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Follow maze through sunflower fields for mellow yellow fun

MASARYKTOWN — Watching the 7-foot-tall sunflowers sway gently in the breeze, one could almost imagine a ghostly group of baseball players popping out at any moment.

To Sweetfields Farm proprietor Lisa Kessel, the lush, green acreage is indeed a field of dreams. In February, Kessel and her husband, Ted, planted 350,000 seeds on the 4 acres and hoped for the best. Now, as the yellow petals begin to emerge, the couple want the public to be able to enjoy their scenic sunflower landscape as well.

Starting this weekend, folks will be able to wander through a maze carved out of the towering plants. The meandering path, which from the air resembles a ladybug hugging a sunflower, will be open to visitors for at least four weekends.

The thought of maintaining a living labyrinth isn't a new one to the Kessels. To celebrate the farm's first corn crop in October, they cut out a butterfly-shaped maze that welcomed more than 500 visitors over four weekends.

"It was just something we wanted to do that would be fun for families to take part in," Kessel said as she took a brief break from chores to rest under a sprawling oak tree. "So we decided to try it again, this time with sunflowers."

Although relatively easy to grow, sunflowers are fragile and susceptible to damage from wind and heavy weather, Kessel said. A strong cloudburst can easily ruin the crop, which would put an instant end to the maze.

"Seeing that it's our first, we're telling people not to procrastinate," Kessel said. "We're at the mercy of Mother Nature."

The sunflower maze, which she thinks is the only one of its kind in Florida, was designed by a local global surveying company and took more than 35 hours to create. How the design was so accurately transferred to the terrain is a guarded secret, she said.

"Let's just say we had fun with it," Kessel said. "It's pretty complex. Even I get lost in it."

Although one-day passes are available, Kessel said visitors who buy a "maze passport" will be able to return throughout the month to see the progress of the flowering plants.

"It's going to get more and more colorful as the flowers get larger and larger," she said. "I already have several people who want to come out and photograph it. It's going to be beautiful."

In addition to the maze, the farm will have activities for young children, plus an array of organically grown vegetables for sale. Food and beverages will also be available for purchase on the grounds.

Logan Neill can be reached at lneill@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1435.

if you go

Sunflower maze

When: From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May and into June if weather permits.

Where: Sweetfields Farm, 17250 Benes Roush Road, east of U.S. 41 and south of Ayers Road, near Masaryktown.

Admission: $8 for adults, $4 for children 3 to 11, free for kids under 3. Maze passports are $12 for adults and $6 for children 3 to 11 and will allow the holder to visit any time while the maze is open. Cash only. There are no ATMs on the farm, and checks are not accepted.

Information: Go to

sweetfieldsfarm.com or call (352) 279-0977.

Follow maze through sunflower fields for mellow yellow fun 05/07/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 7, 2009 8:12pm]
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