Sunflowers drive tourism on the Liverpool Plains

THEY’RE a familiar sight each summer on the Liverpool Plains, and now the region’s sunflower crops are one of its biggest tourism attractions.

Hundreds of tourists, many of them amateur or professional photographers, are flocking to the sunflower crops.

This is despite a drop in hectares planted this year, due to an increased dryland cotton planting.

The Liverpool Plains Visitor Centre at Willow Tree is making the most of the interest in sunflowers by running a sunflower alert email.

The idea began a few years ago when manager Nikki Robertson noticed how many tourists were keen to see sunflowers.

Mrs Robertson starts calling farmers in September to see who will have sunflowers

“They can tell me that they’re expecting crops to flower in December or January, and I inform people about where the sunflowers are growing and when they should be flowering,” she said.

“When I talk to all the farmers I can then let you let the tourists know what they can and can’t do at that crop and what time they should be visiting. Sometimes it’s only about three weeks from when they flower to wilt.”

Mrs Robertson keeps the 830 subscribers updated with regular emails.

“Most are photographers from Sydney and Newcastle and some from Queensland,” she said.

“We've also approached the new owners of the Marshall McMahon Inn at Wallabadah who have bought a bus and want to do tours.”

Mrs Robertson hopes the interest in sunflowers will encourage more tourism, but also show visitors what the Liverpool Plains has to offer.

“The interest in sunflowers has been quite amazing, but we've got so many other things to see and hope that when people come to visit the sunflowers they spent more time here.

“It’s also a good way for them to learn about agriculture and why the crops are grown.”

The sunflower alert is certainly paying off.

“Every tourist that comes to look at the sunflowers is spending money in the region with accommodation and food,” Mrs Robertson said.

Photographers capture crop’s beauty

THE Liverpool Plains sunflowers were a must-see for a crew of Central Coast professional and amateur photographers who were visiting the area last week.

Also on the itinerary was capturing the American-style barn at “Umagarlee”, Breeza, built for the Superman Returns movie which was filmed in 2005.

The visitors checked out the sunflowers before photographing the barn at sunset, and then returned the following morning for a sunrise shot of the sunflowers.

Avoca beach professional photographer Richard Stanley said it was worth the early rise.

“As landscape photographers we’re always up early,” he said.

“We had the sun on our backs so the sunflowers were pointing at the sun.

“The sunflowers were in full bloom and we had some height over the sunflowers to see the hills in the distance.

“The sorghum that was around the sunflowers was a bright red in the morning which was a nice contrast.”

This article originally appeared in The Land on 15 March.