Farm Leadership Fueled by Feeding the World

By: Kayla Wilkins, Communications Intern 

Planted sorghum acres across the country have increased 24 percent since last year. Producers new and old are taking a serious look at sorghum in their farm rotation, and many are taking the initiative to become involved in the sorghum industry, having a vested interest in seeing this crop succeed.

Joe Rohrbach, a third generation farmer from Hereford, Texas, is one of these producers. He said it is an exciting time to be involved the sorghum industry. Grain sorghum has always been a vital part of his family's crop rotation and cattle operation, and he said it will continue to be for years to come.

"In our area, sorghum is an important crop because of our limited water, but it is nice to know that there is more demand for what we are growing all the time," Rohrbach said.

In the time Rohrbach has been farming, sorghum has expanded from niche markets and livestock feed to human food, pet food, industrial uses and a strong export market. Sorghum has been a hot commodity lately and that gave Rohrbach incentive to learn more about the crop by joining the Sorghum Checkoff’s Leadership Sorghum program.

During the program, Rohrbach said he was exposed to every aspect of the sorghum industry from research and production to seed technology and exports.

"The biggest take-away that excites me the most is seeing what has been accomplished through the Checkoff program," Rohrbach said. "The demand present for sorghum, the markets the Checkoff has created and the future for sorghum just looks very bright."

The future of agriculture and the challenge to feed a growing population are two recurring thoughts some farmers have regularly. Rohrbach said his family is applying technologies on his farm he would have never even thought of 10 years ago, and those advancements are continuously progressing to increase yields and meet the needs of a growing population.

"We only have so many acres to grow crops on and as world demand continues to grow, we are going to have to be able to feed the world," Rohrbach said. "We have to become more efficient, and technology is the avenue to do that."

The agriculture industry has changed drastically in just a few short years and farmers are adapting to those changes. Rohrbach is optimistic about new technology not only in agriculture, but also in sorghum.

Through his participation in the Leadership Sorghum program, he said was able to tour various research facilities and see first-hand the work being done to improve sorghum genetics and increase producer profitability. Rohrbach was particularly intrigued by the increased market development within the sorghum industry.

“It has been exciting to see where the Checkoff dollars are being spent and the success they have had with developing new markets for farmers,” Rohrbach said.

Rohrbach said he has enjoyed all the ups and downs of the farming lifestyle and is excited for what the future holds within the sorghum industry. He said sorghum has a place in every crop rotation, and he encourages other producers to utilize sorghum on their farms.

"It is a very exciting time to be growing sorghum," Rohrbach said. "I can't even tell you how many products that we use today that weren't created just a few years ago. The demand for sorghum in the marketplace has really just exploded."

Joe Rohrbach is a member of Leadership Sorghum Class II. The program was designed by the Sorghum Checkoff to develop the next generation of leaders for the sorghum industry. For more information about the program, visit Leadership Sorghum Class II applications will be available in Spring 2016.