Allen Hensley, From Restaurant Management to Crop Science

Allen HensleyFrom serving food to growing it, Allen Hensley's path to farming has been less than traditional. Once a restaurant manager, his passion for agriculture led him back to the source - farming.

Hensley always wanted to feel like what he worked for was a challenge, and after seven years in the restaurant business, he was led back to the farm. Hensley is now a fourth generation farmer from Alice, Texas, where he is the farm manager of an  11,000-acre sorghum, corn, cotton and sesame operation.  

Hensley grew up farming in high school and in the summers during college, which led to a love for working outside. He also felt like he was helping and impacting others, a feeling he lacked as a restaurant manager. Farming gave Hensley the sense of purpose he desired, making the decision to return to the farm easy.

"Farming is about taking a lot of risks while receiving a lot of reward at the same time," Hensley said. "It is a great feeling to see your work come to life."

Besides farming, Hensley is also a seed dealer for several companies in South Texas, including Sorghum Partners. By working with these smaller seed companies, Hensley has come to know agronomists who care about the entire process of farming. Hensley enjoys being able to call an agronomist and get help on the spot or schedule a visit to help him understand more about his field and the growing process.

"These guys always follow through with helping me out," Hensley said. "Because of my love and understanding of crop science, it is really easy to build rapport with these agronomists."

When Hensley is not farming, he enjoys reading university studies about crop science. Because he likes to be ahead of the game, he likes to increase his knowledge on crops not only for his own good but for his neighbors or customers as a seed dealer. Hensley learned on his own how to eliminate weather related problems and increase his yield by reducing plant populations. This led to nearby producers asking how he was able to increase his production so quickly and efficiently.

"I was getting ridiculed by everyone for reading these studies and trying to help myself," Hensley said. "Then others let me help them with what I had learned from reading the studies on crop science and were amazed."

Hensley said he enjoyed session one of Leadership Sorghum in the Texas Panhandle the most. Seeing the innovation and breeding of crops at session one ties back to his love for agronomy and science, and he was able to see Sorghum Checkoff investments in research that help producers improve profit potential. After learning more about these investments, Hensley was able to go back home and spread that information to other sorghum growers he knew.

Hensley is married to his wife, Svetlana and they have three sons, Miryk, Kirym and Maverik. Family is what drives Hensley to wake up in the mornings as he builds the foundation of his farm for his sons to take over if they want to one day. They are the motivation to his desire to better himself every day.

"The alarm clock goes off, I roll out of bed and I get the day started," Hensley said. "I never think twice about it."

Leadership Sorghum has influenced Hensley to learn more about the Sorghum Checkoff and how it helps farmers. He has also built a network with sorghum agronomists, farmers and breeders plus connections with the other men in Leadership Sorghum Class III.

"Leadership Sorghum opened up a whole new world for me when it comes to resources and contacts," Hensley said. "I have gotten to meet many different people from many different backgrounds."                                             

Equipment Color: John Deere
Tractor Tunes: Podcasts, mainly Ag Ph.D.
Favorite Season on the Farm: Planting
Favorite Part of Farming: Working outdoor
Hobbies: Love taking family trips to the beach since it is so close

Allen 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.