Michele Stephens plans to plant more sunflowers on her organic farm. (ABC Gold Coast: Cathy Border)
They were planted as a way to make people smile, but the sunflowers on one New South Wales farm have become so popular on social media they are attracting tourists from all over the world.
- A crop of sunflowers planted at an organic veggie farm at Cudgen, NSW, has been attracting visitors from around the world
- Other farmers and rural businesses say that cultivating a social media following has proved a boon for business as it helps connect people to seeing where their food comes from
- Some businesses are devoting more resources and consideration to how they cultivate their social media followings in order to attract more visitors
Michele Stephens, who runs an organic veggie farm at Cudgen in Northern NSW, said she planted a field of sunflowers after speaking to her seedling supplier.
“He had a lovely crop of sunflowers and I asked why he put them in and he said, ‘to make people happy’,” she said.
“We already had people walking around the farm and enjoying the farm, so I thought we’d give them a field of sunflowers.”
Ms Stephens said it only took one photo by her son that was posted on Instagram, for the flowers to become a social media hit.
She has since had tourists from Japan, China and Brazil make the trip out to her property, but it is tourists from Singapore that have proven particularly keen, often calling to plan their visit.
“They usually say ‘We are coming over from Singapore, landing on the Gold Coast, how do we get to your place?'” she said.
While tourists have created problems by trespassing through some Queensland sunflower farms, where they have left rubbish and damaged plants, at Cudgen Ms Stephen said they have helped her business.
She said the sunflower tourism helps the cafe she has opened on the site.
“That’s a really big bonus for us with all the visitors we are having and we have ceremonies for weddings and photography for weddings here,” she said.
Ms Stephens allows visitors to take a sunflower home and also uses the flowers as a cover crop to add nutrition to her farm’s soil.
Her plans for the future of her farm include “sunflowers and more sunflowers”.
And she is not the only agricultural business to use Instagram to attract visitors to her property.
Another part of the business
In the Southern Highlands of NSW, Farm Club Australia runs accommodation and a cafe on its 1,300-hectare property.
While that business does not have sunflowers, it often gets hundreds of likes on its Instagram pictures of food, chooks, horses and fields.
Manager Liberty Weller said customers had visited her business from Sydney and Canberra, after seeing pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
“I know if I wanted to go somewhere, to a restaurant, I would look up their Instagram rather than their website,” she said.
“So having a really good Instagram is so important because everyone, pretty much everyone, is on it.”
But she said farming businesses do need to put time and effort into social media for it to work well.
“We find if there are too many people on the Instagram account the consistency of photos is off,” she said.
“We have had it before where everyone is posting photos but because everyone has a different idea of what they want the photos to look like it didn’t look aesthetically pleasing.”
Ms Weller said they now try to keep the themes and filters of photos consistent.
The business manager said another challenge is remembering to take photos, while also running a busy business.
It requires hard work
Instagram influencer Paris Jacobson has turned her love of social media into a job.
The Gold Coast resident has nearly 130,000 followers.
She said Instagram can be a powerful tool to attract visitors to travel destinations.
“You see lots of things on Instagram and you go ‘Oh that looks trendy, that looks cool, I want to get a photo there too,” Ms Jacobson said.
She often has people asking her questions on Instagram about the places in her photos.
“I get so many messages all the time saying ‘Where is this, or where is that? I really want to go there and that looked really good’,” Ms Jacobsen said.
Connecting with food and fibre
The Australian Farmers’ Federation said the farming lifestyle across Australia lends itself to great imagery.
But general manager Laureta Wallace said more importantly, social media is a great way for farmers to connect with people from across the country and for city residents to get a glimpse of rural life.
“Research by the National Farmers Federation has confirmed that people feel increasingly disconnected with how their food and fibre is grown,” she said.
“Seeing a cotton field or a dairy in action on their Instagram feed, is a great way for Australians to better understand how their T-shirt came to be or where the milk in their coffee originated.”