Celebrating North Dakota Agriculture: Sunflowers

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.

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. 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, 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, think of a North Dakota farmer.  Think about them putting in days that are much longer than your average 9-5 in order to get these seeds planted as well as harvested. Think about 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. Think of 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 most importantly, think of this farmer…

I’d like to thank 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!

A little bit of farming and a whole lot of love, from the prairies of North Dakota! Happy Friday everyone!


17 responses to “Celebrating North Dakota Agriculture: Sunflowers

  1. VERY cool look at sunflower farming here Jenny! I learned a lot! Mark wrote a post for me this past March where he described a bit about farming sunflowers and why he’s AgProud to do so – http://wp.me/pTIK1-16v. And the diversity of North Dakota Ag is pretty cool! I had a post card project last year, and one of my favorites was a hand sketched card with several ND AgFacts on it – http://wp.me/pTIK1-w5. Thanks for sharing and Thank a Farmer!

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  6. Greetings,

    I am planning a trip to ND to photograpgh this phenomenon and wanted to et your opinion on when would be the best time to visit. and where. Any help would be GREATLEY appreciated.


    • Matt- the sunflowers usually bloom late July/early August until about the end of August. They are gorgeous and worth a trip up here. Most of the production is from central North Dakota and west to Bismarck in the southern half of the state!

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