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The One Pest Farmers Can't Handle
The most pesty pest of them all
Farmers are known for their unwavering grit in the face of often overwhelming adversity. There's a reason that less than 2% of the population feeds the other 98% - our farmers are strong, smart, innovative, and bounce back. They take on the fiercest pests and often prevail. That is until they meet the noxious of them all - the Instagram influencer.
Coloradans are fortunate. Our state is home to all kinds of agriculture growers. We're known nationwide for the peaches and melons grown on the western slope. Our lamb is some of the best you'll find outside New Zealand. Corn, wheat, potatoes, watermelon, zucchini, tomatoes, pumpkins, and flowers flourish here. We’re in a grudge match with New Mexico over chile superiority that will never resolve. Our beef is some of the best in the world. We also have farmers who grow black gold - and by that, I mean sunflowers.
On an extended road trip, you may stop at the gas station to buy a bag of sunflower seeds, munch them at a baseball game, or cook with sunflower oil, but sunflower growing is a big business outside of merely human consumption. Sunflowers are one of the few field crops grown in the U.S. native to North America and have been used by humans for more than four thousand years.
Sunflower seeds are valuable to any small urban farm. They're hardy plants, beautiful to behold, and are a fabulous addition to the diet of any of our animals. The chickens love to peck at the oily and nutrient-rich seeds, and the goats will eat every part of the sunflower, stalk, and all. Once goats are in milk, I'll add "BOSS" (Black Oil Sunflower Seeds) to their grain to keep their butterfat up and coats shiny.
Several farms in the area grow expansive fields of sunflowers. As tens of thousands of blooms start to open up in tandem, it looks like something out of a movie. Acres upon acres of happy, bright, yellow flowers are irresistible to a pest that no farmer is prepared to deal with - Instagram influencers without a developed sense of property rights.
For years, Colorado sunflower growers have tried to navigate the crop damage sustained from flocks of photographers who either don't know they're trespassing or simply don't care. Armed with selfie sticks and a good filter, people will pull off to the side of the road and wander through private fields, snapping away. Some will litter and even cut the heads off flowers to take home. These pests cause traffic backups, frustration, and damage to the fields.
In recent years, the situation has gotten so irritating that the Adams County Sherriff has put out reminders that trespassing is a crime, no matter how pretty the landscape and several local media outlets have written piece after piece about the issue.
This year, however, a friend of mine, Jennifer, at Adams County, worked with her team to come up with a solution: she knew there would be no way to quash the demand for bloom-filled photos, so instead, she planted a patch of flowers on county ground, close to parking, just for the snaps.
Anyone who has had toddlers (constitutionally similar to trespassing Instagrammers) knows that if you can't extinguish the demand for chaos, the next best solution is redirecting it elsewhere. Now, we just have to get the word out there's a place for sunflower photos that doesn't include making farmers' lives harder.
The patch has already been so popular that plans are in the works for another next year. It could end up being a fun annual tradition that takes the load off Colorado’s sunflower growers.
The blooms should stay bright for a few more days; I might even take my family out for some pics of our own.