Sunflower Festival: The Davis Feed & Farm Supply and Davis Family Farm

The first settlers arrived in the beautiful rolling countryside that is now known as Caledon East in the 1820s. Over the years, Caledon East has become known for its farm-to-table culture and a close-knit community, holding many events and festivals to welcome families and visitors.

Joan and Harry Davis bought their farm in Caledon East in 1951, where there was already an 1861 farmhouse. This home stood proudly sheltering their family and still stands today. Harry was the local bus driver and was well known in Caledon East. Their son, John and his wife have grown their family in the same beautiful farmhouse.

John’s son, Sean brought his wife Amy to live on the farm. About fifteen years ago they built a new house on the property to raise their two children. Until about five years ago, when Harry passed away, four generations were living on the farm, and sharing the work.

As with most farms, adaptation to the changing times, has become a necessity. So, in 1989, John along with his family decided to add Davis Feed and Farm Supply to their farm. The store originated as an agricultural supplier of cow, horse, and chicken feed and is a retail outlet. The business has grown to sell just about anything a farm would need.

I was able to spend some time on the telephone with Sean Davis, to have him tell me all about the Davis Family Farm, Davis Feed & Farm Supply, and specifically about Davis Family Farm Sunflower Festival. It was a delight speaking to him and hear his enthusiasm and passion.

Sean took business and information systems at university, but his love for the farm drew him back to work with his dad in the feed store and work the farm. His business education inspired ideas to grow their family business and although the Davis Feed and Farm Supply operates pretty much old school, Sean’s computer education has helped with social media and advertising. John, Sean, Amy and Aunt Debbie work in the store.

In 2007, a garden centre was added, selling mums in the fall as well as Christmas trees for the holiday season. The farm boasts of 65 acres of sunflowers, supplying the store with roughly a ton of seed and sunflower honey. Some of the seed is sold to other farms and establishments for Caledon’s bird lovers. The Davises grow oats as horse feed and there are crops of pumpkins and squash for sale. Their 300 chickens provide fresh eggs, also for sale.

Sunflower honey is produced at the Davis Farm by the beekeeper’s twenty-two hives. The beekeeper harvests the honey while the sunflowers bloom, so it is pure sunflower honey. The honey yield is about 3,000 lbs. but is only enough to sell at the store. No sprays are used on the sunflowers thus making the honey safer to enjoy. I asked Sean what the difference between regular and sunflower honey. The sunflower honey is perhaps a bit nuttier tasting and lighter in colour. This honey stays liquid and lasts longer.

Because some confusion developed between The Davis Family Farm with its sunflowers, pumpkins, and Christmas trees and The Sunflower Festival, the Davises decided to separate The Davis Family Farm and the Davis Feed & Farm Supply.

Davis Family Farm Sunflower Festival

Although there are many fields of sunflowers with other names even The Toronto Sunflower Festival, the official name of their festival is Davis Family Farm Sunflower Festival. The festival was Sean’s brainchild.

Sean chuckled as he explained how the Sunflower Festival started. Apparently, he spotted a wild boar in Caledon and Global News came to the farm to interview him about the viewing. The reporter was fascinated with the huge fields of beautiful sunflowers and asked to come back. The next day, after the broadcast of this interview aired, a busload of people arrived to view Sean’s fields of spectacular smiling sunflowers.

It was about five years ago; the Sunflower Festival was born from this initial interest in the sunflowers. At first, the motivation of the festival was to show off the fields of sunflowers. There was so much interest, that Sean and the family decided to open as a Sunflower Festival to visitors. At first it was just Sean standing in his booth, selling honey, and directing people to the fields of his stunning sunflowers. The parking for visitors was somewhat chaotic that first summer.

After that first summer, Sean and his family started to revel in having people come and be educated about the cycle of farming from seed to flower, and the history. They love to talk to their visitors and discuss with fellow farmers various ideas. In fact, there is a huge map “Bringing Everyone Together” that has been erected where people from all over can sign. The Davises delight in looking at their visitor’s signatures and noting where they came from to see their sunflowers.

Many people don’t realize how the dates of the Big bright sunflowers and the festival are decided each year. Sean tells me that he has had calls in April from people asking to come see his sunflowers. He laughs as he explains that it all depends on when he plants the seeds. Usually, it takes about sixty-seven days for the seeds to grow into the flowers. Sunflowers thrive in hot and sunny temperatures. So far, the weather has cooperated to bring these big bright and sunny faces to bloom at the end of July. This year the plan is to plant a second field two weeks later than the first to produce a longer viewing.

The Davis Family Sunflower Festival is an ever-evolving project and is a family affair. Every year, there are new activities and celebrations being added. Extra parking was one of the first additions.

Sean and his family have a deep love for their community of Caledon East and give back by having local vendors participate in the marketplace held during the Sunflower Festival. For example, Main Street Ice Cream, June & Rose Candle Co., Crystal View Greenhouses, and Picnics in the 6ith always have booths to welcome visitors.

There are Family Photo Sessions held every night from 6-9. (Please email: photography@davisfamilyfarm.ca for appointments). Sean tells me that there are 50 to 60 photographers available for these photo sessions this year.

There is great excitement over the” Sunflower Yoga,” four nights of “Paint and Picnic.” The Davis Family Farm has planned a “Dog Days of Summer” on July 31st and then “The Sunflower Soiree” on August 2nd will be live music, local wine wagons, and Harvey’s will supply food. Wagon rides through the 3km of sunflowers are always a big hit.

Visitors are welcome to bring their pets with them. On Saturdays, there is an exotic animal petting zoo that the children have fallen in love with over the years.

What makes The Davis Farm Sunflower Festival different from other sunflower showings? Well, they are the largest in Ontario. One can walk 3km of trails through sunflowers, as far as the eye can see. There is also the educational component that the Davises love to talk about. Their many visitors come back year after year for the sheer enjoyment.  As mentioned, the whole Davis family participates in the love of the festival, from John, Sean, Amy, and their two children. Sean’s two brothers also come back to the farm just to participate in the love of sunflowers. Sean’s mom is always working hard in the background.

Should the weather spoil the fun, the family transport visitors, via golf cart, back to their cars and are even issued a “Guaranteed Good Experience” free ticket to return. In the vein of having a good time, there are pamphlets on site listing different places to visit and eat in the community of Caledon East. The Davis Family wants everyone to experience a full day of fun and enjoyment while visiting their beloved Caledon East.

Amy and Sean’s children are as passionate as the rest of the family. They look forward to the festival every year and can be seen taking friends on private tours and even selling bracelets or Poleman Cards, the some of proceeds of which are donated to the Canadian CELIAC Association, who are very important to the Davis Family.

When I asked Sean where his contagious passion for life comes from, I was told that he is always trying to think of new ways to make other people’s lives better. Sean and his son have Celiac Disease and he has worked for years with the Canadian CELIAC Association, promoting, and supporting them. In fact, $1.00 of each admission to the Sunflower Festival is donated to this worthy cause.

Sean and his Family also support Cystic Fibrosis Canada. Although not yet confirmed, there may be a special “Haunted House Evening” in the fall, in support of this worthwhile association. Stay tuned for that.

It was such a pleasure to have conversations with Sean Davis. There was an intoxicating love for his sunflowers and farm and a passion for helping people and making the world a better place, one little step at a time. Sean delights in seeing the happy faces of visitors to the Davis Family Sunflower Festival and talking to people to learn from their experiences and lives. He wants people to stop him and the family to say “Hi!”

When I asked Sean what message he would most like me to pass along it was:

“This is Caledon! Come see what Caledon has to offer and enjoy!”

For any further information on tickets and times, please refer to:
info@davisfamilyfarm.ca or call 905-965-8201.

WRITTEN BY: MARILYN LEGGETT | RESOURCES: DAVIS FEED & FARM SUPPLY / DAVIS FAMILY FARM

Author: LivingSpaces

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