Sunflowers say goodbye to summer at Valley festival

6 News WOWT Live at 10
Published: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:33 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 5, 2022 at 10:34 PM CDT
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VALLEY, Neb. (WOWT) - Summer is over, if you ask the flowers. On the final day of the three weekend Sunflower Festival, the black oil beauties at Pam Nelson’s Produce Farm have winked goodnight.

”There’s just something about 300,000 giant sunny faces looking at ya,” Nelson said, standing in front of the 12 acres of sunflowers on her farm in Valley.

The heat coaxed the petals to bloom early, so now mostly those big smiling faces remain.

On the final day of the festival for 2022, youngsters picked the remaining few with petals. Nelson knows soon those acres will give way, and the flowers will find another purpose.

“They have a purpose other than just being pretty, you can turn them into oil, we use them for livestock feed,” she said. “So the heads get giant on them, which is also why they only last seven to ten days because they start to dry out, which is what they’re created to do.”

And while they have a market and events here in the Elkhorn Valley, this is a working farm, where like all Nebraska family farmers, they’re constantly learning how to navigate climate challenges.

“We do 100 acres of pumpkin and 100 acres of sweet corn, a little over 200 acres in watermelon and then just all the small crops, tomatoes and that kind of thing,” she said. “So because we’re able to diversify in the sense that we sell it ourselves and we sell it to roadside vendors and wholesale it does help us to be able to just to control our market a little bit and also control the quality of our product.”

Pam grew up on a dairy farm in South Dakota, her husband a vegetable farm in Nebraska. They started small with a half acres of cucumbers, selling at a road side stand. It’s been a labor of love for this family to grow to what they are today.

“My husband doesn’t quit, he just loves what he does and he loves a challenge,” she said. “So now we’re up to 420 acres of produce, we provide roadside stands all over Omaha, Lincoln and the surrounding areas all the way to Kansas City and we ship out our watermelon all the way across the Midwest.”

“What my husband and I’ve been focusing on this year has been finding joy in our toils, a verse out of Ecclesiastes, and so that has really been on the hard days, what we’ve tried to stick to,” she said. “The faces of the people that come up and say thank you and understand the work that it takes and the engagement photos and the family photos, little babies out here are so great for us, and then our staff, we have an amazing staff and so they put in so much work... that makes all of it worth it.”

Up next at the Nelson Produce Farm, Truck and Tractor days starting September 16. With the year’s Harvest Moon due in the early morning hours of Saturday, you can expect the rest of the month to be filled with Fall festival events across the metro.