Farmers concerned for sunflower crops along Highway 395


(STORY IMAGE:KHQ.COM)

SPOKANE, Wash. -If you’ve driven along Highway 395 recently, chances are you’ve seen the sunflower fields in bloom. But there’s a problem that farmers are facing now. They say people have been trespassing and damaging those crops.

Gary Gibson says he understands why people want to take pictures by the sunflowers because they’re beautiful. But he says the problem is getting worse.

“People are coming in and trespassing on private property,” he says. “They’re going out into the crops.”

He says he’s seen people bring in 8-foot ladders to set up pictures, and has even seen people picking or cutting off sunflower heads to take home. Even going through the fields can knock seeds to the ground, he says.

“It’s costing us money. We're not doing this for the public. We're doing this because it's a way of life and our living,” Gibson says.

That’s because the sunflowers are already all sold. You can see just how many seeds are in each one. They’re used for birdseed.

“We can't have them damaged or gone,” he says.

He and other sunflower farmers in the area have put up “no trespassing” signs all over. He says when he has seen people in the middle of the fields and asked them to leave, “some people have even said ‘who are you to tell us we can't be out in this field?’”

The farmers say they’re fine with pictures, just as long as they’re on the side.

“They've got to realize they can't cross into the fields and they can't steal the heads,” Gibson says. “It's our livelihood.”

Gibson tells KHQ that he's going to start taking pictures of plates and people in the fields if people continue to trespass