GOOCHLAND COUNTY, Va. -- A fresh crop of sunflowers are blooming at Alvis Farms along Three Chopt Road in Goochland in celebration of the upcoming Goochland Sunflower Festival.
“Sunflowers are beautiful, they brighten people’s day,” Rachel Henley said. “So we thought let the people meet the sunflowers and let the sunflowers meet the people."
“We grow soybean, wheat, alfalfa, corn. This is our second year growing sunflowers,” Erin Henley explained.
The Henley family is hoping to capitalize on these showstoppers by introducing their first-ever Sunflower Festival.
“Virginia’s biggest industry is agriculture and we want to keep it that way,” Rachel said.
At Alvis Farm milk is the main source of income. Erin Henley says the herd needs milking three times a day, but sales at dairy farms across Virginia have soured.
“Every time a dairy farm goes out of business the local economy is affected,” Erin said.
Higher costs, dropping prices and pressures from development have forced many to shutter.
“Dairies across the country are going out of business. In Virginia we have half the number of dairy farms we had 20 years ago,” Erin said.
But Rachel and Erin see a ray of hope by growing sunflowers.
“What doesn’t make you happy to see sunshiny beautiful flowers that are bigger than any other flower,” Rachel said.
Rachel and Erin are banking on the sunflower festival being a yearly tradition.
“We are just really passionate about what we do. We’re in it for the long haul if we can be,” Erin said.
The Henleys are a family of farmers turning to a new crop that may be key in preserving an old way of life.
“We are part of the community and want to support the community and hope the community supports us to stay here and farm,” Rachel said.
The Sunflower Festival is Aug. 3 - 4 at the Alvis Farm along Three Chopt Road in Goochland. Admission is $5. Children five and under are free.
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