If you go
What: Mark Mezger’s zinnia farm
When: Sunrise to sunset during bloom season, from mid-June through September
Where: 12410 County Road 99W, north of Yolo
The deal: The flowers are free; clippers, vases and buckets of water are left out for visitors to use. But anyone who cuts flowers for themselves must deliver a bouquet to someone who cannot pick their own
Yolo County business owner Mark Mezger has, for the past three years, devoted two acres of his property to growing zinnias for the public to enjoy. The zinnias have brought great joy both to farm visitors and to residents of several retirement and convalescent homes in Woodland.
Mezger’s zinnia plot, two miles north of Yolo on Highway 99W, has no gates and never closes. People have been seen picking free bouquets there as early as 6:30 in the morning and as late as 9 p.m., and between 25 and 30 people come every day during the summer months. Mezger provides vases and water. He only has one request of visitors: For every bouquet they pick for themselves, they need to pick one for someone who is unable to pick their own.
The visitors come from diverse backgrounds, Mezger said. He noted that “there are people from the East Coast who show up, people from Oregon, Washington.” He also mentioned four refugees from Iran who came to his plot last week to cut flowers for family members who were hospitalized in Sacramento.
Volunteers deliver Mezger’s zinnias to retirement homes all over Woodland. Deliveries run on a schedule, he explained; vases are delivered to one retirement home Monday, another one Tuesday, and so on. The vases are then collected at the end of the week so they may be reused.
“I know what it’s doing for the rest home,” Mezger said. “The people in the rest home are just tickled pink to get a vase.”
Mezger said between 15 and 20 people help him with planting and growing the zinnias during the spring, in addition to weeding and preparing the land. Local grower Ken Gregory brings his tractor up for preparation work, while Ed Pratt, another local grower, oversees the planting.
The zinnia operation began when he hosted an appreciation dance for farmers, Mezger explained. After the dance, he had 60 or 70 vases of zinnias left over. In response to a suggestion from his daughter, he decided to take the leftover flowers to a rest home.
“That’s what started it all,” Mezger said. “The citizens of the rest home were very pleased, so the following year I decided, ‘Why don’t I plant some flowers?’ and we started takin’ ’em to rest homes.”
Mezger added that zinnias are pretty easy to plant and grow well in the area. Above all, they are beautiful.
“It’s a rainbow of colors, I can tell you that,” he said.
When asked what his favorite part of growing the zinnias is, Mezger said he enjoys seeing the reactions both from kids who visit his zinnia patch and residents at the facilities where the flowers are delivered.
“It’s fun to see the young kids and I know what we’re doing for those who can’t cut flowers for themselves,” Mezger said.