It’s officially my favorite time of the year…. the sunflowers are blooming!! If you’ve never experienced a field of sunflowers, let me tell you, do it. It is worth it. There is something truly magical about coming across a field of blooming yellow sunflowers as far as the eye can see. And North Dakota is a great place to travel to and find some sunflowers to enjoy.
Although Kansas is known as the Sunflower State, it really should be North Dakota that is known as the sunflower state. Did you know since 1977 North Dakota has ranked supreme when it comes to sunflower production, producing nearly 51% of the nation’s total sunflowers? I guess since Kansas became a state first, the Sunflower state was already taken. It’s okay Kansas, we forgive you.
You would think with North Dakota being the leader in sunflower production that sunflowers are grown across the state. But this isn’t quite the case, in fact, I would venture to guess that some people living in North Dakota have never even seen a blooming sunflower field. Reasons vary as to why sunflowers aren’t grown across the state. Disease is a limiting factor in growing sunflowers, some areas of North Dakota simply get too much rainfall which makes sunflowers more prone to disease. Some areas of North Dakota it simply isn’t feasible to add sunflowers into their crop rotation. Birds and large wetland areas (pot holes) go hand in hand as two more reasons which limit sunflower growing in some parts of the state. Large communities of birds can devastate a sunflower crop and usually birds flock to large areas of water and cat tails. Also large wetland areas just simply aren’t conducive to growing sunflowers because sunflowers are more of an arid plant and like less water.
So where can you find sunflowers in North Dakota? Well by looking at a production map!
This map of North Dakota shows us where the greatest concentrations of Sunflowers are grown. I’ve dropped a county map behind it. Some of the lines don’t line up perfectly but you get the idea. From the map, we can see that North Central and South Central North Dakota are prime areas for sunflower production. From the map, you can see the two heaviest hitters in sunflower production are Emmons County and up north in Bottineau County. The majority of the sunflowers grown in North Dakota go towards oil production which are different than the kind you buy and enjoy at your local baseball game.
North Dakota counties are broken up according to where they are located, ie: Northwest, Southwest, South Central. You get the idea. This is how data is compiled when it comes to reporting agriculture production. By looking at USDA data compiled by county as well as location with charts such as this one, we can see that South Central leads the pack with 404,040,000 pounds of sunflowers produced last year in 2012. Close second is Southwest with 219,192,000 pounds of sunflower produced.
Let’s compare this to the county we live in, McIntosh, which is part of Southeast North Dakota. In 2012, Southeast North Dakota only produced 50,864,000 lbs. of sunflowers with our county contributing 27,000,000 of the total. In fact, by looking at this data, we learned that we are one of the larger contributors to sunflower production in our county. Our farm, Rohrich Farms, contributes 7.3% of sunflower production in our county! How cool is that!?
So how does North Dakota’s sunflower production compare to the rest of the United States? And what other areas of the country can you find sunflowers?
Mostly throughout the Midwest, you can be sure to find sunflower fields with producers in South Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and even Texas. In fact, South Dakota is hot on our heels in taking the crown for top producer. They snatched the title from us last year and if this year’s planted numbers are any indication, they may in fact take the title two years in a row. Let’s hope that maybe next year if the weather cooperates, we can reclaim our title.
Regardless of where you go to check out sunflowers, I recommend that you take a road trip and check it out. Sunflowers are a unique crop, they are beautiful, and they are something we are proud to be a part of growing here in North Dakota. Our sunflowers will only be in prime bloom for about another 10 days, but blooming times vary across the state. If an Ag Tourism trip isn’t in your budget, feel free to follow a Sunflower farmer on social media or live vicariously through my posts. Afterall, it’s that time of year again when the yellow blooms will be dominating my feeds. I just can’t get enough of them.
How about you? Feel free to share with me your photos of sunflowers you visit near you! Share a link below!
To learn more about sunflower production in North Dakota, you can check out these posts: