Posted on Dec 21, 2018
Twenty-five-year-old Kansas State University graduate John Bergkamp is carrying on the family tradition as a fourth generation farmer in Garden Plain, Kansas. Newly married, he is adjusting to post-graduate, full-time farm life while selling seed and pursuing growth through programs like Leadership Sorghum.
One of six siblings, Bergkamp has experienced the value of working together on the farm. He and his father are the primary farm operators. However, the entire family is involved in one way or another in their respective areas of interest.
Bergkamp was the first in his family of farmers to obtain an agronomy degree, and during his time at K-State, as a member of the soils judging team, he became interested in soil fertility factors and how they affect yield. As a requirement of the agronomy program, Bergkamp took a summer internship with Agrigold in seed sales, which led him to an unexpected future in sales.
Bergkamp continues to work in sales part-time while spending most of his hours on the farm. He manages his schedule between sales and the farm by making sales calls when he is less busy, which means other farmers are usually less busy, too.
Among the lessons he has learned in sales, the most significant one has been that everyone is different.
“What works for someone is not necessarily going to work for the next person down the road,” Bergkamp said. “There’s a lot of things that go into the final outcome of a crop or a year. Everybody’s management decisions play a significant role in their operations, and there’s more than one right way of doing things.”
Leadership Sorghum was recommended to Bergkamp by a neighbor and by his county extension agent who previously graduated from the program. They saw the value in it for him as a young person looking to grow and strengthen his connections in the sorghum industry. Bergkamp looks forward to utilizing his new network not only on his farm but also in his sales position to serve other farmers.
“Having my feet on the ground, talking to the guys in the industry has been my favorite part of Leadership Sorghum,” Bergkamp said.
Looking toward the future, he is excited about the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and to continue learning from the other members of Leadership Sorghum Class IV and what works for them in their regions. Bergkamp said if a grower is considering Leadership Sorghum and they have the time, the program is worth the return on investment.
For those who question a career in farming, Bergkamp feels confident his work is worth it.
“It’s a very rewarding career, not necessarily monetarily, but just from experiences you gain and the faith you have to have in putting out a crop every year," he said. "It’s hoping for the best and doing what you can, letting go and waiting to see what happens.”
Equipment Color: Green
Go-to tractor music: If it’s before dark, country music. After dark, something a little more lively to keep him awake
Favorite Season on the farm: Fall harvest
Favorite part of farming: Getting up every day and deciding for himself what he is going to do and what needs to be done every day.
Hobbies: Carpentry, remodel work and farming
John is a member of Leadership Sorghum Class IV, 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.