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Stories from the valley

Sunflowers in Our Valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

Sunflowers are in bloom in the Sacramento Valley and your day is brightened as you drive through the area.  Over 50,000 acres of sunflowers are grown for hybrid seed in the area, with the majority of the acreage in Colusa and Yolo Counties.

The production of sunflower seeds is well suited to our valley and they are a water efficient crop. The sunflowers are grown under contract for seed companies which have facilities in Woodland and other locations in the Sacramento Valley.  After harvest and processing, the seeds are shipped around the world. Many of the sunflower seeds grown in this area go to growers in the Midwest, Eastern Europe, Russia and the Ukraine, where the crop is grown for oil.

Many of the fields you see have a strip every eight to 10 rows that have a couple of rows of sunflowers that may be taller or shorter. These two rows are males needed to pollinate the female flowers.  Bees are an important factor, as they are needed to spread pollen from the plants to produce fertile seeds. So not only are the fields beautiful, they provide a classic lesson in the “Birds and Bees”.

As a photographer, this is one of my favorite times of years as the fields are in bloom.  On many evenings just prior to sunset you can find me out looking for the perfect photo (which we all know does not exist). Due to planting restrictions my favorite photo location only becomes available about every three years.  That’s when sunflowers are planted in front of the grain elevator in Grimes. Also the sunflowers have become a tourist attraction in Yolo County. Visit Yolo is providing a sunflower map and promoting Sunflower Stay and Tour Package, more information is available on their Facebook page.

I hope you will get out and look at the sunflowers.  Look at the map provided by Visit Yolo or take a ride up Hwy 45 from Knights Landing to Colusa.  Please respect the growers by not going into the fields, be careful on the two lane roads and post your sunflower pictures on our social media pages for all to enjoy!