Grown Here at Home: Harvesting sunflower seeds in Botetourt County

Published: Jan. 29, 2019 at 7:43 AM EST
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The sunflower Festival in Botetourt County brings in lots of people every year. The sunflowers aren't just something pretty to look at.

They're an actual crop that’s harvested in the winter time.

First the seeds are tested for their moisture level content.

“We take the seed out of the head of the sunflower. We put it in the top here and then we cut it on and it will tell us the moisture of the seeds. We run this and if they're seven percent moisture content, then they're ready to harvest. They were actually ready the first weekend of November, but with all the rain we've had, we haven't been able to get into the fields the day before Christmas,” explained Candace Monaghan, founder of the Beaver Dam Farm Sunflower Festival

They got out the combine and spent the day harvesting all 21 acres. They'll take the harvest to Harrisonburg where it'll run through a screener.

“That will separate the big seeds from the smaller seeds and stalk, and we'll have them labeled and bagged and then bring them back to the farm for delivery,” Monaghan said.

The bird feed is then sold in several local stores. A question many wonder is what's the difference between the sunflower seeds we eat, and the sunflower seeds birds eat?

“What's bagged is straight out of a field and it's cleaned and it's put directly in the bag for bird feed. Nothing's been put on it that it would hurt you to eat, but it's not salted, so it wouldn't taste as good,” Monaghan said.