Written by: Taylor Holt, Project Manager for The Wilds Sonshine
(Originally Published in the Kane Republican on August 23, 2020)
What is with the massive sunflower fields along Route 6 towards Country Pines?!
The Wilds Sonshine Factory (WSF), located just off Route 6 West in Kane, is a new limited distillery with a unique draw. All of the sunflowers from the handful of fields planted in the area will be used to distill “Sonshine”, which is a registered trademark representing a distilled spirit produced from sunflowers ONLY grown and harvested right here in the PA Wilds. With every bottle, WSF will celebrate the natural landscape and heritage of our region through locally sourced ingredients, quality craftsmanship, and a commitment to growing recognition of the Pennsylvania Wilds region. WSF’s group of ambitious and visionary local investors cannot wait to bring you their new incredible facility and products in the summer of 2021! Our team strives for nothing but the best. This year, in conjunction with Greendale Farms, we have planted over 2.7 million sunflowers, with more than 1 million sunflowers in one field alone!
The Wilds Sonshine Factory will be open next summer with lots of exciting features! More than a distillery, WSF will host tours through the factory about PA distilling history, but it will also feature an interpretive Agricultural Education Center that focuses on the importance of our local history, natural resources and the hardworking individuals that drive our local industries. The main focus of the Ag Education Center will be to bring awareness to the fact that “Lumber doesn’t come from Lowe’s or Home Depot, Water doesn’t come from a spigot, Food doesn’t come from a grocery store, and Sunflowers don’t come from a florist”. Taylor Holt, the Project Manager for Wilds Sonshine Factory, says that “understanding the importance and sustainable use of our natural resources is something that we really hope to bring forward as the main message for visitors of all ages.” The Ag Education Center will bring light to the personal, local and national use of natural resources with interactive elements, videos, visual displays and tours for education and tourist groups of all ages.
A passion for regional appreciation is something the team at WSF does not lack. Featured in the factory will be an art gallery for local artists to display their work that shows the beauty and appreciation of the area and those that call it home. Both the art gallery and retail gift shop will house only items that are made in the USA, with mainly talented individuals that create and produce items in our region. Local photographers have been working with WSF to bring exciting elements to life in the factory. WSF will also house a potential new world record, and as much as we would like to share what it may be, we hope you can stand to wait a little bit longer until you are able to see it for yourself.
Partnerships with organizations like Allegheny Hardwood Utilization Group (AHUG), Conservation Districts from Elk, Warren and McKean Counties, PA Wilds, The Pennsylvania State University’s Agricultural Extension, Department of Agriculture, Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship Experienceship Program and Education Outreach have made gathering educational information and materials, designing and furthering the vision of the Agricultural Education Center possible. Attention from Congressman Glenn Thompson, PA Department of Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, and Department of Community and Economic Development (PA DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin has brought forth an incredible amount of support and interest to the project. Connections with organizations like these are how WSF was able to bring an extremely talented Penn State intern, Dana Shaffer from southeastern PA, to our facility. With support and ambition from the amazing members of our team, we are anxious to bring you many new and innovative products, events and displays in the future.
Another company in Kane that benefits from the harvested sunflowers is AccuForage, formerly known as Little Whiskey Girl’s, owned by Greendale Farms. AccuForage produces a variety of nutritional wildlife feeds and food plot mixes also made from locally grown components. “Nutrition is the most important element in conserving a healthy wildlife population. AccuForage produces feed for bucks, does, turkey and even bears. Made with sunflower seeds, corn, soybeans and other crops we are able to grow in the area. Our legendary food plot mixes aren’t just for hunters, but anyone looking to enjoy watching wildlife” writes Wildlife Habitat & Nutrition Specialist, Kory McConnell. Sunflower seeds have excellent nutritional value to wildlife as a source of carbohydrates and protein needed to stay healthy.
We love to see and hear the joy that our sunflowers bring to everyone. However, the fields are planted on private property, and in order to maintain positive crop yields, we provide guidelines to ensure no damage to the crop or property may occur. Sunflower field
locations and rules at wildssonshinefactory.org under the “Sunflower Fields” tab. Updates on field conditions and events can always be found at our website, Facebook, and Instagram pages. We hope to see you next summer to explore our Agricultural Education Center, take a factory tour and even try some Sonshine!