Sorghum – it’s what’s for dinner. And for the past three years at the elevator in the ghost town of Brenham, farmers have been hauling in loads of food-grade sorghum.
It’s one of just a few locations across Kansas that is taking food-grade varieties, largely a white sorghum that is good for milling into flour, said Bobby Martin, general manager of Southern Plains Co-op.
“We have a waiting list,” Martin said of area farmers who want to participate.
It’s a program that has grown every year, he said. The first year, about 12,000 bushels of white sorghum was binned at Brenham. The next year it surpassed 100,000 bushels.
This year Martin expects to reach that same total, if not more.
The milo is then shipped in 2,000-pound bags to a supplier in Texas who turns it into flour. The supplier had contacted Southern Plains about the opportunity, Martin said.
It took a little while for the program to catch on, he said.
And it is not as simple as planting and cutting a crop the conventional way.
“They have conditions,” Martin said. For instance, fields should be clean of weeds and shattercane. Combines have to be cleaned and free of gluten.
For those who get the system down, growing food-grade sorghum is beneficial, he said.
“There is a premium for the farmer,” he said.
Unlike conventional red milos used for feed, white milo is bred specifically for the food market. It provides a better product for consumers, Martin said.
Red milos typically leave a pink color to products. Pink bread, after all, is not a big seller.
“The biggest piece for us is we know the breeder and he has been breeding milo for a long time,” Martin said, adding that sorghum “is not genetically modified. We know all the farmers who raises it.
“We’d like to see acres grow every year.”
In Scott County, farmer Earl Roemer, who mills all his milo crop into flour at his Nu Life Market, said this is the first year he has expanded his “farm to fork” program to include a handful of other farmers.
Like at Brenham, all farmers are required to follow Roemer’s food safety guidelines, which includes making sure combines are free of gluten as well as implementing certain protocols during the growing process.
Roemer also has 125,000 bushels of grain storage at his plant to help with quality control.
Such procedures help create confidence with consumers that programs like his do everything they can to provide a product free of gluten, he said.
“It is an audited program,” he said. “We’ll even test the grain as they are harvesting.”
His growers range from farmers in Nebraska to west Texas.
With the expansion to other farmers, he will be able to add a line of certified organic sorghum products, he said.
One of his farmers grows about 9 million pounds of certified organic milo.
Other stories in the series:
Milo brings “Nu Life” on the High Plains for fourth generation farmer
Milo posed to help water woes in western Kansas
Food-grade sorghum catches on with south-central Kansas farmers
Crop has international appeal
Nu Life products