Sunflowers are a familiar sight in much of the Mediterranean, symbolic of the south of France, but quite rare in North Cyprus. But in fields on the road between Lefkoşa and Iskele, thousands of them stand proudly in the afternoon sun.
The towering flowers are spectacular, attracting such a host of bees that their buzzing drowns out the distant hum of traffic.
Passing motorists have a young boy to thank for this heartwarming sight. Ali Osman Can is a teenager with an infectious grin and a love of the countryside. On the family farm, he drives a tractor, milks the cows, feeds the chickens and helps his father and grandfather in every way possible, learning the ropes for his future career.
Now, through the magic of the internet – he has literally sown the seeds of a new crop for North Cyprus. He is a bright boy, of that there is no doubt, but a little shy in front of strangers, so his aunt, Sıdıka Can, takes up the tale:
“My grandfather, who is also Ali Osman Can, his son- my brother Kemal – and the grandsons, Ali Osman and Salih Can, who is six, all live on a big farm at Muratağa, near Alinici. They keep mainly cattle, about 100 cows, for milking. They love their animals and only feed them the best green leaves and barley; their milk is of the highest quality.
“Feeding the animals with barley is very expensive and we don’t get enough rain, the crop can fail, so we have to rely on imported feed. The family was discussing this problem so young Ali Osman researched it on the internet and discovered in Adana in Turkey, they feed cattle with sunflowers.
“He suggested it to his grandfather who went to Adana and bought some certified seeds. They grew 200 acres of sunflowers and we believe they are the first commercial crop of the flowers to be grown here. They grew beautifully in our fertile soil and they don’t need any irrigation, only natural rainfall.”
As the family’s beautiful Fresian cows munch happily on their new, fresh, aromatic dinner, Sıdıka’s nephew prepares to return to school. Young Ali Osman, has also discovered that sunflowers can be made into oil, sold as a seed snack . In time, they could become a new North Cyprus industry. If they do, one young man is likely to be leading the way.