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: SunflowersBy: 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!