The Sunflower/Wheat State

My sisters in-law (I have three) are constantly at odds with me about what Kansas is known as – I call it God’s Country and the Wheat State, among other things, and they refer to it as Sunflower State. I  found proof of the Wheat State and other names, too. So we all win but since I recently met some amazing people from North Dakota who grow sunflowers and I was also in South Dakota last weekend and got to see some more beautiful sunflowers whilst cattle shopping, today is a post about sunflowers.

I got to meet Jenny Lynn Dewey (we have the same middle name – cool!) and the love of her life, Mark Rohrich, at a tweetup in Kansas City last week. More on that later but the point is that they grow sunflowers and Jenny takes gorgeous photos so she gave me permission to share her sunflower musings and photos here – enjoy! They also have the sweetest love story that will make you want to melt like Hershey’s in July. Seriously, presh. And visit her blog, her Facebook page, like Mark’s business, Maverick Ag, on Facebook and you can follow them both on twitter @sunflowerfarmer and @jenlynndewey. They’re great people – super friendly, funny and outgoing! 

Celebrating North Dakota Agriculture: Sunflowers

By: Jenny Lynn Dewey

Well since it is Thank a Farmer Friday AND the sunflowers around
here in North Dakota are BLOOMING, I figured today would be appropriate
to share with you all the beauty that I’ve been witnessing for the past
week. Until stepping foot into North Dakota, I would have never imaged
North Dakota to be a national leader when it comes to production of many
different crops.  It’s safe to say I have never before witnessed fields
of crops that are seemingly endless. But let me tell you, there is
something magical about coming across a field of blooming yellow
sunflowers as far as the eye can see. It literally makes you stop in
your tracks and takes your breath away. It makes me stop and realize how
blessed I am to be calling this beautiful place home now. And even more
so, that I am able to wander in the sunflowers with my farmer while he
checks them. I finally begged Mark to go out crop touring. He’s been so
busy with Maverick Ag that we haven’t spent much time out on the farm
lately. But we finally took an evening and drove out to check it out.
You may recall that I took photos of their aerial applicator,
LaDelle’s Spraying Service, in action over this same field of
sunflowers. At that point they were just starting to bloom. Stay tuned
for a post on that!

And… a few days later, holy moly! They were in FULL bloom. I was so
amazed how a few days can make that much of  a difference. I am
constantly learning around here!
hard to tell by the photo but most of these sunflowers are well over my
head. They were planted in the first part of June and if you’ve been
following, when I visited in July right around the 4th of July, they
looked like this…
as you can tell, these babies did some serious growing! And with not a
whole lot of rain! Farming fascinates me. I could have stayed here all
evening photographing every angle of these beauties!

Things I learned from walking in a field of sunflowers.. You will get
pollen EVERYWHERE, as you can tell by some of the photos. AND the heads
are in fact quite sticky in the middle. So don’t touch unless you want
sticky fingers.
farmer also taught me how to tell when the flowers have been
pollinated. Below all that fuzz in middle of the head, there are seeds
underneath. You know, the kind we all love to eat at baseball games! But
in order for those seeds to mature, they need to be pollinated. These
sunflowers have just begun pollination and you can tell by that outer
ring in the middle of the head. Once they have finished pollinating, the
center will be completely filled in. However, sometimes the flowers
won’t even reach full pollination. Environmental factors can inhibit
them from fully pollinating such as stress from weather.
seeds underneath begin white and turn black once they have been
pollinated. See in the photo above how they are black? Those parts of
the sunflowers have been successfully pollinated. Bees are responsible
for the pollination of these fields. Farmers contract bee hives to be
set near fields and the bees go to work. Because of the symbiosis
between the bees and the sunflowers here, North Dakota ranks number one
in the nation’s productions for both sunflowers AND honey! With the
state producing 24% of the nation’s honey and 43% of the nation’s
sunflowers! North Dakota is also a leader in the production of spring
wheat, durum, barley, flaxseed, and canola! Who would have thought North
Dakota was such a leader in agriculture!?
the seeds from these beautiful fields are harvested (stay tuned for
that, you betcha I will be posting on that!), they will be used for
primarily three different markets: oil production (oils), de-hulls, and
confection varieties. Sunflower oil is the primary use and has a variety
of difference usages including fuel! De-hulls (or de-shelled) are
basically like what you would buy in the store to put on your salads or
simply enjoy them without having to fight with a shell, and confections
are roasted in the shell and a lot of times flavored for you to enjoy at
your favorite baseball game or whenever!
So the next time you enjoy sunflower seeds, wherever you are, thank a
farmer! And specifically, thank a North Dakota farmer for being the
number one producer in the nation of sunflowers. Thank them for putting
in days that are much longer than your average 9-5 in order to get these
seeds planted as well as harvested. Thank them for relying on the grace
of Mother Nature to give them enough water for these plants to grow as
well as for these farmers to make a living. Thank them for all the hard
work, stress, sweat, and tears that have been shed over these crops so
you can go to the store and buy a bag of sunflower seeds to enjoy! And
today, I am thanking this farmer…
teaching me about farming so that I can share with all of you, for
constantly putting up with my many questions, for all the hard work he
does, and most importantly to me, for taking a chance on love and
sweeping me off my feet and all the way to North Dakota. I would have
never imagined that I would end up with a farmer or that I would become
so immersed into the world of farming, but here I am. And you know what,
I am loving every minute of it. I am learning, I am loving, and today, I
am celebrating agriculture in my new home state of North Dakota!
Welcome to my new life of the prairie!