About RioVista Sunflowers
RioVista Sunflowers is a small farm specializing in the production of dried sunflower heads. These make excellent natural wild bird feeders that can easily be hung in a variety of locations to enhance birdwatching opportunities. They make great crafts projects as they can be decorated with a variety of seeds, grains, and berries to make edible decorative sunflower wreaths. They attract large numbers of wild birds who spend time picking seeds from the heads and thus offer ample opportunity for up close and personal wildlife photography. Finally pet birds thrive on the good nutrition that sunflower seeds provide.
We plant oilseed sunflower varieties because they provide the most nutritional value. We grow what we call natural sunflower heads because we do not use pesticides or herbicides on the crops although we do use commercial fertilizer to prepare the fields. Because we have nearly ideal growing conditions, we get many large and jumbo sunflower heads and we only pick big ones. Typically we have two sizes available. Grandes run from nine to ten inches measured across the back of the sunflower when harvested. Muy Grandes run ten inches or greater across the back when harvested. If you measure across the curved face of the sunflower the Grandes typically measure eleven to twelve inches and the Muy Grandes often measure more than thirteen inches. During drying the heads shrink by about 20-30%.
The sunflowers are cut by hand with long stems attached, sorted and hung on racks to finish ripening and dry. The drying racks are covered with fine netting to keep the birds from damaging the heads. After the heads are dry, we cut off the stem and prepare the heads for sale. The Photo Gallery gives a complete pictorial account of the process.
Besides two sizes Grande and Muy Grande, we also provide dried sunflower heads that have been processed to different extents. Raw dried sunflower heads in the native state still have the stamens attached to the seeds and the petals are untrimmed. You can also order cleaned and trimmed sunflower heads which are brushed to remove stamens and other debris from the seeds and the petals are trimmed back from the face. Finally you can order treated sunflower heads which are trimmed and then brushed with a dilute solution of casein glue (made from milk protein so it is harmless to birds and wildlife) which stabilizes the seeds in the head, gives them a little gloss, and reduces seed loss. Birds have no trouble getting the seeds out however. Each of these steps is done by hand so the cost is slightly higher for the trimmed and treated heads.