Recovering from a car accident, Alyssa Lindsay began walking around her community in Downtown Springfield once a day. It was on one of these walks that she noticed an empty lot and saw opportunity.
Working with a team of community volunteers, Lindsay transformed what was once an excavated parking lot into a sunflower field on East McDaniels Street between Vantage Rooftop Lounge and Conservatory and Nonna’s Italian Cafe.
Lindsay contacted lot owner Matt Miller and gained permission to plant on the lot. She knew the empty lot was in rough shape; patches of dirt were missing, there was lots of rubble and trash and the dirt was dry and hard.
To see what would be plantable in those conditions Lindsay contacted Kelly McGowan, coordinator of the Missouri master gardener program, who advised her to till the soil and plant sunflowers.
McGowan also referred Lindsay to David Burton, who helped her apply for a $500 grant through the University of Missouri’s Extension Program, Engaged Neighbor Community.
With this grant money, Lindsay bought supplies to till the field and protect the lot. Lindsay and a group of volunteers she gathered spent hours tilling, planting and revitalizing this area of Downtown Springfield.
After four days of careful watering, Lindsay and her team saw the first sign of sunflower sprouts.
“I walked down there to look, you know, I was going down there every day on my walks to see what was happening,” Lindsay said. “On day four, I see Hector walk out and I was literally like ‘Hector, did you see them?… The babies, they’re up!’ and he’s like ‘No way!’ He ran down and we were like ‘Oh my gosh it’s working. We’re building a sunflower field.’”
It’s no secret that Springfield suffers from urban blight, particularly areas of Downtown Springfield where this lot is located.
“Urban blight is marked by deteriorating and abandoned homes and buildings, as well as vacant lots with trash, high weeds and grass and/or abandoned and vandalized cars,’ according to Dickinson College.
Springfield City Council has been taking steps to improve blighted areas through Forward SGF, a comprehensive economic plan to revitalize areas of Springfield.
City Council members are not the only people who have the ability to help revitalize Springfield. Lindsay and her team were entirely volunteers, most of them are a part of the Downtown Springfield community.
“We had this really great community of people,” Lindsay said. “When you have an idea, you find the like minds, and … everybody just came together.”
Kevin Practer from Urban Roots farm helped till the field, and Hector Cruz, director of engineering at Vantage, helped water the field.
Local businesses chipped in to revitalize the lot as well. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds donated 10 packs of sunflower seeds, and Payne Sign Company donated eight weather-resistant signs to advertise the field.
The sunflower field brought the downtown community together and helped to revitalize the soil, allowing opportunity for other plants to be planted in the lot in the future.
“Sunflowers are bio remedial, so once they are in there, they take all of the poisons and toxins out of the soil.” Lindsay said.
Lindsay is open to the idea of more sunflower fields around downtown and will replant in the current field if given the opportunity, which she believes will.
“I would love anybody who has an empty lot to let me plant sunflowers on it, or if it’s just an empty building or empty greenspace, ya know, we’ll plant some sunflowers there,” Lindsay said.
Directions to Sunflower Field
The lot is on the corner of East McDaniel and South Avenue: Google Maps directions.