A Family Sorghum Business

Dateline: 25 August 2015

My sorghum crop in August
(click to see a larger view)

I've never seen a field of sorghum growing in New York state, but I'm pretty sure it will grow just fine here, and I decided to grow a small patch this year in my garden. So far, so good. 

I'm excited to harvest the seeds and try cooking with them. I may even try juicing the stalks in my Whizbang apple grinder (made from a kitchen garbage disposal).

Sorghum is, of course, a common crop in the more southern states. While doing some research on sorghum, I came across Muddy Pond Sorghum in Middle Tennesee. If you live down that way, I'm sure you must know about Muddy Pond sorghum.

Muddy Pond is well worth mentioning on this blog because it is a multigenerational, agri-preneurial business. It is also a business in a predominately Mennonite rural community. The folks who own and work the business are Christian agrarians.

As more and more Christians are looking to get back to the land and establish multigenerational, agriculture-based family enterprises, they are finding it is not an easy thing to do. But the Guenther family at Muddy Pond appears to be doing it, and it's nice to see.

This Article explains the Muddy Pond story very well, and the following three YouTube videos provide some insights into the business. I found these videos to be a delight to watch.

If you have an interest in growing sorghum, check out this web site: American Sorghum


Eric said...

I would be interested to know if sorghum can be pressed like apple cider. I've looked into buying a mill to be able to press sorghum for a local "living history" demonstration farm and they are quite pricey!

Herrick Kimball said...


It will be interesting to see how my apple grinder does at juicing the stalks. There is a big difference between apples and sorghum cane. The cane looks tough and stringy. I have run rhubarb stalks, which are full of long stringy fibers, through my grinder and it did an awesome job of separating the fibers from the juice. I'll be sure to report on the results here.

Survival Gardener/David The Good said...

I grew sorghum one year and found it to be a beautiful crop. Didn't realize the canes needed to sit after cutting before they got sweet, so I tasted them from the garden and went "What? They're just like cornstalks!"

Locally I prefer growing sugar cane thanks to its perennial nature.

I'm still hoping you'll create a Plantet Whizbang cane press. I'll be your first and most vocal customer when you do.

Herrick Kimball said...


I didn't know the canes needed to age. Thanks for the information. Clearly, I need to read up on this subject. A Whizbang cane press sounds like a great idea. How hard could it be to do? And why hasn't someone else done this already? Perhaps the answers to those questions will be more evident as I get into this a bit deeper. Thanks.

PioneerPreppy said...

You shouldn't have any problems growing it in New York. I have seen it grown in Southern Iowa and Northern Missouri and that's about the same zone as most of New York isn't it?

Matt B said...

Wow, you're hitting close to home now Herrick! I've been to Muddy Pond a time or two. Its just about an hour away from where I live. My parents used to go a few times a year to stock up on some supplies from their general store. I am greatly intrigued by the old order Mennonites and Amish. I really enjoy going to that area in a way that I really can't explain. Seems to speak to something deep inside more so than anywhere else. When I tell my wife or someone else that I'd like to go back they always ask why. I don't really have an answer that I can articulate actually. I just say "dunno, I just do".



Herrick: My wife and I lived in Paraguay back in the '60s. We saw many home-made cane mills. They are called "trapiche" in Spanish. They were all powered by an ox on a sweep, just like horses in the videos. In stead of steel cylinders, the ones we saw were turned from solid wood and then had grooves chiseled in by hand. The cylinders were mounted like large gears, one meshing with the other. They turned on vertical rods for axles.
Only one cylinder was driven. A store-bought mill was very costly and therefore, rare in those days.

Erik said...

The Vietnamese markets in SoCal often sell fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. They have a counter top machine that does the juicing. I've eaten sugar cane from the field and it is very stringy, you could probably make rope from it. I don't know how close sorghum is to sugar cane but I think it would tear up the apple grinder.

A heavy duty mill or clothes wringer might do the trick. I also think there is a family on your blog roll that has experimented with sorghum.

Best of luck.

Everett said...

Hi Herrick, Read the post and tried going to the site . Got there but couldn't find a button where you could order stuff. SO I found one called Nuts.com and ordered two 16 bottles. Just have to try it. Growing up all we had for a sweetener was Blackstrap molasses! When Grandma's Molasses came out, we all thought it was kind of wimpy tasting.

Can't wait to get this and try it.
OBTW, got my W/B cider press all done and one coat of polyU on it. Got to get the Grinder table and grinder put together. It took about 7 hours for me to get all the parts cut for the Press and put together. I'll send you a couple of pics by email when I get it all done.

How much sorghum cane do you think it would take to cook out a gallon of syrup??

Clinton Johnson said...


Where did you get your seed? I was searching this morning and couldn't find a source that wasn't selling it for modern agricultural uses. However, in the process I did find this page on cover crops!


Basically it tells you what to plant based on the values you are looking for. It may be aimed at mono-culture, but I think little guys can find it useful as well!

Herrick Kimball said...

Pioneer Preppy—
You're right. I had a fellow here at my place last night borrowing my chicken plucker and he recognized the sorghum. He said when he was a kid on the farm (in NY), his father grew sorghum. They chopped it and blew it into the silo.

Matt B.—
I think you are intrigued by the Amish and Old Order Mennonites because they live a more authentic way of life. It is more in line with how God intended man to live. That's what I think, and I can relate to your feelings.

That's good information. Where there's a will, there's a way. I love to hear of resourceful people like that!

Now that you say that, I think I have seen short stalks of sugar cane in the grocery store. I never knew it was juiced.

Blackstrap molasses is powerfully good for a body. Full of minerals. I suspect that all the blackstrap molasses you had as a kid may be part of the reason you are so full of energy and productivity in your older (older than me) age. I ordered some sorghum syrup too. Best wishes with making Whizbang apple cider on Block Island. I'm wondering if you have the only cider press there?

I bought the seed from Sustainable Seed Company, but I see they are now out of stock. Perhaps I'll have some seed I can send you later on. Here is the link:

Sorghum Seed

I see that it is a grain sorghum, not a juice sorghum. I recall now that I bought it because I was primarily interested in the seed for feeding poultry, (and have since learned that it is good for human food too). But I'm still going to see if I can juice the stalks in my apple grinder.

Speaking of feeding poultry, I see that Sustainable Seed company also has a Sustainable Poultry Package that is well worth checking out if you have chickens.

Clinton Johnson said...

Thank you for the link, I'll certainly check that out! And in regard to chickens... oh boy! Following your how-to, I butchered 59 Red Rangers this past July 20th with my dad... that was a very bad day. I borrowed a whizbang plucker from a buddy too! I worked great, but butchering the birds was hard work! I'll butcher a deer any day over chickens...

Also, on the Amish - we have them here in NW Ohio and I'm amazed by them. If it weren't for their differences in doctrine, I'd be tempted to join them! Although I'd sure miss the air conditioning...

Thanks again!

Tucanae Services said...


Certain crops are local for a reason. Like your area. Sorghum would compete for time with other crops. Especially considering you are in an area where tapping and sugaring syrup does not compete with planting time.

Anonymous said...

Saw an ensilage cutter at work chopping corn stalks - seems as if it might work for cane too.


Jim Curley said...

Herrick, Was wondering how the cidar press worked. Last year we grew sorghum and used another farmer's cane press. This year our crop is much smaller and so I am thinking of other possibilities I can come up with at home.


Jim Curley

Herrick Kimball said...


The apple grinder, not the press. I haven't tried it yet. My sorghum seed heads are still not mature. I have seed sorghum not cane sorghum. I think there is a difference. But I still want to try grinding the stalks at some point.