Leadership Sorghum

About Leadership Sorghum

The Sorghum Checkoff is developing the next generation of leaders for the sorghum industry with its Leadership Sorghum program.

Throughout the program, Leadership Sorghum class members are exposed to various aspects of the sorghum industry from basic and applied research to international marketing. Through both hands-on and classroom-style education, participants will 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.

Leadership Sorghum Class VI Launch


Selection Process

The United Sorghum Checkoff Program is accepting applications for Leadership Sorghum Class VI, a program designed to cultivate the next generation of sorghum leaders.

Learn more 

Leadership Sorghum Class V Members

  • John Browning from Plainview, Texas
  • Matthew Crane from Pritchett, Colorado
  • Daniel Hopper from Leonardville, Kansas
  • Winter Johnston from McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Deanna Lanier from Valley Center, Kansas
  • Matt McCune from Plainville, Kansas
  • Brant Peterson from Johnson, Kansas
  • Gage Porter from Mercer, Missouri
  • Dale Stoltzfus from Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania
  • Ciera Ware from Ralls, Texas
  • Brian Younker from Spearville, Kansas
  • Kirk Zerr from Quinter, Kansas

Class V Schedule

Program I: Turning Demand Into Profit | Kansas-July 27-29, 2021
Theme: Public research, connecting to and protecting profit in domestic markets and risk management

Program II: From the Ground Up | Lubbock, Texas–September 13-15, 2021
Theme: Exploring the seed industry, marketing your grain and connecting to markets

Program III: In the Boardroom | Lubbock, Texas – December7-9 2021
Theme: In the boardroom, connecting with leaders

Program IV: Broader Horizons | New Orleans – March 10-12, 2022
Theme: Commodity Classic, Connecting your farm to the global market, establishing baselines for farm business and industry

Program V: Program & Resource Awareness | Washington D.C. – TBD Summer 2022
Theme: Making the most of government programs for young and beginning farmers


Leadership Sorghum seeks to develop the next generation of leaders for the sorghum industry.


  • Recruit new leadership and prepare participants interested in pursuing leadership roles within the sorghum industry.
  • Expose participants to and educate them about the sorghum industry.


Leadership Sorghum prepares sorghum farmers to be advocates for sorghum and agriculture on a local, regional and national platform. To date, Leadership Sorghum has resulted in 45 farmer-leaders from 13 different states. Leadership Sorghum alumni also are more involved within state and national organizations and committees as a result of the program.


Leadership is vital to the success of any industry, and Leadership Sorghum provides the necessary resources to lead our industry in the future. The first two classes of the Leadership Sorghum program have facilitated growers from 11 states who all bring different perspectives to the sorghum industry, including their cropping systems and their own farming operation structure. Leadership Sorghum highlights the Sorghum Checkoff by showcasing where producers’ dollars are being invested and the level of synergy that exists within the sorghum industry.


“The biggest gain I received from Leadership Sorghum was the eye-opening detail of the industry. The great leadership skills given during each session have not only made me a better sorghum farmer but a better community leader as well. There are a million reasons why a producer or anyone connected to sorghum should participate in Leadership Sorghum, but they all come down to one thing: being a member and representative of a great team.”

— Zack Rendel – Miami, Oklahoma – Class III

“Being outside the traditional sorghum belt, I had a great interest in learning about the crop firsthand. Leadership Sorghum provided me the knowledge to become more confident in my choices on my own operation along with helping others in my area brand new to growing the crop.”

— Joe Krippner – Kimball, Minnesota – Class III

“If you grow sorghum you should know every part of the business. This program will show you aspects from breeding all the way to getting it to another country. It is a very exciting process to learn everything.”

— Jesse Wyrill – Kirwin, Kansas – Class II

“As farmers, we need to be more engaged in our production, informing the public and in leadership. This type of a program is essential to building more understanding, more leadership and doing a better job of promoting our business to the public.”

— Kent Martin – Carmen, Oklahoma – Class II

“Leadership Sorghum has provided me the ability to expand my horizons in the sorghum industry. I have enjoyed presentations from seed geneticists, plant breeders, U.S. congressmen, international grain buyers and many more experts in their fields. Without being a part of this group, I would have never had the pleasure of doing this. The other 14 class members have been one of the most enjoyable parts of Leadership Sorghum. Being able to talk about different farming practices, marketing and much more has been great. I have enjoyed being surrounded by motivated, like-minded producers. The whole experience has been refreshing to me.”

— Mike Baker – Trenton, Nebraska – Class I

“Leadership Sorghum gave me a whole new understanding of sorghum, not only in our industry, but also as a consumer. I learned about many different uses for sorghum and also the important role that biomass sorghum and sweet sorghum have in our society as energy and fuel sources. Sorghum has a successful future not only on our farm, but all throughout the country since it is a drought-tolerant, and water-sipping crop. It will always be a profitable crop in our farming rotation.”

— Josh Levin – Kensington, Kansas – Class I

For questions regarding Leadership Sorghum, contact:

Shelee Padgett
Director of Emerging Markets & Grower Leader Development