Fun at Zilke’s: Sunflower Festival and Fresh Local Produce

A rainbow over Zilke’s farm. Image courtesy of Zilke’s Farm.

If you are searching for a fun outdoor activity, visit Zilke’s Farm Stand in nearby Milan. The 2020 Sunflower Festival has online ticket sales open through Sunday, August 30. The sunflowers still in bloom include Autumn Beauty, Dwarf Sunspot, Lemon Queen, and Black Oil. 

Located at 12491 Carpenter Road in Milan and open from 10 am to 6 pm, the Farm Stand is a contemporary farm with a farm-to-table focus and delicious prepared food available for purchase on-site. Taking over the historic Jorgensen Farm in centrally located, and picturesque Milan, Zilke’s is a real gem. This family-owned farm has been in operation for many years and is under the leadership of owner/operators Tom and Vicki Zilke. 

Annually, the Farm features a Sunflower Festival, and while this year’s festival is closing soon — the last day to purchase tickets is August 30th — this farm is noteworthy for several reasons. Not only do the farmers grow healthy and delicious food, but they also practice sustainability, have an education and arts focus, and are socially engaged. If you want to improve your health, attain a healthy weight, and engage and nourish your family with locally-sourced food, a visit to Zilke’s is sure to please.

Sunset with Sunflowers. Image courtesy of Christina-Marie Sears
Sunset with Sunflowers. Image courtesy of Christina-Marie Sears

A Visit to the Sunflower Festival

This writer and a small group of closest friends were pleased to visit the Sunflower Festival recently. We brought our masks, hats, sunscreen, a very large picnic blanket, and a delicious picnic. Friends in our party brought our own table service, cups and cutlery, thereby keeping our meet-up safe during this time of the pandemic. The farm is completely compliant with COVID-19 safety precautions, and this includes many features. 

Firstly, the ticketing process keeps people widely spaced and provides built-in social distancing. Secondly, the farmers have mowed sections of the farm to provide avenues, upon which visitors may stroll and enjoy the charming bevy of sunflowers. Finally, hand sanitizer is available upon entry and exit.

Farm co-owner Vicki greeted us warmly and confirmed our online ticket purchase. The entry fee was reasonable at $5 per person. (Expect a modest processing charge that is applied on top of the entry fee.) We took a look at the farm stand, which offers locally-grown produce and also art and gifts for sale. You guessed it — the topic of a majority of the locally-made art is sunflower themed.

Giant Blooms. Image courtesy of Christina-Marie Sears
Giant Blooms. Image courtesy of Christina-Marie Sears

If you love sunflowers, this is a field trip that will certainly bring you joy! The farm grows a wide variety of sunflowers, in our recent visit we saw Teddy Bear/Dwarf Sungolds, Lemon Queen, Large Gray Stripe, Dwarf Sunspot, and Sunbright varietals. Strolling along the rows and rows of vibrant blooms is a life-affirming and mood-lifting experience. Signs around the flowers remind us that they are planted “so you would feel like you are in a cloud of sunflowers, rather than lost in a tall maze,” making the Festival is a memorable experience. Amongst the crop of sunflowers are some various enhancements: a viewing platform, seating areas, and, of course, the shade tents which we made use of during our picnic. A cute bicycle nestled into the flowers made a unique place for photos.

A bushel full of fun

If you miss the Sunflower Festival, you can still enjoy locally grown produce and the Farm Stand wares. Items can be purchased ahead of time and picked up car-side, or guests can peek at the wares from the front area of the farm stand. 

Other programs the farm offers include farm-to-table dinners, fresh-picked produce, a pumpkin patch, and Christmas Tree sales. Though some of these offerings vary due to COVID, for example, the University of Michigan Farmers’ Markets Markets are not meeting this year; there is still a great deal of wholesome fun to be had at the Farm Stand. For more on the Zilke’s Story, enjoy this three-minute video interview and feature.

12491 Carpenter Rd., Milan. 734-508-7033. zilkevegetablefarm.com