Michigan farm family plants flower acreage for late son


For over forty years, the John and Joan Donaldson have grown blueberries in Fennville, Michigan and also planted alfalfa, oats and rye.

Later on, their sons, Carlos and Mateo, grew up and became beekeepers and began planting flowers that would bloom in June and July. For the past 20 years, the flowers have been a part of the Donaldson family.

“During November, we watched as the red and Shirley poppies, daisies, black-eyed Susans, and cornflowers sprouted. The winter snows protected the seedlings, and in the spring they grew and formed buds. In June, they exploded into an impressionistic landscape blending blue, red, silvery white, and pink, and come August, the black-eyed Susans turned the field into waves of gold,” Joan wrote in a post on the Pleasant Hill Farms website. “Over the past twenty years, most of our wildflower fields were hidden near the center of our farm, only visible to the bees and folks coming to pick early blueberries.”

The family rotates the meadows and plants every fall in this past year, they added something special. John seeded an area next to the Fennville Cemetery, where their son Mateo was buried. The flowers serve as a tribute to Mateto, who used to tend to them as a beekeeper on the farm. Mateo took his own life after serving a tour in Afghanistan.

“We decided to create the poppy field in memory of him, because all these flowers feed the bees and butterflies, which he loved caring for so much, Joan told WMAZ. “He’s not buried very far from this field.”

The flower patch planted for Mateo has brought hope to others as well.

People come from all over to see the flowers, including painters and photographers, and Joan says some veterans with PTSD have also found peace while gazing at the wind-ruffled blossoms.

Anyone can visit the field, but John and Joan have two rules: Don’t walk on the field and don’t touch the flowers.