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An estimated 500,000 sunflowers are on display next to Stone Bank School in the Town of Merton Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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A field of an estimated 500,000 sunflowers next to Stone Bank School has been drawing people from around Lake Country and beyond to observe and photograph their stunning beauty. 

Even a cloudy day didn't stop people from seeing the flowers for themselves Aug. 14.

Two of those people who stopped by, Pat and Tammy Frazier, drove all the way from Lake Geneva. They saw a television news report and photos on Instagram of the flowers.

"It's breathtaking. It's beautiful. I don't think I've ever seen so many sunflowers like this in my life," said Tammy Frazier.

Olivia Juhl, Alisa Koch and Lisa Droegkamp were there to take pictures of Koch holding her 2-month old daughter, Vivian. 

Originally, the group had planned to go to Madison to see some sunflowers before deciding to stay closer to home. 

"We thought it would be a good time to get baby-mama pictures," Droegkamp said. "It's really beautiful. I couldn't believe it driving up."

But the flowers are more than just a pretty picture or sightseeing spot. They're also a man's passion, and are helping the school attended by his children and, now, grandchildren.

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Growing, harvesting the sunflowers

The sunflowers were planted in the middle of June, according to Sandy Syburg, whose family owns the property. Because of the need to rotate crops, the sunflowers are grown at that specific field near the school only every six or seven years. Syburg said the sunflowers have been grown in other years at other fields his family owns. 

This year's flowers started to bloom in August, which is when people started to catch interest, he said.

Syburg said a sunflower is an inherently tall and majestic and miraculous plant, especially considering it comes from a small seed.

"I think just the color, and whether it's one sunflower in a flower arrangement or a field of them, there's something that touches everybody uniquely and is inspiring and hopeful about the plant itself," Syburg said. 

Eventually, the plants will turn brown and dry out, Syburg said. When that happens, the seeds will be harvested and then sent to Century Sun Oil in Green Bay to be crushed into organic sunflower oil, which can be used for purposes such as cooking oil at home, for example.

Helping Stone Bank School, local economy

Syburg saw this latest batch of sunflowers as a way to help out neighboring Stone Bank School with its beautification fund that helps the school's grounds and maintenance efforts. When people stop by for photos or even just to look, they'll see buckets have been set up by the field to collect donations for the school.

Putting information on Facebook triggered initial interest locally and beyond, which rolled into interest from the media, according to Syburg. 

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"Ultimately, we knew people were going to want to see it," he said. "We knew it was going to be in a highly visible area where we wanted to try and do our best to help share what our expectations are of visitors from the standpoint of protecting our crop and our property, but as well giving the opportunity for people to enjoy the beauty and the miracle of the resulting crop just as much as we do.

"And if there was a way to amplify that or have that be a benefit for our local elementary school, that's just a win-win-win in my mind."

Syburg said the field is also bringing attention to the Stone Bank community, as well as Stone Bank Farm Market, which sells locally grown food and promotes organic farming practices. It also has given him and his family the opportunity to educate visitors.

"(It's) giving me as a farmer the unique opportunity to say what it is, why I'm growing it, how it's beneficial from an organic systems and production (standpoint), the fact that it's going to another local Wisconsin company, that it's ending up back at our local market, sold to people to use at home for their cooking and other food preparation needs," Syburg said.

To donate to Stone Bank School's beautification fund, drop off your contribution at the box by the field or visit the Stone Bank Sunflower Farm's Facebook page, where a fundraiser is being held. 

Contact Alec Johnson at (262) 875-9469 or alec.johnson@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlecJohnson12.

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Read or Share this story: https://www.jsonline.com/story/communities/lake-country/news/oconomowoc/2019/08/16/field-sunflowers-not-just-photo-op-but-also-helping-area-school/2018838001/