‘It’s an act of hope’: LaFarm to hold Sunflowers for Ukraine event on Sunday

The+fundraiser%2C+hosted+at+LaFarm%2C+will+feature+prayer%2C+reflection+and+participation+from+the+local+Ukrainian+community.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+%40lafayettecollegefarm+on+Instagram%29

The fundraiser, hosted at LaFarm, will feature prayer, reflection and participation from the local Ukrainian community. (Photo courtesy of @lafayettecollegefarm on Instagram)

On the fields of LaFarm, Abigail Schaus ‘24 and Manager of Food and Farm Josh Parr want to inspire hope for the Ukrainian community with their upcoming Sunflowers for Ukraine ceremony and fundraiser. 

The fundraiser will feature the planting of around 1,000 sunflower seeds across an open section of LaFarm property, along with participation and prayerful reflection from the local community.

Parr first got the idea for the fundraiser when he was placing a seed order and noticed companies were offering promotions through which proceeds from their sunflower seed sales would benefit humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

“That [promotion] gave me the idea to buy some of the sunflower seeds going into that promotion and then have an event where we partnered with the local Ukrainian community and planted seeds with them,” Parr explained. 

Burpee Seeds, a plant and seed company led by CEO Jamie Mattikow ‘86, is co-sponsoring the event. 

Parr reached out to local Ukrainian Orthodox churches in an attempt to involve members of the local community most affected by the crisis. 

“We want to have a space for folks to share about their own experiences with the crisis that’s happening in Ukraine, share other ways of getting involved and making sure that they’re bringing that awareness and placing the narratives of the most impacted at the forefront,” Schaus, LaFarm’s student apprentice, said.

“People from the community can have a space to just talk about how they felt about everything that’s been going on over the past several months–share how they’ve been feeling, what they think, their hopes and their fears,” Parr said. 

LaFarm is partnering with Father Richard Jendras of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Father Oleg Kravchenko of Assumption of the Virgin Mary Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Bringing these two leaders on board helped shape one of the event’s most important aspects: prayer. 

Before planting the seeds, the group will join together in a prayer for peace. Schaus emphasized that despite the inclusion of Christian prayer, people of all belief systems are welcome at the event. 

“[The prayer] is not necessarily just in a religious sense, but in any degree of spirituality or just recognition to the earth for everything that she does in helping cultivate healthy soil and healthy crops,” Schaus said. 

“If you can really get back to what the soil is and how it rejuvenates healthy things like sunflowers, or if it’s food for folks to be able to take part in, nature is really kind of the giver of life in that way,” Schaus continued. “So many lives have been taken in this crisis, and it’s a way for us to reflect on those [lives] and honor their memories, and to bring in a new degree of life as we support these people.”

Parr also emphasized the importance of engaging in nature-related activities at this time. “In times of great uncertainty–and war is certainly one of the most terrifying and uncertain things that can happen–it helps people to return to and focus on things that are a little more certain.” 

In the fall, the sunflowers will be harvested and sold at a number of markets with the proceeds going to mutual aid organizations in Ukraine. 

According to Parr, in an era riddled with uncertainty, people can rely on the natural cycle of planting and harvesting flowers to bring a sense of certainty.

“We can create beauty and put good things into the world even in times of darkness like this,” he said. 

The event will take place from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 8 at LaFarm, which is located next to Metzgar Fields.