July 23 • 05:42 AM

A sunny stand out

Field lifts spirits in wake of storms

Like a group of friends, the sunflowers on Lake Pleasant Road stand undeterred by last weekend’s pounding rain and floods. photo by Catherine Minolli.

August 19, 2009
ATTICA — Jay Bender thinks everyone could use a little dose of sunshine after last week's gloom and destruction.

The busy jack of all trades had beem busy chipping away at to-do lists of Bender's Estate Service customers—a list that grew longer after the August 8-9 rains.

But on his way to Imlay City on Thursday Bender noticed something bright and beautiful—an illustration of Mother Nature's best work to balance out the wrath: Sunflowers. Hundreds of them growing in a field along Lake Pleasant Road across from the Lapeer County Ed Tech Center.

The bright, sturdy flowers backlit by the rising sun is a sight for sore eyes, Bender says, and a boost for the spirit.

"I thought everyone could use a little lift after all the troubles we've had the past week," Bender says. "I was going by that field and those flowers are standing tall and proud—they're doing great even after all the flooding."

Indeed, the huge field of sunflowers is in peak bloom and shows no signs of damage from the recent pounding rains and gusty winds.

"There's water everywhere and then there's the sunflower field," Bender says. "It's an uplifting sight."

There may be a psychological reason for Bender's observations, according to Floripedia at, the sunflower brings a little sunshine into everyone's lives.

"For a flower which reflects so many of the sun's positive characteristics," the Web site says, "it is little surprise that people enjoy basking in the sunflower's warming glow. With the sense of brightness and warmth that sunflowers naturally impart, they have become an ideal choice for sending sentiments of cheerfulness and sunny thoughts."

Though they're not known as a cash crop in Michigan, the fetching flowers' valuable seeds bring some $700 million into the global economy, according to the Michigan Farmer magazine.

Whether eaten by humans or birds, the seeds are a rich source of vitamin E,vitamin B1, magnesium, selenium and other trace minerals associated with good health.

Sunflower oil has a light color and taste that makes it appealing to pastry chefs and kitchen cooks alike. It supplies more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil, and is low in saturated fats.

According to the National Sunflower Association, the seed, oil and meal from the bright flowers have become more valuable for farmers over the past three years.

In the 2005/06 season, the average price received by farmers for sunflower seed was $12.10 per cwt and the crude oil brought $43.71 per pound. In 200708, seeds brought in $21.70/cwt and oil jumpted to $91.15 per pound.

North Dakota tops the list in the U.S. for sunflower production, with 840,000 acres planted in 2009. Other top producing states include South Dakota, Kansas, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota and Nebraska.

Sunflowers also play a major role in the agricultural economy of Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, France and Central Europe.

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