Southern Indiana native Tony Watson once thought he would become a doctor, discovering his passion for helping others while working at a hospital in college. But he felt he could make a larger impact on more people working in agriculture—a realization that led to an interesting life journey.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, Watson later pursued his master’s degree in agronomy at the University of Nebraska. He then moved to California where he worked for a vegetable seed company.

From there, his path was more involved with youth. He moved to Fredericksburg, Texas, and taught math and science at a private high school. He was also involved with the Montessori School Board, FFA state forage judging, and Barrios Unidos, a youth development program for at-risk Hispanic children. He eventually was led back to school and obtained his doctorate in sorghum and millet breeding from Texas A&M University.

Today, Watson works for Sharp Seed in Healy, Kansas, as the manager of farm operations, and he is responsible for developing their sorghum breeding program, which he considers one of his biggest accomplishments. The program is a one-man show, Watson said—one feels a deep sense of responsibility and pride to keep alive.

Watson made the decision to apply to the Leadership Sorghum program to help raise the profile of Sharp Farms and make new connections with a younger generation of farmers.

“The program has helped me generate relationships I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Watson said, “and it has pushed me to make connections with people within different parts of the industry.”

The exposure to new research and information that participants gain during Leadership Sorghum is what Watson feels is the most valuable asset of the program. The program has also allowed him to branch out and push himself to become a better professional in terms of networking and speaking to others to better serve the sorghum industry, he said.

“You never know when you are going to learn that one little piece of information,” Watson said, “It could be really valuable for you and what you are trying to do. If you don’t go out to field days or other industry events, you are going to miss out. You have to have relationships and partnerships with other companies, or you are going to sink pretty fast.”

Watson constantly strives to promote the industry and raise the profile of sorghum. He said Leadership Sorghum has taken his knowledge of the industry to a new level, and he looks forward to where it will take him next.

Equipment: Green tractors and red combines

Tractor tunes: A wide variety. From rock to movie soundtracks like Guardians of the Galaxy

Favorite Season on the Farm: Watching the crops grow

Favorite part of Farming: Seeing the sunrise and sunsets and the quality people in the industry

Hobbies: Making mosaics out of tile

Tony 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.