OCONOMOWOC -- More than 1,000 sunflowers were defaced and damaged in an Oconomowoc farm field. Though some might find the smiley face and heart designs smeared into them innocent, the owner of the field said his crops were tampered with, and it impacts his livelihood.
White Oak Farm looked picturesque and drew thousand of visitors. On Tuesday, Aug. 27, the sunflower blooms had peaked.
"Came out to see the sunflower field before they died off," said John Noll.
On Tuesday, people like John and Karen Noll wanted to get one last look as the sunflowers continued to wilt, but they noticed an unwelcome addition.
"It's sad, because so many people can enjoy them if they just leave them," Karen Noll said.
The farm's owner, Sandy Syburg, estimated at least 1,000 sunflower heads were damaged -- believed to be more than just damage from birds and deer.
Smiley faces, hearts, and names lined the viewing area Tuesday.
"I think they were just being artistic," said Jean Ericson.
Ericson stopped by from Delafield, and said she didn't consider the damage to be vandalism.
"Absolutely not!" said Ericson. "No. No. They aren't to be picked, and they haven't been picked."
Syburg disagreed. For every acre of sunflowers, he's able to harvest 100 gallons of sunflower oil. It was estimated the 25-acre field contained more than a half-million sunflowers.
"It's impressive," said Noll.
Syburg urged everyone to be respected of his crop and private property -- a field that brought joy to visitors from all over.
"I think they should be left to nature, as they are," Noll said.
The farmer was also raising money for the school across the street, Stone Bank Elementary School. Totals had not been announced as of Tuesday, but Syburg was on track to meet the fundraising goal.
The sunflower crop will be harvested at the end of September.