Posted on Apr 13, 2015
By:Kayla Wilkins, Communications Intern
Five generations in the farming industry, and a new perspective on sorghum, Carlton Bridgeforth is excited about what the future has in store for his family farm near Tanner, Alabama. After a successful five years on Wall Street, he decided Bridgeforth Farms is where he belonged.
"Growing up on a farm was essential in making me the man I am today," Bridgeforth said. "Working with my father and uncle gave me business-minded role models and a deep appreciation of my family's history.”
While working in finance on Wall Street and across the globe was an exciting time, Bridgeforth said his deepest roots are in Alabama. He said he went back to the farm because it's a fifth generation family business, and he wanted to make sure it continued for many years to come.
Bridgeforth said he works hard to increase yield and make decisions to better his operation, but he is also interested in improving other growers' operations, as well. Bridgeforth is currently partnered with and a member of the National Black Growers Council to educate young black row-crop farmers about grain sorghum. They host many field days for growers across the southeast, covering everything from crop insurance to seed technology.
"We have a series of educational field days, and we invite people from all over the southeast,” Bridgeforth said. “We show them our farms, and we help educate young people about the opportunities they have in farming."
While educating youth about agriculture, Bridgeforth decided to continue his own knowledge of sorghum by participating in the Leadership Sorghum Class II, sponsored by the Sorghum Checkoff. While still being somewhat new to grain sorghum, Bridgeforth wants to learn all he can about this atypical crop to Alabama. He said he is enjoying the class so much he has recommended it to new growers in the area.
"I tell them to become involved in Leadership Sorghum,” Bridgeforth said. “After one session, I thought it was awesome. The level of things they teach you and the people they brought in, it's just been absolutely incredible."
With the support and inspiration of his family, Bridgeforth said he has become eager to become even more involved in the sorghum industry. In fact, Bridgeforth was appointed last fall by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to serve on the Sorghum Checkoff board of directors. He said he hopes to add diversity and bring new ideas to the board during his term.
"I am mostly hoping to offer my opinion, understand the key issues and hopefully add some value to the conversation from my unique position as a black farmer from Alabama," Bridgeforth said.
Bridgeforth Farm's has seen a lot of success growing sorghum in the past year, but without family support none of it would be possible.
“Family is the backbone of our operation,” Bridgeforth said. “It's extremely rare and special when you have three generations working on one problem. I find it fun to tackle problems blending the old-school way and the newer method to find a solution that works at the end of the day.”