Vandalism, lack of support threaten shutdown of wildly popular Fish Sunflower fields

The Fish Sunflower fields, when in bloom, are hotspots for photographers and families.

The man behind the wildly popular Sunflower Project suggested he may shut things down early this year, citing vandalism, a lack of support and ballooning costs.

Fish Sunflowers' mission is about spreading inspiration, hope and joy. Owner Johnny Fish plants and maintains large sunflower fields — now 11 in all — while offering free access to the public as a place "where people can come and experience peace, hope and healing."

The fields, when in bloom, are hot destinations for individuals and families looking for a great photo opportunity. And while Fish has said all are welcome, those coming by simply haven't lived up to the basic etiquette that is asked.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Fish Sunflowers said the Big Lake location (blooming through Aug. 8) will be the final field of the season, even though five additional fields are still awaiting bloom. The post cites stories of "utter selfishness that would make your blood boil."

"It's truly incredible the amount of abuse I've personally taken and the equipment has taken and to be frank my family can't take it anymore," the post continues.

Fish Sunflowers cites "an incredible amount of vandalism" this season, as well as the cost of insuring fields, moving props and managing the rest of the season. It also says photographers and others "who said that they would support this season haven't."

Though the post was deleted, suggesting the door remains open for things to change.

Each field comes with its own rules and instructions, and Fish Sunflowers reminds visitors that many are on private property, so to remain respectful. 

The news has been met with dismay, though understanding, by many of the flowering fields' fans, 

"We are so genuinely heartbroken that people can’t be respectful and act like adults. I do stand with Johnny and his decision it’s just very sad that people have to ruin it for everyone," one poster said.

"Despite all of the sad ugliness brought on by few...these fields and Johnny O have brought far more sunshine and beauty. And for that, we are so grateful🌻," wrote another.

A GoFundMe started in the spring has seen a resurgence of interest, with donations now surpassing $27,000. But that's well short of the $100,000 target needed to cover a laundry list of items, including land leases, fuel, seed, fertilizer, spray, equipment maintenance, signage, videography, seed packets, hired help and more.

Fish could still change his mind, and told KSTP he needed to reflect about what comes next.

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