WHAT started out as a nice gesture for wedding clients, has turned into a lucrative and surprisingly good deed for charity by the Schuster family at Freeling.
Corbin Schuster planted sunflowers on his family farm in mid-November to make the most of late spring rains, but also to provide a nice backdrop for their newly-established farm function centre.
But once wedding season had passed, Mr Schuster couldn't let the beautiful 0.6-hectare crop go to waste.
"The crop was so small, it wasn't worth getting a harvester in, so we thought why not make some money for a charity that was dear to our hearts - Heart Kids SA," he said.
Heartkids SA provides support and advocates on behalf of all people affected by congenital heart defects - one of the largest causes of infant death in Australia.
"We recently had some cousins use their services so we wanted to give something back," Mr Schuster said.
"Being just prior to Valentine's Day, we were hoping the romantics would make us a few hundred bucks for charity.
"We also timed it well, because it was just before school went back - so parents were looking for an easy, outdoor activity that was considered 'safe' in these COVID times.
"But we never expected what happened."
The Schusters opened their farm gates in early February, encouraging people to 'Pick a Sunflower' in return for a gold coin donation.
Mr Schuster said on the first day at least 1000 people visited the site.
"It got pretty crazy," he said.
"I thought I might have to collect the money from the donation box once a week, but I had to go up every hour and a half to empty it out.
"I had to explain to people every time I went to empty the box, that I wasn't trying to steal it!
"But it was good, because we'd then have a chat about what we were trying to do.
"What was interesting was that a lot of people would say that this was the first time they'd ever been invited onto a farmers' property to have a look at a crop or even pick one.
"The crop couldn't flower fast enough for the demand, but thankfully the rush has since died down, allowing the crop to flower up again."
Mr Schuster said by Valentine's Day they had raised $12,644 in donations - a figure that was doubled by Heart Kids' corporate sponsors.
But the donations keep coming, with just more than $14,000 now raised by the Schusters.
"That's a lot of change," Mr Schuster said.
"But we are so grateful for all the support and blown away by the amount of funds that were raised."
Mr Schuster said, weather dependent, they plan to grow the crop again next year for charity.
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