FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Alex Babich can’t believe it. He just likes growing giant sunflowers. He never imagined he’d get his name in the record books.
“Every morning I make my coffee and look at it. I feed it every couple of days and here we are,” Babich said.
Babich said the current record for tallest sunflower in the United States was set by a man in Michigan in 2017. His flower was 24 feet nine inches tall.
When his flower starting getting close a few weeks ago, Babich set a new goal. Beat that record.
Sunday morning, he climbed the ladder leaning on a wooden tower he built to protect his flower field and it was the measurement he’s been waiting for. His flower is now 24 feet ten inches. One inch taller than the record.
“My mind is blown,” he laughed. “I’m a grower. I’m new to record breaking.”
Babich will now change how he feeds the flower to focus on growing the head and seeds larger instead of focusing on helping the sunflower get taller. In a few weeks, when the flower is mature, he’ll have several Master Gardeners come to witness another official measurement.
“The seeds are our focus now,” he said.
Some of those seeds will be sent to Ukraine to be planted around the country. Babich’s family moved to Fort Wayne from Ukraine when he was 14 years old. He named the record-breaking flower the “Ukrainian Spirit.”
He came up with the name several weeks ago when he came across a photo out of Ukraine. A mother was embracing her 11-year-old twins after a Russian bomb hit a train station. She had just lost a leg. Her daughter lost both legs. Yet there were tears of joy on the mother’s face because they had each other. They were alive. That, Babich thought, THAT is the Ukrainian spirit.
“You can’t break the Ukrainian spirit. It’s unbreakable,” he said.
He wanted his flower, as it reached for a record, to also represent the strength of the Ukrainian people.
Two other flowers in Babich’s field also took titles at the Indiana State Fair last week.
According to giantgardening.com, which tracks records, the tallest sunflower in the world was grown in Germany in 2016. That flower stood 30 feet one inch tall.