summer months in New Jersey. How? By visiting local farms with acres of blooming flowers and purchasing quality sunflower birdseed grown by the farmers who participate in the New Jersey Audubon Society’s (NJAS) newest program, S.A.V.E. (Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment).

Since 2008, eight farms have signed up with NJAS to devote several acres to growing sunflowers. When harvested, the crops are certified as Jersey Grown birdseed. For every five acres of sunflowers planted, NJAS manages and maintains one acre of grassland habitat for threatened and endangered birds.

Troy Ettel, NJAS director of conservation and stewardship, says, “Locally grown birdseed reduces the use of fossil fuels for shipping and reduces the carbon footprint, thus ensuring that farming and wildlife habitat coexist.”

Also, the farmers eliminate the middleman by packaging the seeds in 25- and 50-pound bags, so New Jerseyans can buy quality, home-grown seed at Audubon centers, roadside stands, or from the farmers.

Sunflowers Are Not Just for the Birds

People love sunflowers. And the eight participating farmers in the S.A.V.E. program welcome New Jersey families to visit their farms to photograph and admire their sunny crops. They are in full bloom during July and August. It’s a sight to behold when the fields are aglow with these graceful flowers that always follow the sun and grow incredibly fast.

For a great Jersey Jaunt—one to thrill the entire family—visit a sunflower farm for an eye-pleasing experience. Or join an upcoming walk with NJAS. For dates and farm updates, visit NJAS.

After seeing the dazzling display, you may want to grow your own! Use Mammoth seeds or the dwarf variety, and sow them about one inch deep. Allow 10 to 15 inches between plants, and watch them reach for the sky.

Sunflower Power

Here are the New Jersey farms that welcome visitors to see their sunflower fields:

Arline Zatz, from Metuchen, NJ, is the award-winning author of several New Jersey guidebooks, including Best Hikes With Children in New Jersey (The Mountaineers).