A Central Ohio Couple Finds Success With a Sunflower Farm in Heath

Letitia and Chris Powell’s 22 Acres Farm offers a picturesque, family-friendly summer destination.

Teresa Woodard
Bright sunflowers fill a field at 22 Acres Farm in Heath. Letitia and Chris Powell planted their first sunflower field in 2020.

Letitia and Chris Powell thought their farming days were over after their children grew up and moved out.

“We were supposed to downsize and buy an RV,” recalls Letitia.

Instead, they began welcoming thousands of visitors to their 5-acre sunflower field, serving up sweet lemonade made with honey from the farm’s beehives, converting an 1890s barn into a wedding venue and raising grass-fed beef—all on their 22-acre farm in Heath.

“People are crazy for sunflowers,” says Letitia. “We’ve had people walk off the field crying as they’ve had spiritual experiences or remembered loved ones who adored sunflowers.”

Now, more than ever, sunflowers are being planted by farmers and gardeners in Central Ohio and beyond to show symbolic support for embattled Ukraine and to fill global supply shortages. Sunflowers are Ukraine’s national flower and one of its major crops.

The Powells grew up farming in their native West Virginia. Letitia hails from Ripley and Chris from Huntington. Both recall childhood days of getting up before the sun to feed animals and trying to finish the day’s tasks before sunset. After Chris attended DeVry University and they settled in Central Ohio, they decided to pass down the same farm experiences as they reared two children, Nicholas and Makayla. They bought a 5-acre hobby farm in Johnstown, where they planted a huge, 10,000-square-foot vegetable garden and raised cows, turkeys and chickens.

“Farm life taught them [the kids] how to work, take responsibility, learn to care for animals, raise their own food and laugh through many memories,” Letitia says.

When the couple became empty nesters and finished remodeling their home, they casually started looking for another property.

“I always wanted to start a camp or run a venue,” says Letitia. Her husband told her to “keep her eyes open,” so that’s what she did.

That’s how they found the Heath farm three days later.

“It basically fell in our lap,” she says. She discovered the farm listing on Friday, attended an open house on Sunday, placed an offer on Monday and got the call it was accepted on Tuesday.

Once they moved in, they started raising cattle and making plans to turn the barn into a venue.

“We knew it would take time, so we looked at what we could do in the meantime to make money,” she says.

They were inspired by their daughter Makayla, who had planted a patch of sunflowers in high school. Makayla invited her friends to take their photos among the tall flowers.

“They ate it up,” says Letitia. That spurred the couple to plant a sunflower field in 2020, and then they opened the farm as an agritourism destination.

The first year, around 3,000 people walked the fields during the pandemic as they looked for safe outdoor entertainment. “Chris and I have always farmed, so sunflowers were something we felt confident growing,” she says.

In their initial two years, they’ve learned some valuable lessons. “We’ve had a couple hiccups that turned into blessings,” says Letitia.

Early on, they didn’t realize sunflower blooms face east. Luckily, they left a wet area unplanted, and it became the perfect spot for a viewing platform. Here, at sunset, the views are breathtaking as the sun drops behind the barn and golden foreground of east-facing flowers.

The second year, they tried to extend the two-week flowering time to a full month by staggering the planting times. Unfortunately, they were hit with a drought, and the first set of seedlings dried up.

“We sat at the barn and watched rainstorms go all the way around our farm,” Letitia says.

They’ve also experimented with growing 15 sunflower varieties and learned which ones stand up best in rain and wind. They planted mammoth sunflowers in a tunnel and as a border around the field. They even planted a patch of dwarf sunflowers with a central opening for kidsto explore.

Since high school, their daughter Makayla has launched a professional photography business, Visual Storytelling & Co. At the farm, she schedules wedding shoots and sunflower sessions for engagements, expectant moms, families and pet parents and their pets—even horses.

Last year, the couple finished the barn renovation, adding new board-and-batten siding, a metal roof and a cupola. Inside, the original beams, posts and central flooring remain. They named it Venue at 22 to fit the farm’s name, 22 Acres Farm, and hosted their first events, including a wedding, in early August. This year, they have a full season booked. They’ve also planted u-pick rows of English and French lavenders, expanded the honeybee hives to 15, planted a half-acre pollinator meadow, built greenhouses to grow plants and converted a horse trailer into a lemonade stand.

“We love to offer a place for families to come see farm life, enjoy nature and make lasting memories,” says Letitia. 

Learn More

The Powells’ sunflowers typically bloom in late July to mid-August. Check the farm’s website and social media pages for bloom updates and special events such as Yoga Among the Sunflowers and more. (Search for @22acresfarm on Facebook and Instagram.)

More Places to Find Sunflowers in Central Ohio

Circle S Farms in Grove City

Coshocton Sunflower Festival: Aug. 6–21

Legend Hills Orchard in Utica

The Orchard and Co. in Plain City

Jacquemin Farms in Plain City

The Maize at Little Darby Creek in Milford Center

Van Buren Acres in Hebron

Hendren Farm Market in Johnstown

Lynd Fruit Farm in Pataskala and Urbana

Miller’s Country Gardens in Delaware

CherryHawk Farm in Marysville

Branstool Orchards in Utica

Sunflower Facts

  • Name: The common name “sunflower” is given for its bright, sunlike blooms, and the botanical name, Helianthus, combines two Greek words for sun (helios) and flower (anthos).
  • Growing: Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed. Plant them in early May in a sunny location and space seeds 6 to 12 inches apart.
  • Harvesting bouquets: Morning is the best time to harvest flowers. Cut flower stems at an angle and place them in a bucket of warm water. Strip the leaves from the stems before placing them in a vase.
  • A protein snack: Large sunflower heads contain as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds, which make a nutritious snack for gardeners—and birds. A 100-gram serving provides 21 grams of protein plus significant amounts of vitamin E and magnesium.
  • Bee-loved: Sunflowers are a good nectar and pollen source for many different bees. The showy outer petals help attract these pollinators. The Great Sunflower Project is a national bee-monitoring initiative that enlists volunteers to plant sunflowers and record the number and kinds of pollinators that visit the flowers. 
  • Native American history: According to the National Sunflower Association, the sunflower is native to North America and was a common crop among American Indian tribes.
  • Record suns: Guinness World Records reports the tallest sunflower was 30 feet, and the biggest flowerhead was 32 inches wide.

This story is from the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.