Valley of Sunflowers undergoes last harvest, leaves lasting impression on community

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Volunteers harvest the second and final harvest of sunflowers. The lot is expected to be used as a staging area for construction of a cancer center to be built later this winter. (Kelsey Herzog/DD)

Volunteers from across the Valley helped to complete the second and final harvest of downtown Phoenix’s Valley of the Sunflowers project Saturday morning.

As the sun roasted harvesters across the street from the Roosevelt Growhouse, the former plush field of flowers was once again turned into a vacant dirt lot.

Originally created by “vision, persistence and a little bit of crazy,” the project brought the community together, inspired and ignited conversations about the future of energy, project manager Sean Sweat said.

The first harvest of the second and final season was completed June 16. It was organized and done quickly working from the north end to the south end of the lot, Sweat said.

“The project was first initiated to make a new experience in learning. It was done to create a transformative educational experience for the Bioscience High School students,” Sweat said.

Students from the high school used the flower seeds to make bio-fuel and sustainable energy. Without the sunflower fields, the school plans to work on finding energy alternatives elsewhere.

The school works on different projects in each classroom and Bioscience High School Principal DeeDee Falls believes this will only cause the students to expand on other options.

“It’s part of many different projects we work on,” Falls said. “We will be looking for other alternatives for local issues. We solved this one and we want to move on to others.”

While the field was primarily used for educational purposes, it had other perks.

Volunteer harvester Virginia Hernandez, 37, and her husband used the fields for family photographs. She volunteered during the most recent harvest.

The second harvest is the end for the original planters of the field.

“Given how strong we finished this morning, marked the end of an amazing community effort,” Sweat said. “Downtowners and Phoenicians at large should be extremely proud.”

The lot is expected to be used for a staging area for the construction of a cancer center at Seventh and Fillmore streets this winter, Sweat said.

“Hopefully this project has succeeded in showing downtowners what we can start and accomplish when we roll our sleeves up and get our hands dirty,” Sweat said. “It’s the end of the sunflower field, but it’s never the end of downtowners’ efforts to make our downtown something special.”

Contact the reporter at kjherzog@asu.edu