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‘44’ Years Ago

Monday, October 22, 2018
filed under: Historical

       Editor’s NoteThe Sunflowerwas not published in either October or November of 1988, so our regular ’30 Years Ago’ page will again take on a different chronology this month.  We’re going back to October and November of 1974 — 44 years and nearly one year prior to the introduction of Volume 1 Number 1 of this magazine.
       At that time there existed a bulletin-format publication called The National Sunflower Grower.  Published by the National Sunflower Growers Association a dues-paying group established in 1968, its first issue was distributed in February 1974. Its final issue was July 1975, one month preceding the inauguration of The Sunflower.
       President of the National Sunflower Growers Association was Marvin Klevberg, longtime sunflower producer and promoter from Northwood, N.D.  Marv was an original member of the North Dakota Sunflower Council and also served on the board of the National Sunflower Association in the 1980s.  He received the NSA Gold Award in 1990.
       From the President’s DeskBy Marvin Klevberg —“Will sunflower compete this year?  They sure will on my farm!  Sunflowers have always competed favorably with oats, barley, flax, etc., but wheat has been ‘old reliable’ for the farmer for many years, and it has been very difficult to convince a farmer that sunflower can actually compete with wheat.
       “I don’t know about your farm, but I know on our farm we have just harvested the poorest wheat crop I have grown in 22 years.  [A]dmittedly we got hit with every conceivable weather condition possible. First, spring was very late because it was too wet; then no rain at all, and we suffered from the drought; then we got 13.7 inches of rain within a very short time, drowning out many acres of crop. Then, a week later we had 40 percent hail loss on part of our farm and in August we had severe aphid infestation, which is fairly normal with late seeded crop and we anticipate spraying for control.  This year, however, due to chemical shortages and lack of label clearance we were unable to get suitable chemicals to give us full insect control; and here again many bushels were lost.  It really is amazing there was any crop at all.  We did, however, thresh, for example, about a 20 bushel crop. . . .
       “Twenty bushel wheat times $5.00 a bushel is a hundred dollars an acre.  Sunflower, as we’ve mentioned in other articles, are very hardy and can withstand adverse weather conditions.  I priced my crop at 14 cents per lb, and our test threshing shows a 1,200 lb yield, which equals $168 per acre.  Also, one must remember I had considerably less cost in the production of sunflower vs. wheat.  So you can see, under severe crop conditions, sunflower is the top money maker.  It’ll be interesting to see how sunflower will compete with ‘old reliable’ where all conditions are favorable.”
       Sunflower Association of America to Be Formed — “In August of 1974, a group of interested sunflower people met together and discussed the needs for a unified voice behind the sunflower industry.  There were representatives from the processing organizations, farmer groups and researchers.  The main reasons for forming such an organization would be to give a unified voice in the promotion of sunflower throughout the growing areas to identify and help to focus attention on common problems of the industry such as research needs, insect and disease problems, and to disseminate information in regards to cultural and growing practices of sunflower.
       “A meeting was held September 10 in Fargo with approximately 50 people in attendance from throughout the sunflower industry. . . . An organizational meeting will be held the early part of October at which time the organization will be formally formed. A steering committee composed of Marvin Klevberg of the National Sunflower Growers Association, Northwood, North Dakota; Bob Schuler of the Schuler Grain Company, Breckenridge, Minnesota; Harris Peterson of Peterson Feed and Seed Company, East Drayton, Minnesota; Ralph Hayenga of Minnesota Linseed Oil Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chuck Moses of the Interstate Seed Company, Fargo, North Dakota; Ken Johnson of Cargill, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Sheldon Bartholomew of Agway, Grandin, North Dakota; and Ralph Taylor of Dahlgren and Company, Crookston, Minnesota, were the steering committee in the formation of this organization.  Serving in an advisory capacity were Dr. Ted Schultz, Dr. Dave Zimmer and Dr. Gary Fick.”
       Editor’s Note:  The Sunflower Association of America (SAA) 
existed from late 1974 through mid-1981.  The National Sunflower Association (NSA) was formed in mid-1981 by the North Dakota Sunflower Council (established in 1977) and the South Dakota Sunflower Council (established in 1980).  The NSA assumed publication of The Sunflowerlater that year, and the SAA became inactive.  Since then, the NSA umbrella has expanded to include newer state checkoff groups (Kansas, Colorado and Minnesota) and more industry membership. As of 2018, the majority of the NSA Board of Directors remains comprised of growers from the above states.
       Sunflower Gains in Crop StatusBy Charles Hillinger, Los Angeles Times — “Kansas should stop calling itself the sunflower state, according to the president of the National Sunflower Growers Assn.  ‘North Dakota, the state that produces 60 percent of the nation’s commercial sunflower seeds, is America’s sunflower state — not Kansas,’ insists Marv Klevberg. . . .
       “Three states produce sunflowers commercially — North Dakota with 1,000 farmers growing the crop on 400,000 acres, Minnesota with 200,000 acres of sunflowers and South Dakota with 60,000 acres.
       “ ‘The sunflower is one of America’s newest cash crops,’ noted Klevberg, 39, at the National Sunflower Growers Assn. headquarters in [the] small North Dakota town [of Northwood]. . . .
       “Klevberg, who started growing sunflowers as a Future Farmers of America project when he was 16 and has been a leading grower ever since, is one of this country’s pioneer sunflower farmers.
       “Sunflower farmers in the three states are in the midst of harvesting this year’s record crop.  Two-thirds of the sunflower seeds will be crushed into sunflower oil, one-sixth will be packaged as bird seed and one-sixth for human consumption. . . .
       “Sunflower farmer bill Bill Thompson, 33, and his brother Ralph, 36, are harvesting 1,000 acres of sunflowers on their Page, N.D., farm.  Half the plants are of the oilseed variety, the other half for birdseed and human consumption.  
       “The Thompsons are averaging 1,400 pounds of seed per acre this year.  Biggest heads on some of their plants are producing as many as 2,500 seeds per head.  There are 20,000 plants per acre.” n
       “So far farmers this year have been receiving 15 to 20 cents a pound for their seeds.  Last year’s crop was worth $36 million to the sunflower growers in the three states.”
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