Farming in the Southern Plains isn’t for the faint of heart. Consecutive years of drought ravaged crop yields, leaving farmers and ranchers little for a successful year. But this year, Mother Nature changed course, providing ample rain to start the crop year. We traveled to the Texas Panhandle this fall and met the National Sorghum Producers Chairman James Born.
For Texas panhandle farmer James Born, It’s not about raising the biggest crop every year. It’s about teaching the next generation lessons that aren’t found in any textbook.
“I’m thankful for my family, being on the farm that we can run and manage and operate this farm as a family,” said Born.
Hand-in-hand, James and his wife Dana, take great pride in making everything they do a family affair. A former ag teacher, he's now the chairman of National Sorghum Producers and farms in Perryton, Texas, which is known as the wheat heart of the nation.
“I like to say that if wheat is in the heart, sorghum is the soul of the operation,” said Born. The grain has a hearty soul, withstanding multiple years of heartbreaking drought. “This is just programmed to be tough,” he said.
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While drought is fresh on his mind, 2015 turned out to have many blessings, included much-needed rain. "We received our annual average precipitation in the month of May and part of June," said Born.
Later in the summer, scorching temperatures took 15 bushels to 20 bushels off the yield. “Still this crop held on, thrived and is going to be what looks like for the county a record sorghum crop,” he said.
That could create what some view as a good problem: finding enough storage for it all.
“In this county, we have a lot of acres planted. We have a lot of yield there," he said. "From here into southwest Kansas, I think there will be milo everywhere."
The record crop is also seeing record demand. “It’s been fun to be in the sorghum industry the last couple of years,” Born said. Exports are another bright spot in 2015."Typically, we export a third of our crop in sorghum," he added. "We exported over half of our crop this last year."
After traveling to some of the key export buyers, Born says there is a certain attraction to the U. S. crop. “We have high-quality sorghum. We have sorghum that’s consistent with size and weight," he explained. "I think our exporters do a good job moving that sorghum out in a timely fashion and having a good quality end product."
While traveling is part of the job, coming home and admiring a year’s work with his family by his side are the days he cherishes most.
"It’s the time we have together," he said. "That’s why we do what we do."