Growing Sunflowers With Sunflower Steve

Ep.20: Sunflower Steve: A Farmer’s Journey of Passion & Perseverance

Steve Kaufer, also known as Sunflower Steve, shares his journey of becoming a flower farmer to becoming a successful hybridizer specializing in unique sunflower varieties.


The Journey of Sunflower Steve

Steve Kaufer’s journey into sunflower farming began in 1999 when he lost his job due to corporate downsizing. With a passion for Native American Prairie Flowers, Steve started planting native prairie flowers on his land in Wisconsin. What started as a way to improve the property for wildlife soon turned into a profitable venture as he discovered the value of native prairie seeds. Steve’s interest in flowers grew, leading him to explore the world of cut flower farming.

From Prairie Flowers to Sunflower Breeding

Steve’s foray into sunflower breeding began unexpectedly when he discovered a unique sunflower variety, which he named Gigi, growing in his field. This double-flowering sunflower sparked his curiosity and set him on a path of experimentation and breeding. By carefully selecting and cross-pollinating different sunflower varieties, Steve has honed his skills in creating new and distinctive sunflower cultivars.

Sunflower Steve’s Tips for Successful Sunflower Farming:

Planting Sunflowers

  • Direct sow sunflower seeds.
  • Consider soil temperature and frost dates when planting sunflowers.
  • Protect seeds and seedlings from rodents and hungry birds. Steve does this by utilizing bird of prey patrols. You can also do this with alternative methods like using cinder blocks and chicken wire to protect the seeds until they are larger.

Harvesting Sunflowers

  • Harvest sunflowers when petals begin to lift off the face for maximum longevity.
  • Cut sunflowers early in the morning or late in the evening to minimize stress on the flowers.
  • Utilize a cold storage solution like a cooler to extend the vase life of harvested sunflowers.

The Evolution of Sunflower Farming & Hybridizing

Steve’s journey in sunflower farming evolved over the years, from growing a variety of flowers to niching down and focusing on high-volume production of sunflowers. By making strategic pivots in his farming practices, Steve optimized his operations and achieved greater efficiency in his flower farming endeavors. His dedication to experimentation and innovation has led to the development of unique sunflower varieties that now set his farm apart in the market.


Steve Kaufer’s story is a testament to the passion and dedication required for successful flower farming, particularly in the realm of sunflowers. His journey of becoming a flower farmer to becoming a renowned sunflower breeder showcases the possibilities that come with perseverance and a love for flowers. Whether you’re a budding flower farmer or a gardening enthusiast, Steve’s insights and experiences offer valuable lessons in life and farming.

For a deeper dive into Steve Kaufer’s journey and expertise in sunflower farming, we invite you to listen to the full podcast episode on your favorite streaming platform. Join us as we explore the vibrant world of sunflowers and the art of flower farming with Sunflower Steve.

Listen to the full podcast episode on Backyard Bouquet Podcast to discover more about Steve Kaufer’s sunflower farming journey.

Sunflower Steve on CBS Sunday Morning

In This Episode You’ll Hear About:

  • 01:15-05:16: Steve’s Journey: From Flower Farming to Sunflower Breeding
  • 13:19-16:23: Maximizing Efficiency and Planning for Contingencies
  • 20:26-23:33: Evolution of Steve’s Flower Farm
  • 24:35-32:01: From Hobby to Breeding Success
  • 37:51-41:40: Protecting Sunflowers from Rodents and Birds
  • 01:06:30-01:09:47: Sunflowers and Camp
  • 01:10:33-01:14:33: Breeding and Growing Unique Sunflowers

Learn More About Sunflower Steve:

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