Haley’s Maze: Honoring A Daughter on a Sunflower Farm

Three Little Birds Farm in Wisconsin plants a sunflower maze to honor a beloved daughter and sister.

By Nancy Dorman-Hickson | Photos By Kimberly Nading

Paisley Grace Nading runs between the sunflowers in Haley’s Maze, planted in memory of Haley Fauske, near Westby, Wisconsin.

The stunning sunflower maze that bloomed at Three Little Birds Farm in 2017 held a special magic for visitors. Guestbook comments and social media posts revealed how the living tribute to a departed daughter touched them and helped them cope with their own losses.

Two years before, on Oct. 4, 2015, a police officer knocked on Matt Fauske’s door at 1 a.m. to deliver the worst possible news for a parent. The policeman, a friend, had volunteered for the hard task of telling Matt that his youngest daughter, Haley, 18, had died in a one-car accident. Haley and her sisters—Katelyn, now 25, and Brittany, now 27—were the reason behind the Three Little Birds Farm’s name, and now its Facebook page. It’s also the name of Haley’s favorite Bob Marley song.  

“She was the cheerer of the underdog,” says Katelyn of her late sister, whose services drew 1,200 people in a town of less than 2,500. “She would make you laugh even when you didn’t want to.” After she graduated early from high school, Haley began farming with her dad. Middle daughter Katelyn took her sister’s place at the farm after Haley died. Together, Katelyn and Matt custom-farm about 800 acres.

Haley loved sunflowers so much that she had a large one tattooed on the back of her shoulder for her 18th birthday and “always told people to turn toward the sun,” Katelyn says. To honor her memory in 2016, the family planted six rows of sunflowers surrounding the 8-acre field by their house near Westby, Wisconsin. The next year, they planted the whole field in a 600,000-sunflower maze, featuring Haley’s signature in swooping lettering mapped by friend and architect Bjorn Berg. 

Word spread all the way to “Good Morning America,” which did a feature on Haley’s Maze. The Fauskes invite people to visit the maze for free and even take a sunflower, but they did put out a donation box after “people were stuffing money in the sign-in book,” Matt says. “One afternoon, my dog was walking around with a $5 bill in his mouth.” Money from the maze and funeral-cost donations buy sunflower seed and pay for local good deeds in Haley’s name, whether it’s helping a parent with a hospitalized child or a family whose home has burned down. 

In 2018, relentless rain and weeds stunted the normally 7-foot flowers to a mere 3 feet. But the family still bubbles with ideas for the fall 2019 maze. “You see Haley in the sunflowers,” says Katelyn, and she’s not alone in that. “Everybody who sees a sunflower that is not part of our farm sends a photo to us and says, ‘Haley is here.’”