Eager to get out and inhale fresh air, cooped-up humans fled pandemic tedium last spring, crowding parks, campsites, trails and other outdoor spaces.
And why not? If you want to clear your head and lift your mood, there are worse ways to do it than by basking in nature.
If you can capture the experience and share it with others later, it’s hard for some of us to resist taking a few photos.
Every so often, farmers and their crops find themselves the focus of these would-be Kodak moments. Brad Weinhofer knows this feeling.
The Express-Times, based in Easton, Pennsylvania, reports that Weinhofer Farms plants 150 to 200 acres of canola for a June harvest. Canola, which is commonly grown in Canada, also does well in the cooler climate of Pennsylvania. It’s planted in fall and goes dormant during colder months. It grows in spring and then blooms in mid- to late May.
A year ago, as Weinhofer’s canola plants grew tall and then burst forth into an expanse of bright yellow flowers, the number of visitors arriving to take in the view exceeded that of past years. And so did the problems.
Two-lane roads with no place to park near the canola crop were choked with cars, and drivers blocked traffic and parked in nearby driveways. Some people walked into fields and stomped on plants. “No Trespassing” signs and crime-scene tape were used by farmers to send a message. It was a “pretty overwhelming problem,” Lehigh Township police Chief Scott Fogel told the Express-Times.
Visitors Flock to Flowers
Canola, developed in the 1970s by Canadian plant scientists, is a blend of the words Canada and oil, according to canolagrowers.com. The oil is used for cooking and baking, as well as for biodiesel and bioplastics. The canola meal, the part remaining after the seeds are crushed and the oil is extracted, is used for animal feeds, pet food and fertilizer.
Canola plants grow to roughly 3 to 5 feet in height, and the eye appeal of the flowers seems to exert a similar pull on the other side of the globe.
News reports out of Australia describe how, amid COVID-19 restrictions last fall, the country town of Cowra attracted hordes of gawkers from the cities of Sydney and Canberra during growing season.
“They came in droves, all for the canola,” said a local photographer.
The business community welcomed the influx of tourists and their dollars, since in 2019 the region had suffered through one of the worst droughts on record. The canola dried up along with other crops.
But the rain returned in 2020 and the fields flourished. Then came the carloads of people.
As they did to another town, Berrima, where some crossed the line of good behavior, breaking fences and trampling crops. Farmers asked visitors to take their photos from a distance for the sake of safety.
“It’s a basic premise of life that you don’t trespass on other people’s property, not to mention there’s bees in there and snakes,” said one farmer.
Bees! Snakes! Australia is known for having some of the deadliest species in the world, so that’s a message that might keep even the most aggressive shutterbugs at bay.
Back in Pennsylvania, as the bloom of the canola plants nears, Weinhofer is appealing to those who want to see the flowers to respect his livelihood and the property.
“It’s only a handful of people,” Weinhofer said, “but it ruins it for everybody.”
Maybe posting “Warning, Venomous Snakes” signs would help keep out the overzealous few as well. But I wouldn’t count on it.
I think Weinhofer’s courteous message to others concerning his investment — enjoy, don’t destroy — probably makes more sense.
Hopefully, certain sightseers toting cellphones and cameras will “get the picture” this time around.