Connect with us!


Beacon of sunflowers helps local farmer bridge divide

A scarf of bright gold among green fields lays just outside of Richmond.

Planted by Ronnie Russell, over 10 acres of sunflowers, bright, cheerful faces turned uniformly to the east invites people to stop, to marvel at a joyful expanse of yellow, to take a moment and appreciate the mellow beauty of rural Missouri.

For Russell, to whom these 10 acres represent just a fraction of his 1,500-acre farm, the sunflowers act as a beacon—not just for postcard-quality pictures, but for learning.

The Russel family’s 10-acres of sunflowers is part of a larger 1,500-acre farm that spans four generations. The farm draws residents from the area because of it’s picturesque setting and natural beauty.

“My initial goal was to try and use the sunflowers as an attractant to bring people out, to help educate young people about farming, where their food comes from, and what we do on the farm, so there’s not such a great disconnect between consumers and what we do on the farm,” said Russell.

Russell said consumers receive a lot of misinformation about the technology used by today’s farmers in growing the food. Russell said farmers do a great job of providing the world with a safe, affordable food supply, but because the majority of Americans have been removed from agriculture for generations, many have a misunderstanding about the technology used. However, the very food Russell grows, from the alfalfa he produces to feed his beef cattle, the corn and the soybeans, gets fed to his own family, which consists of five daughters and numerous grandchildren. He said he, and farmers like him across the country, produce safe, quality food they feed their own. For Russell, the technology farmers use should be seen as no different than an office utilizing computers.

Hunger remains a problem in this world, Russell said, but if it weren’t for the advances made in agriculture, the world would face even more hunger than it does today.


Russell said eons ago, people woke up and devoted their day to finding food for their families. They spent their lives in a constant quest for food. Now, the world relies on farmers to provide that food, which means only 1.8 percent of the American population provides food for the rest.

“It’s only 1.8 percent, but that 1.8 percent provides the food to 100 percent of the population,” said Robin Russell, Ronnie Russell’s wife.

Russell’s farm has been in his family since the 1960s, and spans four generations, beginning with his parents, who passed, to his grandchildren, including 7-month-old Scarlett Jones, who accompanied her grandpa to the sunflower patch. Between Ronnie and Robin, the two have five daughters: Lauren Jones and her husband Seth, Leslie Young and her husband John, Katie Spiers, Kristie Spiers and Lydia Russell. In addition to farming corn, soybeans and beef cattle, Russell runs a fertilizer business located in Richmond.

The family added a few fun props this year, such as sunglasses placed on the open faces of the flowers, a large wooden frame, and a buggy, to encourage visitors to take pictures. Eventually, the Russells hope to add an education component. Russell said he plans to add some other crops, and livestock, so people visiting can see the other foodstuffs produced by him and farmers like him in this region. Robin Russell said she hopes schools consider their sunflower patch as a field trip, and they plan to delay the planting of the sunflowers so the blooming coincides with the start of school.

The Russels said they have no way to track the number of visitors coming to their sunflower patch, but the stream of people has been a constant since the sunflowers bloomed on Sunday and will remain constant over the next two weeks or so. Sunflowers bloom for only 10 to 14 days. Once they stop, Russell harvests the seeds, processes them and bags them into 25-pound bags to use as birdseed.


But listening to Russell talk about the crop of golden flowers nodding in the surprisingly cool breeze of a fading July, it becomes apparent the harvest of seeds remains secondary. The yellow petals surrounding the center of each flower is called the ray, Russell said – an appropriate name for a flower that mimics the sun. Numerous other disk flowers comprise the center of each flower, called an inflorescence. Each sunflower, although appearing tall and singular, actually presents as hundreds of flowers.

The outer part of the sunflower is called the ray. The inner part is comprised of hundreds of individual flowers.

Russell refers to that as “the big picture.” To him, the idea that each sunflower contains hundreds of flowers within the flower continues to be amazing, he said, looking out across his field of gold.

“This is God’s creation. Who could create this other than God?” Russell said.

Find the sunflower patch on Facebook, at Russel Sunflower Patch 18220 Highway B. The address doesn’t show up on Google maps, the Russells said. Instead, use a different map app on your phone to find the patch, located just half a mile north of the intersection of K and B Highways in Ray County.

By Samantha Kilgore •

Get ALL the local news. Click here and subscribe to our online e-Editions!

2 Responses to Beacon of sunflowers helps local farmer bridge divide

  1. Beth and ED HUGHES Reply

    August 7, 2018 at 10:02 am

    Ronniee thank hou so much. Our family has some beautiful pictures and fun memories. Ed’s sister got here yesterdsy from Guthrie, Okla. and we took her straight out and she was amazed at beauty of them. can’t wait until next year

  2. L Walker Reply

    August 7, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Ronnie and family Thank you so much for the beautiful Sunflower patch. It is truly amazing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *