By Whitney Vickers
YELLOW SPRINGS — Approximately 400,000 sunflowers have bloomed in a field on just north of Yellow Springs, and it welcomes all flower lovers to come and enjoy them.
The sunflower field sits on Whitehall Farm, privately-owned by Dave and Sharen Neuhardt, and located at 4633 U.S. Route 68 North. Sharen said in a previous interview that they ensure the seeds are planted in the ground each year “just to make people smile” when the flowers begin to turn their golden-petal heads toward the sun.
Whitehall Farm also houses the Tecumseh Land Trust, which aims to preserve open spaces, resources of water, and ideal soils within Greene and Clark Counties for generations to come. Ultimately, the board behind the Tecumseh Land Trust holds an intent to preserve 100,000 acres within those counties altogether, while emphasizing water protection.
“We have [preserved] 25,580 [acres],” Tecumseh Land Trust Executive Director Krista Magraw said. “That’s 144 easements, or properties that are preserved.”
Part of that preserved acreage includes Glen Helen, which just became official earlier this year after working toward that goal for nine years. But the movement doesn’t stop there — the Tecumseh Land Trust should receive funding to preserve another 14 farms this year alone, which is the most its ever been awarded in that period of time. It has also preserved 42 steam miles.
“What we’re hoping to do next is apply for a five-year grant through the farm bill that would primarily preserve farms that are on streams, with an aim of improving water quality,” Magraw said. “There’s monies for improving conservation practices, like planting permanent bumper strips along the streams, as well as monies for purchasing easements. That’s our biggest dream right now.”
Part of the Tecumseh Land Trust’s promise for permanent protection against development includes the Whitehall Farm itself, because in 1999 it faced the possibility of not being farmland forever. Whitehall Farm was divided into 34 parcels to be auctioned just six weeks after notifying the community. However, the Tecumseh Land Trust, Village of Yellow Springs and about 700 groups and individuals combined forces to raise $1.2 million to keep Whitehall Farm as it was. And they did it — 17 years later, Whitehall Farm is still a working operation.
The Neuhardts and the Tecumseh Land Trust are prepared for a number of individuals to come out and enjoy the sunflowers: the farm includes a specific space for parking that is away from Route 68 and off the lane leading up to the farm.
When individuals pull into Whitehall Farm, they should follow the signs instructing them to go right into the grassy lot that is specifically set aside for sunflower traffic. The Neurhardts welcome artists to enjoy the sunflowers while painting, drawing and/or shooting photos, but they ask that no individuals solicit commercial photography or utilize the field for other commercial purposes.
The Tecumseh Land Trust is additionally welcoming volunteers to provide information to attendees about the Tecumseh Land Trust to the sunflower lovers upon their arrival to the field. To do so, call 937-767-9490.
Reach Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.