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Thursday, August 30, 2012

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!
It’s 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…
So 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.
My 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.
The 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!?
Once 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…
For 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!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Don't Want to Live Without Meat in 2050



I just read an article on Yahoo! that said the world may be forced into vegetarianism by the year 2050, according to some scientists at the Stockholm International Water Institute in Sweden. Here is a link to the article -- http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/vegetarian-2050-190426669.html.

Hell no. I refuse to live in a society where there is no meat. I would starve. Literally. If I didn't die of energy depletion first. 

There's a few things I want to point out on this...

- Cattle spend about 75% of their life eating grass in pastures. In the Flint Hills, where I live, if there were no cattle grazing this land it wouldn't be used. Rolling hills with lots of rock aren't viable for crop production. So putting those acres into crop production isn't realistic.

- Another point that the author makes, who does a very poor job of presenting an unbiased story, is that we can't really produce more food. Wrong! We can produce more food - farmers and ranchers are becoming more productive every year and if legislators in D.C. would listen to producers who have real experience instead of listening to lobbyists, they would know that we can continue to improve our efficiency with science, technology and gasp! the help of GMO's.

- I'd really like to see the study that cites 70% of all water is for agriculture - I want to see how this data is presented. Notice that doesn't say 'animal agriculture' just agriculture in general. Furthermore, I don't know of a cause that is more important than food production that we should be funneling water towards - aside from drinking water. Maybe we should start reusing water from purification plants for water in our toilets, yard spouts, washing machines and dishwashers.

These are just my opinions - but I'd love to hear yours.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Real quick addendum: Cutting meat completely out of production is NOT going to feed the people who are starving in other countries. The infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa needs to improve, for example. There could be 4 tons of food arrive to major societal hubs in food deprived countries but if there is no way for the food to be moved to rural, impoverished areas or if the local government uses food provisions as a way to control people, then all the food aid in the world won't help. There is more than just food production at the center of those issues - it's a web of underlying causes that need to be addressed to stop world hunger.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What's in That Chicken McNugget?

 photo from here

I've been asked this question before on the blog - most recently in a comment from this post. And I've always forgotten to answer it; sorry, I'm not perfect and sometimes I forget. But McDonald's of Canada has stepped up to the plate and become completely transparent in regards to what is in their products. They have recently invited their customers to pose their questions online at Our Food. Your Questions. and boy are the inquiries rolling in.

Some of the more popular questions are - my synopsis is in italics, but to read the word-for-word detailed answers, visit the website.

-- How is it that a McDonald's burger does not rot? Too dry; not enough moisture for bacteria/mold.
-- Does Canada use pink slime? (which I hate saying but that is verbatim - the actual term is lean, finely textured beef) No.
-- Does your egg McMuffin use real eggs? Yes - a freshly cracked egg for every sandwich.
-- Inside the McNugget, is it actually the meat of the chicken or cut offs that nobody would actually want to eat? Answer (verbatim): It's definitely chicken inside our McNuggets. We use seasoned chicken breast and a few seasonings, along with a natural proportion of skin for flavour and as a binder.

I hope that clears up any misconceptions about random chicken parts.

 One of my faves is, "Would you live in the life of one of your cows for even a week?" That'll make you take a deep breath! McDonald's has yet to answer that one but you can see the answers to the above questions and more by following the link to the Your Questions website.

I applaud McDonald's for taking this approach to helping consumers make connections between their food and the way it's produced/prepared. You should definitely go over and look at some of the other questions being posed and maybe even ask one of your own.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~