Sunflower farm adds beauty, but grower wants to sell produce
Drive from Bergen to Batavia, southwest on Route 33, and just a mile or so from the Route 237 intersection, you will see a big red barn with "Oderkirk" in hand-painted big white letters on one end.
We've all seen it.
And this time of year, we've all noticed the sunflowers saturating the north side of the property, too.
The free sunflowers, it turns out, are just a ploy to get you to stop and buy vegetables from Richard Oderkirk.
The 69-year-old is a fifth generation farmer to operate the Oderkirk spread since 1877. But he's retired now and growing vegetables is both a hobby and a way to supplement his income.
"They're self-seeded," Oderkirk said about the sunflowers. "I try to exterminate a few more of them each year. They provide a lot of shade for my squash plants -- too much shade."
It's the winter squash that Oderkirk really hopes to sell each year -- it will be ready in a few more weeks, and when it is, even the cucumbers and tomatoes will be given away, so more people will stop and buy the squash.
And people do stop. Often with cameras in hand.
"I enjoy seeing people like the sunflowers," Oderkirk said. "I had an art student from GCC here 10 days ago taking pictures, and two girls yesterday. I'm happy seeing that."
The sixth and seventh generation of the Oderkirk family now live on the property. Once a dairy farm of 280 acres, it's now the 2.5-acre residence of Mary Thomas, her husband and daughter.
Asked what she thought of so many people driving by and admiring her property, Thomas said, "I’m surprised to hear somebody say that. I guess I didn’t think of the place like that. I see people stop to take pictures of the sunflowers. That’s nice. I get tickled when Dad gives them away for free."
Knowing that daughter Mary enjoys the sunflowers, Dad planted a small variety -- the plants closer to the road are HUGE -- on the far side of the barn, and if she squints between barn structures, Mary can see from her kitchen window.
Good naturally, she turned to her dad while we were taking and said, "They aggravate you because they’re not produce, but I love them because they add beauty. Everybody likes them, Dad."
Everybody does, even Richard, even if he doesn't always admit it.
More photos after the jump: