Joe Krippner, a Fresh Face to Sorghum

Joe KrippnerAs a 15-year-old boy in Marty, Minnesota, Joe Krippner started an FFA project that would one day develop into his career. Krippner took a short walk across the driveway from his home farm and asked the neighbor if he would rent some land to him. The neighbor agreed to rent him eight acres, and from that moment Krippner’s operation has continued to expand.

After high school, Krippner attended Ridgewater College where he completed the agronomy tech program and began working for Cold Spring Co-Op. Krippner is currently the seed sales manager at Cold Spring Co-Op and is a notable farmer with 26 growing seasons under his belt. He has a passion for passing on his experiences to other farmers in his area, providing them with opportunities for success with sorghum and raising awareness of the crop in Minnesota.

“I’m not afraid to try new things,” Krippner said. “I have done a lot of different things that are unconventional to the area, and because of where I am working off of the farm, I am able to help others learn from my experiences.”

Unconventional is right. In 2014, Krippner was looking for a crop to go on his marginal acres to replace wheat. He also has one irrigation system with limited water capacity so he made the rare decision to begin growing sorghum in central Minnesota where it is not a common crop.

He started with an experimental 10 acres of grain sorghum, and after successfully raising the crop, he continued expansion of sorghum on his operation as well as custom planting sorghum for other growers in the area.

“One thing I like is the lower water requirement; that’s what put it on the map for me,” Krippner said. “It was a new commodity to diversify my crop rotation with and something that has been growing on me since I've raised it.”

Krippner discovered a market for his sorghum in 2015 and has not looked back since then. He markets to a nearby bird seed manufacturer that was originally accessing sorghum from South Dakota. Krippner is able to save the bird seed company money in freight now that they can access locally grown sorghum. With three years full of successful harvests, Krippner’s enthusiasm for the sorghum industry and future has reached heights he never thought imaginable.

“I’m pretty proud of the operation that I’ve built completely separate from my family farm; it’s a successful operation,” Krippner said.

Krippner is not a stranger to trying new things and applying for Leadership Sorghum was a natural decision. He joined the program with hopes of increasing his knowledge and guidance abilities through his mission of growing the sorghum industry in his area. Coming from an area where sorghum is not a common crop, Krippner learned everything he knows about sorghum online until becoming a member of Leadership Sorghum Class III.

“I just knew that this would be a great opportunity to get out and see the whole industry from seed production to export markets,” Krippner said. “From front to back, I knew this would be a great program for me to get into and be able to share industry and sorghum information that I have learned and pass that on to the people in my area.”

He described his experience with Leadership Sorghum as humbling and worthwhile. But knowledge about the crop was not the only thing Krippner gained from this experience.

“I also learned a lot about myself through some of our sessions where you find out what kind of personality you have, what makes you tick and how that works interacting with other people,” Krippner said. “It opens you up and teaches you how to interact with others better.”

As Leadership Sorghum Class III comes to an end, Krippner is eager to get things going in Minnesota for the sorghum industry. He has plans to get other farmers to try out this versatile crop through keeping in close contact with Sorghum Checkoff staff, allowing for continuous expansion of his sorghum expertise.

 “Every day you have the opportunity to make your operation better, and that is what gets me up every morning,” Krippner said. He strives for open-mindedness, growth and diversification to allow his operation to be passed down to the next generation.

Krippner enjoys life with his wife and children.

Equipment Color:  A little bit of everything
Tractor Tunes:  Big Green Tractor by Jason Aldean
Favorite Season on the Farm: Growing Season
Favorite part of Farming: The fulfilling experience of watching the crop grow every year
Hobbies: Deer hunting and snowmobiling

Joe 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.