Raleigh, NC, where the sunflowers are energy, here we come!


SunflowerFLickrBrian Hathcock

Most of GardenRant will be in Raleigh this week for the GWA annual shindig, with Amy, Elizabeth and Susan all making the trip (and really bummed about Michele not being able to join us).

So while our sights are set on the Raleigh scene, here's an intriguing story about their utility department growing 50 gorgeous acres of sunflowers for biofuel. Cool – is that on our tour?

Photo by Brian Hathcock.


  1. I’m not convinced that biofuel is a good thing. The whole process usually has a very high overhead (diesel fuel, fertilizer, transportation costs, etc.), which severely reduces the net energy gain that we get from biofuel production.

    That being said, if I read the article right, this particular instance is a pretty good way of going about it. They’re using treated wastewater for irrigation, and “biosolids” (poo, if I’m understanding that correctly) for fertilizer. Sounds like a great instance of recycling to me.

    I’d be interested in the final analysis of this particular program, since using the output of the water treatment plant seems to simultaneously reduce the sunflower cultivation overhead while also removing the necessity to otherwise dispose of the treatment byproducts. It’s a win-win.

  2. Howdy Rant Queens! I’ll be the one cracking the whip on the tours (Supreme Bus Captain) and no, we are not going over to Pittsboro to see either the fields of sunflowers nor the biofuel processing. That area does all sorts of new things and there are biodiesel gas stations and the town prints its own money – kinda cool. Downtown Pittsboro has a lot of homegrown businesses and a coop market as well as the headquarters for the Minor Breed Conservancy Association – the folks trying to salvage the remaining populations of heirloom farm animals, I find this way cool also.

    I was told when I moved here that somewhere around here the city of Raleigh has a wood fired power plant that uses up all the downed limbs and trees. It ain’t known as the City of Oaks for nothing! And with hurricanes and ice storms every year it supposedly never runs out of fuel (rumor has it).

  3. Susan, Amy, Elizabeth: Any feather boas in your bag of GWA tricks? Can’t wait to see you and the “ladies”. Lots to talk about and some serious hanging out to do.

    Later, skaters.

  4. It’s like a visit anywhere, there isn’t time enough to see or do it all! The local committee gathered suggestions to offer a diverse peak into our area that would appeal to most attendees.

    We plan to welcome you with a taste of our offerings, leaving you with a desire to return again to see more of our garden goings on.

    With NC State producing the next generation of horticultural and landscape architect professionals, weather allowing us to garden in 4 seasons, nurseries to feed your geek-side and a group of enthusiastic gardeners plodding along creating one garden at a time, we hope people will return to learn more of our local garden (and ag) scene. H.

    P.S. Now you know John will be our whipping boy for any bus mishaps. Go easy on him; the one in charge of the buses, has the BIGGEST, most unsung jobs for a tour like this. There isn’t a better person in Raleigh I can think of to take on this task. Yea, John!

  5. Here in Ontario, Canada where we enjoy super strong anti-pesticide bi-laws – strangely enough – we are forbidden to traffic in biodiesel fuels.
    Go figure….. Our western cousins in B.C. and Alberta have great biodiesel opportunties.
    Then there is the question – are these sunflowers hybridized and trademarked and patented? If so by whom? After all lots of round-up ready soybeans out there.

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