​Fields of Joy

How one man’s sunflower field is changing the lives of families within the North-East of Scotland.

Image from Press & Journal

Alastair Robertson’s sunflower field started as one lone sunflower and has since boasted thousands of the bright yellow beauties and drawn in locals from across Aberdeen and the North-East to take their pick of the bunch. But this sunflower field is bringing joy to the local community in more ways than one. The profits from purchases of the flowers are going towards Charlie House, and our work supporting babies, children and young people with life-shortening and life-limiting conditions and their families.

Alastair who lives in Inverurie with his wife Katie, is a retired solicitor. He has been a dedicated member of the St Fittick Rotary Club since 1988; a club of fantastic people that pull together to raise funds for their local communities in Torry, Garthdee and Kincorth and other communities and charities within Aberdeen, the UK and Internationally. As part of his duties as reigning club president, Alastair became aware of the need for specialist support for children with life-limiting conditions within the North-East of Scotland.

Aiming to do something a little different and utilise his gardening skills, Alastair decided to grow his sunflower field in aid of Charlie House. This fundraising idea was born out of a story he was told by a friend and former client who was a farmer. 20 years ago, his friend received a visit from fellow farmers from Yorkshire who admired his skills as a grower of cereal crops. One commented that while his crops were excellent, the weather in North-East Scotland meant that he and other growers in the area were restricted in what they could produce, using the example of sunflowers as something that they could not grow. Taking this as a challenge, his friend planted one acre of sunflower seeds in one of his fields next to a public road, putting up an honesty box for donations and a sign that encouraged the public to ‘pick their own’. He was soon inundated with happy customers.

Inspired by this tale, Alastair decided he wanted to take on the challenge of growing sunflowers himself, prompting him to grow his field in the summer of 2021. Both he and his friend have proved the Yorkshire farmers wrong with the roaring success of their fields, with Alastair and the St Fittick Rotary club raising more than £6,000 in just 5 weeks thanks to their planning and talents and the generosity of the general public.

Speaking of his fundraising experience and the fantastic feat he has achieved so far, Alastair said, “All in all it has been a pleasurable experience and I have met a good many people who live relatively close by, but whom I had not come across before. The best of it, however, is that we have exceeded our optimum target of £5,000, that our customers purchased a product which gave them genuine value for money and when they arrived, they were smiling with anticipation at what they were to be picking. They smiled further when they viewed the quantity of sunflowers on offer and, having secured their armfuls of flowers and taken their commemorative photos, they departed still wreathed in happy smiles. So there have been winners all round.”

The team at Charlie House could not be more pleased with the efforts of Alastair and the St Fittick Rotary Club. It has been a difficult year for the charity having to adjust to new rules and regulations that have limited the types of fundraising that we can do. However, fundraisers such as this have done much to inspire us all and prove that while life is yet to feel normal, there is strength in the generosity of others and joy to be found in fields of flowers. The money raised will go a long way to support Charlie House and the services and activities we provide to families within the North-East.

While Alastair and the St Fittick Rotary Club are smashing their fundraising target, there are still plenty of sunflowers to be picked and families within the local area to be supported. If you would like to grab a sunflower or five before they’re gone, please visit Saplinbrae, Castle Fraser in Inverurie Monday-Sunday from 10am-5pm.

For more information, please visit the St Fittick Rotary Club Facebook page here

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