By CAITLIN CROWLEY
A CAMBOOYA farmer has successfully created a new tourism drawcard for the Darling Downs while unlocking a lucrative business opportunity, growing sunflowers for the sole purpose of delighting visitors.
Warraba Sunflowers opened its fields to the public last weekend and is welcoming sun-seekers until this Sunday, offering picture-perfect picnic spots and unlimited sunflower-selfies for a small fee.
“Sunflowers are psychologically special to people,” Roger Woods said.
“They represent growth and happiness and I think being around a whole bunch of pretty flowers, it’s psychologically very positive.”
Roger Woods said he’d seen negative interactions between local growers and hordes of visitors, chasing instagram-worthy snaps with the golden crop, which inspired him to find a solution.
“I’d be flying a drone, spraying a crop thinking, I reckon there’s a market for people to just be able to come and interact quite extensively with the plants,” Woods said.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to do – provide the opportunity for people to come in and interact, up close and personal.
“We’ve cut tracks through the fields so people can walk around at their leisure. They can stay here for a long time, they can cut their own flower and take it home.”
He first experimented with the tourism concept last December and the response was overwhelming.
“We were ready for it this time – at Christmas we had no idea what was coming,” Woods said.
“We were cutting sunflowers for every visitor which, when we thought we might get a few dozen visitors that was fine, but when we got over 5000 visitors, that was very hard.
“This time we decided to go with a “cut your own” concept and people have really enjoyed that.”
The financial gamble of setting up the open days has also payed off in a big way.
“The sunflower tourism side of it is more lucrative than growing the seed without any doubt, because there’s so much demand for people to want to come and see the crop,” Woods said.
“The reality is at the moment, seed demand has dropped and it’s often difficult for farmers to find a buyer, particularly now the processing plant at Gunnedah has shut down.”
There’s more to his crop than meets the eye too – it’s never been treated with chemicals and was planted exclusively using drones.
The property itself is totally solar-powered, which Woods said he is particularly proud of.
“I think that we can very successfully farm in environmentally friendly and constructive ways,” he said.
“It means changing the way we’ve done business for probably a hundred years and getting that change to happen’s quite hard. So I use this farm to demonstrate that that change is really possible.”
For more information and to book tickets, head to the Warraba Sunflowers Facebook page.