Sorghum: Providing for all Generations

By: Michelle Hochstein, Communications Intern 

Building a farming operation. Increasing acres. Supporting a family. Sorghum provides – generation after generation.

Growing grain sorghum has not only been a long-standing tradition for one Kansas family, it has become their most profitable source of income.

Lance Russell, a farmer in Hays, Kansas, began growing sorghum with his father at a young age. In 1999, he established his own operation, Legacy Farms, which is 100 percent no-till and produces forage and grain sorghum, wheat, corn, soybeans and sunflowers.

“What built my dad’s operation and made him able to grow acres and support the family growing up was grain sorghum,” Russell said, “and grain sorghum is what allowed me to raise my family, too.”

Legacy Farms has grown from 100 acres to just under 3,500 acres in the last 14 years, marketing grain primarily for livestock feed and ethanol production.

“What has allowed me to be able to continue that growth is honestly solely from growing grain sorghum,” Russell said. “It has been the best cash crop that has responded the best to management in our area.”

The importance of sorghum to Russell’s farming operation is what inspired him to join the Sorghum Checkoff’s Leadership Sorghum program, which allowed him to experience all segments of the sorghum production chain.

“One of the things I have learned is that the sorghum industry, unlike some of the other ag industries, is really concentrated on the producer,” he said. “With the mindset of helping the producer, it helps the whole industry.”

Throughout the course of the program, Russell found building friendships and relationships within the sorghum industry to be the most beneficial. It also opened his eyes to opportunities to grow different varieties of sorghum.

“I can utilize those relationships to increase the viability of my farm whether that be growing food-grade sorghum I can sell through Nu Life Market or a farming opportunity in another state,” he said.

His new-found industry knowledge and relations have encouraged Russell to promote sorghum to other farmers.

“They are amazed at how resilient the crop is, and once they learn how to grow grain sorghum and the changes that are coming through the pipeline as far as genetics and everything, it blows their mind on how well grain sorghum can help their operation,” he said.

From grain sorghum exports and ethanol production to livestock feed and food-grade sorghum, opportunities within the sorghum industry are endless. The Sorghum Checkoff’s continued investment in new genetic technologies will continue to deliver greater field-level profitability to future generations of sorghum growers.

“I believe grain sorghum is positioning itself so that my son and daughter will also be able to raise their families on the farm,” Russell said.

Lance Russell 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 III applications will be available in Spring 2016.