Sunflower Fields

Love that as I go to look up information on sunflower fields in South Dakota, one of the first hits is:

Are there sunflower fields in South Dakota? – Yahoo! Answers answers.yahoo.com › … › May 2, 2012 – Tons and tons of sunflowers!! Plus, despite what a lot of people think South Dakota is a very beautiful state!

Thanks, Steve in NC. I’m certain the Department of Tourism and the people of this great state are sincerely thrilled with that rave review. A review that again, turns up nearly first in any google search on sunflowers in South Dakota. It’s lovely. … Really.

…………..

I failed to mention yesterday in my fawning over the mini-sunflower like “weeds” as the Cowboy likes to call them, lining just about every roadway and field right now .. the actual sunflower fields that cover this great state.

Presho Sunflower Field

We used to marvel at them just about every August as we would drive from our home in Wisconsin to visit family/friends in Montana. But with such a long drive ahead of us, rarely would we ever stop to see them close-up.

Now that I live here …… there is time.

Presho Sunflowers cu

On the drive home from Wall yesterday, we had to stop and fill up the truck. Luckily for us, the tank hit E right before we came upon Presho, SD. An area mid-state where the sunflowers bloom for just about as far as the eye can see..

I’ve been wondering .. where do all of the seeds go? Who or what uses them? What is the main demand for this crop? (Hence the google search I started this with) There are some fascinating areas of research being done on just what this plant may be capable of. For now however, this article from a few years back about sums it up .. currently seventy percent of all sunflowers grown in South Dakota are marketed to the birdseed industry.

Lone sunflower

Some other perhaps interesting facts about sunflowers via the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center:

  • Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are a native North American plant, believed to have originated around 3,000 B.C. in what is now the states of Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Sunflowers are primarily grown in North Dakota and South Dakota, followed by Texas, Minnesota and Kansas.
  • Sunflowers are considered oilseeds. Sunflowers are used for their cooking oil, meal and confectionary products.
  • Within the oil varieties, oil is extracted. Meal, a byproduct of this process, is used primarily as an ingredient in livestock feed rations.
  • Demand for sunflower oil has increased as food processors search for sources of transfat-free vegetable oil. In 2006, Frito-Lay, the country’s largest producer of snack foods, switched entirely to sunflower oil for its potato chips.
  • Food-grade sunflowers are made up of the highest quality seeds, including the largest and cleanest seeds. Ingredient sunflowers are seeds that are still food-grade quality, but they do not possess the characteristics to be in the food-grade category. The sunflower seeds that cannot be used for ingredients are used for birdseed. Usually these are smaller, lower quality seeds.
  • Studies have shown that sunflower oil is healthier than most other food oils on the market.

What I want to know, is how do so many seeds make it to market if they’re so sought after by birds for dinner? Wouldn’t they just raid the fields? How does that work?

After talking about it on the drive home this weekend .. the Cowboy decided when he went in to pay for gas he’d also grab himself a pack of seeds. All the talk about them if nothing else, was making him hungry.

Sunflower seeds

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