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Griswold - The bulls of Pamplona have nothing on the cows of Buttonwood Farm.
Farm owner Duane Button loosed about 50 of the animals onto four acres of sunflower fields Wednesday as the final part of the farm's Sunflowers for Wishes festivities.
The Sunflowers for Wishes event raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In this, its eighth year, the weeklong event raised a record $100,207 through sales of $5 sunflower bouquets, T-shirts and hayrides through the fields.
But Wednesday afternoon's festivities were strictly for the cows.
Grunting, snorting and bellowing, the half-ton beasts stormed through the rows of still-beautiful sunflowers, wreaking havoc on the once manicured aisles of plants.
"They'll eat, but they're in running mode right now," Button said as he kicked aside fallen sunflower stalks. "We leave them in for about a week, and by the end the sunflowers are pretty well gone."
The cows eat the flowers and leaves but dislike the stalks, Button said.
Once the cows have cleared the field of the sunflowers, Button plants rye as a cover crop to keep the soil loose and fertile for the next spring's planting of sunflower seedlings.
"When the cows get out, they get excited," Button said as clouds of dust rose in the cows' wake. "They think they're out, but we shut the gate. It's a treat for them."
On Tuesday, Button said, the farm hosted 75 people from 17 families that had been granted a wish; the Make-a-Wish Foundation grants the wishes of children who have life-threatening medical conditions. The families enjoyed hayrides and ice cream as the sunflowers swayed in the sunshine.
Button said this year's event was again a success. The previous record of $100,000 was raised just last year. Button said 100 percent of the profits go to Make-a-Wish. And because the average wish costs $8,500, the Buttons' efforts will help grant almost 12 wishes.
T-shirts and notepads, as well as the farm's signature sunflower ice cream, were sold out by the event's end, Button said, adding that 9,600 bouquets, or about 48,000 flowers, were sold during the fundraiser. But with 30,000 flowers per acre and the cows roaming in four acres of flowers, the animals were having a field day among the remaining 120,000 blossoms.
Button said he starts planting for the event in May, but spaces it out so that different fields bloom at different times. A three-acre field is just starting to bloom, so he said it would be ideal for those still hoping to come by and take pictures.
After that, it's all for the cows.