Posted on Jun 29, 2015
By: Kayla Wilkins, Communications Intern
It’s an ancient grain, American grown and packed with nutrients for the modern-day consumer. Fueled by consumer demand, the use of sorghum in the food industry is growing, and the farmers responsible for getting the grain from the field to your plate are excited to meet the needs of this emerging market.
“From a consumer standpoint, I think the future of grain sorghum is very bright,” said Gerald Simonsen, Nebraska sorghum farmer. “The diversity of products is so much greater now than it was in the mid-90s.”
Years before Simonsen thought about farming, his grandfather was one of the first people to begin growing sorghum in south central Nebraska in the 1920s. The Simonsen family found sorghum was best for their regionally dry climate and have grown it ever since. Simonsen first began adding food-grade sorghum in his cropping system in the late 1990s.
Simonsen markets his grain locally, across the country and even around the world. American grain sorghum can be found in countries like China, Mexico, Japan and others. The market worldwide is continually growing as more products are frequently introduced.
Before the grain makes it to your food products, producers rely on a variety of methods to assure quality through identity preserved and other food safety programs. Simonsen said end-users want the highest quality grain achievable, which is why farmers closely nurture their sorghum from seedling to harvest.
Simonsen said he wants to assure sorghum consumers are purchasing the best possible grain for the price they pay in the store. He realizes that extra care for food-grade products is a must because consumers will be purchasing food products containing grain sorghum from his farm.
“You have to step up everything when you are producing a food-grade product,” Simonsen said. “Even more so when you are producing a specialty product for a niche market.”
In addition to growing food-grade sorghum, the Simonsen family has also used sorghum in their kitchen. He said it is a whole grain they have enjoyed incorporating in their family diet in breakfast cereal and other baked goods. Simonsen said his family not only uses the flour in baking, but uses various baking mixes, as well.
He encourages all consumers to try grain sorghum at least once not only for the health benefits but also for the taste.
“The great thing about sorghum is that it is a grain and not a starch,” Simonsen said. “It is just good and healthy. It brings a little different taste and texture, as well.”
Among other benefits, sorghum’s ability to thrive in drier climates makes it an ecofriendly crop.
Sorghum farmers are honored to grow this healthy, versatile grain that can be utilized in almost every meal. Best of all, their diligence in growing and marketing sorghum is making it more readily available at your local grocery store.
“As sorghum becomes more main stream, you are going to see more products available,” Simonsen said.
Consumers are growers’ number one priority. Simonsen said as demand for food-grade sorghum continues, farmers will provide sorghum for food products that will continue to become more diverse and higher in quality to meet consumers’ nutritional needs.