A rush of tourists seeking the perfect selfie is putting California flora at risk. In the spring, masses of visitors flocked to small towns in southern California to snap photos with the super bloom of poppies along the roads and hillsides. Now, visitors are traveling miles to say cheese next to vibrant, sky-high sunflowers in Solano County. One or two photos might be okay, but when so many people trample — and trespass — on farmers’ fields, the entire farm suffers.
Residents of the county made multiple calls to the local sheriff’s department after private property and crops were repeatedly trampled by eager amateur photographers. The sheriff’s department dispatched a public service announcement via social media: “As alluring as a picturesque sunflower field may be to a dedicated selfie seeker, farmers in Solano County are asking visitors to PLEASE respect their property when they’re trying to snap that perfect shot.”
During the poppy super bloom, Borrego Springs ran out of food, gas, hotel rooms and cash in the ATM just trying to handle the surge of tourists. The line of cars was backed up at least 20 miles down the road as visitors stopped to snap their photos of the blooming flowers.
But many of the sunflower fields are part of private land and businesses and are critical to farmers’ livelihoods. Sunflowers are often sold as fresh-cut flowers but also for sunflower seeds and sunflower butter. Many farmers rely on the sunflowers for cross pollination and to feed important pollinators that their crops rely on, like native bees and honey bees.
In Solano County, both farmers and residents are distressed that the visitors have little respect for private property signage and boundaries. Some tourists are going so far as to bring picnics and set up on farmers’ land like it’s a national park.
“They’re having picnics, wine and cheese right there in the corner and I’m going ‘Really?’” a sunflower farmer, Craig Ginos, told CBS Sacramento.
Image via Peter de Vink