Nothing says happiness and sunshine like vibrantly-colored sunflowers, which are raising their heads and ready to be cut at a family-friendly farm in Hancock County.
Owners of the Coastal Ridge Farm describe it as “a fresh, earth-friendly little flower farm.”
The owners are holding a Sunflower U-Pick season in which the public can visit the farm for a nominal fee and pick out flowers they like, snip them off their stalks and take them home.
The farm is in the Caesar community near Picayune. The farm is open to the public on weekends through Oct. 28, depending on how fast the flowers go, said Terri Doyle, who owns the farm with her husband David.
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“We’re going to see how this goes,” Terri Doyle said. “Assuming it goes well this fall, we’re planning to do various types of picks for the public and separate picks for photographers, with four or five opportunities in a year.”
The farm is a hidden treasure at the southern end of Road 221, where those willing to walk through weeds and rocky ground will be rewarded with sunflowers they can cut and take home. The farm also has many multi-colored zinnias for the taking.
The farm has several acres, but the flowers are planted in patches.
“If one patch doesn’t do well, another patch will, or one patch can be ready to pick while another is budding,” Doyle said.
She started growing sunflowers and other flowers in 2001, but began ramping up the planting over the past couple of years.
Doyle started growing flowers and selling them on a small scale to a wholesaler in Gulfport, and she worked part-time for the wholesaler.
“I learned a lot on the job that has really helped me, but I soon realized I was making more money selling my own flowers than I was on the job,” she said.
So farm work has become a full-time job. The Doyles sell cut flowers to florists, grocery stories and at farmers markets.
But why sunflowers?
“I like them,” Doyle said. “And they grow well when it’s hot, and this is a hot place.”
The Doyles advise visitors to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes and bring garden shears and a plastic milk jug or other types of gallon containers to hold flowers.
The farm is not wheelchair accessible, but people who tire easily from walking can bring a lawn chair so they can sit and rest.
The cost is $10 for ages 12 and up and $5 for under 12. There’s also a $25 rate for families. Admission is cash only, and prices cover the cost of five large sunflowers or small sunflowers and other flowers, enough to fill a gallon jug. The Doyles suggest cutting an opening in a gallon milk jug so it can hold more flowers than the narrow top of gallon milk-jug would allow.
The Sunflower U-Pick is not recommended for children younger than 8 years old.
Visitors also may want to wear gloves and bring bottled water, sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat and sunglasses.
The farm is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, depending on the weather and availability.
“We prefer people check with us before they come,” Terri Doyle said.
“The weather could be bad, or we may not have enough flowers budding at the time. I don’t want to disappoint people.”
Restrooms are available.
The Coastal Ridge Farm is at 27075 Road 221 off Caesar Necaise Road in north Hancock County.
The Doyles also provide tips for selecting and cutting florist-quality flowers at sunflowerupick.com.