October 16, 2017
Family is everything. They are there for us at the beginning and end, and throughout the twists and turns and mountains and valleys in between. At the end of a twisty turning gravel road near Danville, Kentucky I met a family that is there for each other, and a young woman who, with the support of that family is ready to take over the world.
Kaitlyn Elliott took over an FFA project that her cousin started with her grandpa when she was just 15 years old. Today at 19 years old, she has grown the business and herself. The project includes growing Grain Sorghum, harvesting it, and cooking it to make sorghum syrup. The tradition started generations earlier with her ancestors and was ingrained in her grandfather at a young age. It’s not a popular crop today and is a labor of love to create the sweet and unique tasting syrup from the delicate stalks, but to Kaitlyn and her grandpa, it continues to be a way of life.
When Kaitlyn’s cousin was done with the project, Kaitlyn picked it up, and then she ran with it. Over the past four years, this young FarmHer has steadily learned the art of raising the cane from her grandfather and now today, she is proud to say she can run every part of the operation on her own. They have expanded the number of sorghum plants they grow so they can expand the business and keep up with demand.
On the day that I visited 'Poorhouse Sorghum', the plants were just at the very start of being ready for harvest. Kaitlyn went through the motions of the labor-intensive process, showing me how she chops the stalks and then feeds them through the press that works out every last bit of liquid from the plant. From there, they strain the liquid for the first time out of four. Next, they start to cook, carefully monitoring the liquid until it reaches the “Golden Bubble” stage, showing them the final product is ready. They then take the product into the commercial kitchen where they package and store it until they sell it to a local restaurant or at the farmers market. Kaitlyn and her grandpa have expanded their offerings to include Sorghum BBQ sauce, to provide them with a shelf stable product they can sell in the off-season when they can’t make syrup. After showing me around her kitchen and how she makes the sauce, Kaitlyn gave me a taste; it was sweet just enough spice. The syrup itself had a flavor akin to molasses, and I was immediately sold.
From the farm, we drove into town to the County Seat restaurant in Lebanon, KY to try out Kaitlyn’s syrup over lunch. The restaurant has been buying sorghum syrup from Kaitlyn and her grandpa in recent months, and it is front and center in the delicious meals prepared in their kitchen. As we ate, Kaitlyn explained that she has gotten more confident and learned how to sell her product over the last few years, approaching businesses like County Seat.
As we sat down to a delicious lunch of cornbread waffles, chicken and vegetables, all set off by tasty sorghum butter, syrup and BBQ sauce I was blown away by the taste and flavor that comes from the delicate stalks growing out in their field. I was amazed by the strength of a family, and the caring nature of the grandpa who passed not only a lost art down to his granddaughter but also a way to build a business and make a living. Mostly, I was in awe of the young FarmHer, not even 20 years old, who has taken the initiative to follow her dreams and pursue her passions, all down a twisty, turning gravel road in Kentucky.
December 07, 2017
November 27, 2017
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