Posted on Mar 25, 2019
Matt Davis’s passion for sorghum began at a young age in the research labs at Kansas State University where his father worked in plant pathology. Internships and summer jobs cultivated this passion, leading Davis to return to K-State as a college student to pursue his two loves – plants and cattle. Following graduation in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science, Davis worked in the private sector before returning to K-State where he now serves as an assistant scientist while pursuing a master’s degree in plant genomics.
Davis’s family has been raising shorthorn cattle in Kansas since 1902. To support his cattle operation, Davis typically raises a small plot of forage sorghum. This personal experience with forage sorghum has made him more passionate about teaching other cattle producers the advantages the crop provides for their operation.
“I’d like to help the cattlemen save money and make money,” Davis said. “I think sorghum, especially out in western Kansas and the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, could be a very big player when ranchers are running low on water and need a forage base for cattle that can be raised cheaply and efficiently.”
With background experience in sorghum research and ranching, Davis has experienced Leadership Sorghum in a different light than large-scale grain sorghum producers. He was motivated to apply for Leadership Sorghum by the opportunity it provides to learn from like-minded people, sharpen his leadership skills and, most importantly, to become a knowledgeable advocate for the sorghum industry.
“Getting out there, becoming active and being a true advocate for your industry is always something the [agriculture] industry needs,” Davis said. “Being a part of that, to me, is a great honor.”
On top of learning from a diverse set of producers, Davis’s favorite part of Leadership Sorghum was visiting Washington, D.C., to see how the legislative process works. Government action has a direct impact on his ability to conduct research, so the third session of the program provided valuable insight into how decision-makers influence his operation.
Leadership Sorghum has been an eye-opening experience, Davis said, and he looks forward to leaning on his new-found knowledge to influence his own research and his farm.
“I’m always willing to learn something new, and I don’t mind being proven wrong,” Davis said. “This experience has done both for me. It’s given me more of a voice on what I already knew about, shown me some things I was wrong about and opened my eyes to a whole new set of ideas.”
Equipment Color: Cheap! He does not have a brand preference but does run a blue tractor
Go to tractor tunes: Whiskey Myers, sports radio or podcasts
Favorite part of farming: Witnessing new life - watching the calves play in the green grass and watching a field come up after it is planted
Favorite season on the farm: Summer, because it is an energetic time of year with more time to enjoy things
Hobbies: Hunting, fishing and traveling
Matt 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.