Posted on Feb 23, 2017
As a young boy growing up on a row-crop farm in Jewell County, Kansas, Bill Spiegel remembers dreaming of one day becoming the fourth generation to farm his family’s land. However, his mother, knowing all too well the hardships that come with the life of a farmer, encouraged her only son to follow other passions.
“I grew up in the 80s, which was a tough time on the farm. It was a tough life for my parents,” Spiegel said. “I can remember my mom telling me she didn’t want me to come back and farm. So I didn’t.”
Taking his mother’s advice, Spiegel sought to marry his two loves—agriculture and writing—and in 1993 he earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture Journalism from Kansas State University. Spiegel spent the next two decades pursuing a career in agriculture journalism, working as an editor for Kansas Farmer magazine and later as the communications director for Kansas Wheat. In 2013, after his father became suddenly ill and could no longer run the farm, Spiegel returned to take over the operation.
“I found myself in that role as the guy who’s going to keep the legacy going,” Spiegel said. “I didn’t really want to get into farming at the time, but it’s turned into something I love tremendously.”
It is his love for what he does that Spiegel says drives him to continue finding new ways to make his operation more productive, more efficient, and to provide a safe and affordable food for the consumer. Thanks to his desire to innovate Spiegel Family Farms has produced wheat, grain sorghum and soybeans on a continuous no-till system for more than 16 years. Spiegel has also integrated cover cropping into the operation.
“We’re seeing some bad commodity prices right now. That won’t last forever, but the things we do on the farm to improve the soil now will last for generations,” Spiegel said. “And to me, man, that is what gets me excited.”
Since joining Leadership Sorghum, Spiegel has taken the position as editor of the High Plains Journal. Although his day job keeps him busy, Spiegel says his thoughts never stray far from the farm.
“I love to farm, and that’s why I think farming is always on my mind,” Spiegel said. “I think most farmers are that way. When we’re not on the farm we spend a fair amount of our time thinking about the farm. We just can’t help it.”
It comes as no surprise that farmers like to talk about farming. So it is also no wonder Spiegel says the opportunity to share farming insight and learn from the other Leadership Sorghum class members has been the highlight of the program for him. Aside from the networking, Spiegel has enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the sorghum industry and says he is humbled by the opportunity to become a better advocate for the industry and his fellow sorghum producers.
“I think that it’s important for all of us in this class to recognize the commitment that the Sorghum Checkoff has made to us. This is a huge undertaking by the Checkoff and a huge commitment of resources and time,” Spiegel said. “I really appreciate this opportunity, and I certainly recommend to anyone who has an interest in being a leader in agriculture to apply for the next class.”
Equipment Color: Mix and match, but mostly John Deere Green
Tractor Tunes: The Top 40 station out of Concordia, Kansas, is really my only option.
Favorite Season on the Farm: Planting wheat and harvesting crops in the fall.
Favorite Part of Farming: Owning my own business and making the best decisions that will impact the future in a positive manner.
Hobbies: Writing, reading, traveling, and thinking about farming.
Bill is a member of Leadership Sorghum Class III, a program designed to foster the next generation of sorghum leaders. The program exposes members to various aspects of the sorghum industry from basic and applied research to international marketing. Through both hands-on and classroom-style education, participants gain an understanding of how sorghum moves through the value chain, how checkoffs and interest organizations interact on behalf of the industry and what the future holds for the crop. The program also provides professional development training and networking opportunities.