Wouldn’t it be great to find a way of feeding birds and bees while raising much-needed funds for a cancer charity? Sunflowers are the solution, according to Merseyside grower Olly Harrison.
He has set aside a hectare of land to grow the crop, which is a brilliant source of food for bees, birds and other wildlife. Olly, of Water Lane Farm in Tarbock, Merseyside, estimates there are 75,000 flowers in his field and for each one he wants to raise a £1 for an independent charity called Sunflowers that supports cancer patients, survivors and carers in Merseyside.
Olly says: “I grew the five acre field of sunflowers and millet after rabbits ate all the winter wheat that was on it. Originally I wanted to see if the flower would grow well in my region. After standing in the field watching bees feeding on flowers I thought it would be a shame to harvest them and would be nice to leave them for the birds to feed on over winter. It was at this point that I came up with this idea of raising money from them for charity.”By visiting Olly’s JustGiving page, you can pledge money to the charity and your support for British farmers who have embraced the conservation agenda. They have planted or restored 30,000km of hedgerows, they reserve the borders of their fields to plant wildflowers for birds and bees, they are ensuring cleaner water and they are using less fertiliser and pesticides than ever.
Olly adds: “I will lose money on the field by not harvesting the flowers but that's farming at present. I am already losing on the rest of my crops this year with a poor harvest and poor prices so giving something to a good cause will cheer me up and if it's successful I will grow some more next year.”
About Olly Harrison
At 35, Olly Harrison is the NFU North West’s youngest board chairman – running the regional combinable crops board. Farming 1,200 acres at Water Lane Farm in Prescot, Merseyside, he grows winter wheat, winter rape, linseed, sunflowers, winter beans and spring barley.
He is also trialling mustard. His beans are on contract for Highfield Seeds in Leicestershire. All of his wheat and barley is sold through grain co-operative Openfield. All of his oilseed rape goes into Liverpool.