2017-08-02 / Front Page

Sunflower fields a summer hit

by Kate Shunney


Local farmer Terry Hovermale stands among the thousands of sunflowers he planted this spring. The fields, three miles east of Berkeley Springs, have just come into full bloom. Local farmer Terry Hovermale stands among the thousands of sunflowers he planted this spring. The fields, three miles east of Berkeley Springs, have just come into full bloom. Terry Hovermale jokes that he’d like to have a dollar for every person who’s stopped to take a picture of the sunflowers he planted.

This past week, the flowers on three acres of field along Martinsburg Road were at peak bloom – their bright yellow blossoms facing east in the morning sun.

In the space of about half an hour, four separate cars pulled over into the parking lot of the old Rankin’s mobile home business and half a dozen people got out of their cars to take photos of the sunflowers. All exclaimed about their beauty – a whole sea of yellow humming with the sound of bees.

Two women from Northern Virginia stopped on their route east to marvel at the fields. A local woman pulled over a little later to snap photos. She thanked Hovermale for planting the fields, saying the sunflowers are like happy faces that bring people joy.


Drivers have been stopping along the road to snap photos of the sunflower fields in full bloom. Drivers have been stopping along the road to snap photos of the sunflower fields in full bloom. “It’s been worth it just to see people enjoy them,” Hovermale said.

Hovermale doesn’t own the fields. Kent Osborne bought the property recently to add to land he owns nearby. Osborne lives out of town, but Hovermale has farmed his fields for 40 years.

When Osborne bought the land along Martinsburg Road, he asked Hovermale to plant it in sunflowers.

Sunflowers aren’t this Morgan County farmer’s normal crop. Hovermale, who has farmed since he was “big enough to sit on the tractor,” plants and harvests the usual corn and wheat, and makes more than 100 acres of hay.

This spring was the first time Hovermale has ever planted sunflowers. He had to look up how to do it, and it took him three tries to plant the two fields.

“I planted them with a corn planter and set it up for the fastest rate it would go – 44,000 seeds per acre,” Hovermale said.

Around the first of September, he expects to try and combine the fields, cutting the sunflowers high on the stalk to harvest seeds dried on the heads. Hovermale said the field should yield 1,200 pounds of seed per acre. That’ll be 3,600 pounds of sunflower seeds. If it works.

That might be a good bit of birdseed for the coming year. If not, the farming experiment has at least spread a good bit of enjoyment around.

“He thought they’d look pretty,” Hovermale said of Osborne’s request for two fields of sunflowers.

Turns out he was right.

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