How to Grow & Sell Sunflower Seeds

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Each sunflower yields hundreds of seeds for sale as birdseed, snacks or garden seed.
Each sunflower yields hundreds of seeds for sale as birdseed, snacks or garden seed. (Image: SUNFLOWERS image by brelsbil from Fotolia.com)

Easy to grow, cheerfully colorful sunflowers may also be a source of income to home gardeners and entrepreneurs. Both the full, mature flower-head and the hundreds of seeds the plant produces are beloved of many birds. Sunflower seeds are a key component in many birdseed mixes, according to the Thomas Jefferson Agricultural Institute website. Dried sunflower seeds are also a nutritious portable snack for hikers and campers, and a handy roasted topping for family salads. Good-quality, unroasted sunflower seeds can be dried, packaged and sold as seed, or saved and planted for next year’s crop.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden spade
  • Well-rotted manure
  • Hose or watering can
  • Hoe
  • Food sale license or permit
  • Small plastic or paper seed bags
  • Labels
  • Permanent marker
  • Screen
  • Broiler pan
  • Card table or cart
  • Signage

Growing Sunflower Seeds

Prepare your soil by tilling deeply. Plant your sunflower seeds between April and July. Your soil should be weed-free and at least a steady 50 degrees.

Plant your sunflower seeds 1 to 2 inches deep in well-tilled garden soil. Add 1 tablespoon of well-rotted manure to each planting hole.

Thin your sunflower seeds to grow about 8 inches apart after seedlings emerge and show at least two sets of leaves. You can pot or transplant thinned plants to extend your harvest.

Harvest your sunflower seeds when the back of the flower-head is mature and has turned brown. Pick the heads off the stalk. Lay them on a table for easier deseeding.

Dry your sunflower seeds on a piece of screen stretched across a broiler pan. Keep them in a dry, dark spot until you are ready to package the seeds for sale.

Selling Sunflower Seeds

Contact your local extension service for information about regional or local birdseed distributors. Phone or write the distributors to offer your sunflower seeds. Be prepared to describe the type of seed, how you grew it and how you harvested the seed.

Obtain a food sale or vendor’s license if you plan to sell your seeds as edibles. You may have to pay a fee to both your state and your county to sell your edible seeds. Your local extension agent can tell you what license you need and how to obtain it.

Package your dried seeds into small plastic or paper bags. Label and price your packaged seeds. Check with your extension agent or with other sunflower seed purveyors in your area to evaluate the going market price.

Set up a small roadside stand in your front yard or on your property. Prepare a sign that’s visible from the street advertising your fresh-grown sunflower seeds for sale.

Tips & Warnings

  • Resist the urge to plant your sunflowers intensively. Thinner stands will produce flower-heads with more seeds. This is a consideration if you plan to sell the seeds.
  • Keep an eye on your sunflower plants after the backs of the flower-heads turn yellow and before they turn brown. You may find yourself competing with birds for the seed harvest.

References

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