Many would say that John Olson has a coronary heart of gold.
That’s fairly shut, so far as a shade descriptor. Olson, a Large Lake, Minn., actual property agent, is into yellow — yellow sunflowers, particularly. And his coronary heart? It’s full of community-building and compassion.
ON A MISSION: John Olson, additionally recognized by his nickname Johnny Fish, has turned a mission into his ardour: planting sunflower fields and opening them to the general public free of charge. Some go to the fields to rejoice, some to get pleasure from being outdoors, some to benefit from the pure magnificence. And a few come looking for solitude or a spot to grieve.
For the previous 5 years, Olson has been planting small plots of sunflowers on donated land after which opening them as much as guests free of cost when the heads are in full bloom. Typically, he provides fascinating artifacts, such a piano, an previous tractor, boat or pickup, for photographic curiosity. One other time, he offered an ice cream truck in a area. Olson merely requests that guests respect the property, benefit from the sunflowers and panorama, take tons of photographs after which share them with others.
“We need to spread some sunshine,” Olson says, acknowledging the challenges and contentiousness folks have encountered over the previous 12 months.
Olson, also referred to as Johnny Fish — his actual property enterprise is Fish Realty — views the sunflower fields as his reward to the group, permitting guests to make recollections with family and friends. Some fields have been particularly planted in reminiscence of family members, a group expertise, or in recognition or honor of civic responsibility and repair. Regardless of the cause, Olson is satisfied the sunflowers provide the chance to expertise hope in addition to healing.
“In my heart, my vision is to eventually create a nonprofit to bless communities with beauty,” he says.
SUPPORTING COMMUNITY: John Olson believes that sunflowers assist unfold pleasure and provide hope to those that go to fields he has planted.
With the pandemic final 12 months, Olson pushed to do as many fields as potential. He planted 12 fields and launched 10 for public viewing (two websites weren’t opened). 1000’s of guests traveled to the communities of Rogers, Large Lake, Dayton, Monticello, Andover, Albert Lea, Princeton, Otsego and Orrock. In photographs guests shared on social media, one may be part of the marking of birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, graduations and memorials, and sense guests’ pleasure, laughter, healing and grief.
Lengthy planting season
As of early June, Olson has completed three fields. He figures he shall be planting via July.
Olson works with landowners who’ve donated from 1 to 10 acres. He then invests his personal labor, money and time in prepping and planting every area. He additionally maintains fields via the rising season. He informs his greater than 33,200 Fb followers when fields are in bloom — go to facebook.com/groups/fishsunflowers. After the sunflowers are completed, he leaves the heads for wildlife after which later knocks down the vegetation or seeds the plot to grass, relying on the landowner’s request.
Olson admits this 12 months has been financially difficult. The prices of tools upkeep, seed and fertilizer is catching as much as him. He preps floor utilizing a New Holland 2330, a 6-foot disk and a John Deere 7100 three-row planter. Regardless that he doesn’t acquire admission charges on the fields, tons of of supporters have donated in particular person to Olson and on-line through a not too long ago established GoFundMe account.
“It is really hard to ask for any help because we feel that it takes part of the gift away,” explains Sarah Olson, Johnny’s spouse, on the fundraising web site, bit.ly/gfmsunflowers.
VISITOR SIGN-IN: Olson asks guests who come throughout planting to signal his John Deere 7100 three-row planter.
“However, this project has gotten so large that it is impossible to continue to support it personally.” Funds offered shall be used for numerous web site prices, resembling insurance coverage, gasoline, seed, fertilizer, spray, tools upkeep, props, signage, videography, seed packets and employed assist.
The fields have executed greater than present a vacation spot for pandemic-weary guests. From the get-go, Olson has inspired images, particularly welcoming skilled photographers to do shoots on-site. There additionally has been alternative for native enterprise promotion through sunflower fields.
One photographer who has captured lovely photos and shared them on Fb is Vasanth Rajkumar of Minneapolis. Rajkumar works full time as an IT marketing consultant. Pictures is his ardour, he says, and he shoots on weekends and when time permits.
“I heard news about a sunflower field open to the public in Rogers in 2020, had a casual visit and took some landscape shots,” Rajkumar says. “Some of the photos ended up on the Fish Facebook page and became popular. I got few inquiries if I would do portrait shots, and ended up doing about 65 portrait sessions at the fields over summer.”
View Rajkumar’s images on his web site at lenzguy.com.
When requested why and the way he acquired into planting fields of sunflowers, Olson says he desires to provide again to his group and to honor his farming grandfathers, for whom he’s named.
SPECIAL MEMORIES: Guests have made photograph albums for John Olson in thanks for sharing the sweetness of sunflowers.
“They always were talking about farming, country and family,” he says. “We need to stop and listen to those folks.”
His first area took place virtually by likelihood. He purchased a 6-acre, run-down homestead that nobody wished, cleaned up the positioning and planted sunflowers round it. Individuals seen and stopped to see what he was doing there all through the rising season.
That’s when he began listening to their private tales, together with their thank-yous for beautifying and honoring the legacy of a once-proud farmer.
Just a few years after that, Olson offered the farm and acquired tools so he may plant extra sunflower fields. His mission had come full circle: Sow sunflowers, sow pleasure and sow compassion.
“I’ve always loved the color yellow,” he provides. “I am legally color-blind. Folks that are color-blind like me can actually see yellow.”