A New Crop Of Leaders

During the Leadership Sorghum program, participants tour sorghum nurseries to learn more about the seed production and research process. Photo courtesy of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

In an effort to develop advocates and future leaders for the sorghum industry, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program created the Leadership Sorghum program. The program exposes sorghum farmers from across the nation to the issues impacting the industry at the local, state and national levels.

Shelee Padgett, regional director for Sorghum Checkoff, has played a key role in the development of the program.

“Leadership Sorghum is an excellent program that exposes our farmers to the various aspects of the sorghum industry so they have a better 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,” Padgett said.

Getting The Program Started

In 2012, the United Sorghum Checkoff Program recognized the need to develop new leaders for the sorghum industry and developed a new program called Leadership Sorghum. This 16-month experience that gives selected sorghum farmers from across the country the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the various aspects of the sorghum industry.

“We really wanted our farmers to realize their own leadership potential and have this program be able to kind of launch them into their leadership career,” Padgett said.

Understanding new innovations is a large part of Leadership Sorghum.
Understanding new innovations is a large part of Leadership Sorghum. Photo courtesy of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

Padgett emphasized the importance of getting farmers engaged in the different levels of the sorghum industry, which is a key focus of Leadership Sorghum. The program also helps farmers develop their communication and advocacy skills. Each generation needs leaders to help carry on the different legacies of agriculture, that is one of the many reasons that Leadership Sorghum is such a vital program to keep around and advertise.

“Being able to identify your strengths is a valuable tool, especially when it comes to leadership,” Padgett said.

Since 2012, 45 farmers have participated in Leadership Sorghum. Some have become active with state and national sorghum advocacy efforts, and some have used their time after Leadership Sorghum to better use their skills directly on their farms.

“A handful of our farmers that have gone through the program are now on state boards or national boards,” Padgett said.

Joining all of those boards is a great way for farmers to get involved, but Padgett stressed it isn’t just about getting into those boards and leadership positions. Leadership Sorghum also allows farmers to network with others in the sorghum industry.

“Leadership programs aren’t only about education, they are also about the network opportunities and engaging farmers,” Padgett said.

Padgett said that developing new relationships with others in the industry is a great way for farmers to gain new perspectives on production practices and key issues.

Not Just A Farmer

Greg Glover is a sorghum farmer and Texas Tech University alumnus in Bushland, Texas, near Amarillo. One of his longtime friends introduced him to the sorghum industry and later introduced him to Leadership Sorghum.

“Our voice as an individual is small, but together we are loud.”

Glover was a member of the second Leadership Sorghum class and has since taken an active role in the industry. He has been a member of select boards like Randall County Farm Bureau Board and Randall County Crop and Cattle Committee, while at both he has helped make decisions affecting the county.

“I was elected to the Randall County Farm Bureau Board, and then almost 12 months later, I was elected to the Randall County Crop and Cattle Committee,” Glover said. “So, I have been elected locally and really helped with the leadership abilities.”

During his time in Leadership Sorghum, Glover said he really enjoyed going to Washington D.C. where he was exposed to the legislative side of the sorghum industry and learned just how hard it is to get things done in Washington D.C. He also had the opportunity to meet certain representatives and staff and explained how getting to know legislative staff is important when it comes to discussing certain issues in agriculture.

“It was a real eye-opening experience,” Glover said.

Glover said Leadership Sorghum has helped him realize what he is passionate about outside of farming. The program has given him the opportunity to get involved in his community while also advocating for how Leadership Sorghum benefited him in the long run. He has been able to advocate for an industry that he has been involved in for most of his life, and Leadership Sorghum granted him that opportunity.

“Our voice as an individual is small, but together we are loud,” Glover said.

Leadership Sorghum has placed around 45 farmers into many different leadership positions. The program has pushed these individuals to find out what their strengths are and how they can utilize them in the most efficient way. Creating a program that pushes farmers to discover their potential in leadership opportunities, different networking opportunities, and how many different ways they can become more engaged with their industry and community. Padgett said the Sorghum Checkoff is excited to see how each class from the program prospers after graduation from the program and is looking forward to the future. United Sorghum Checkoff Program will be accepting applications for Leadership Sorghum Class IV in the late spring of 2018.