Friday, November 5, 2010

Farm Equipment Fridays: Harvesting Sweet Sorghum

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In October, hubby and I helped some friends harvest, press, and cook their sweet sorghum into molasses syrup. 

{I have recently been corrected.  The resulting yummy concoction is not molasses.  Molasses is a by-product of sugar manufacturing.  Sweet sorghum syrup is the pure syrup from the sorghum stalk, after it has been boiled down, similar to maple syrup.}

Here begins the saga…

First, we had to harvest the sorghum.  They have a relatively small sorghum field, only about half an acre.DSC_0022-1

You might think this looks a lot like corn stalks.  You’d be right, it does.  Corn and sorghum are both types of grasses (yep, that stuff that grows in your front yard).  DSC_0032-1

Corn and sweet sorghum are both in the grass family, but are those “special” relatives.  Corn grows this fantastic ear full of seed/grain/food, while sweet sorghum has a high sugar content in the stalk.  Sorghum doesn’t grow an ear like corn does.  Instead, it has all its seeds in the tassel on top of the plant.DSC_0026-1

(For some pictures of the different tassel on corn, check out Heather’s Farmer Friday feature at 3 Kids and Lots of Pigs.)

Sweet sorghum is usually harvested when the plant is more green than this.  It has been so dry in Indiana this year that the sorghum is drying out earlier than normal.  It’s the stalks we’re after, not the leaves or the seed heads, so things are still green enough.DSC_0039-1

We used a piece of equipment called a corn bine for the harvest.  (The tractor that pulls it is just out of the frame to the right.)DSC_0102-1

The tractor pulls the corn bine down each row of sweet sorghum.   DSC_0132-1

The chains with the teeth pull the stalks up the corn bine toward the cutting edge, down below the chains.DSC_0134-1

Each stalk is cut, and held in a “shock” at the top of the corn bine.DSC_0260-1

When it was full, it automatically released the shock.  It was John’s job to catch the shock and put it on the tractor that was following behind.


The corn bine was originally used to cut corn stalks and form shocks of corn.  Now combines are used to harvest corn, and shocks are pretty much only used as fall decorations.

Buddy helped harvest.  Or something.  Apparently he likes sweet sorghum.DSC_0209-1

Once the tractor was full, we cut most of the seed heads off the sorghum stalks.  This makes the pressing part easier later.DSC_0121-1

By the end of the harvest, there were three wagons full of sorghum stalks, ready for pressing.DSC_0012-1

Next up – pressing sweet sorghum! 

This episode starred:  my hubby John, Roy Boeglin (running the corn bine), Cecil (driving the trailer), and Buddy The Dog.
(Roy and Cecil can also be seen co-starring in the well saga.)


  1. Fascinating! i haven't been around sorghum much so I find all this very interesting!

  2. I always wander how that was harvested you see a patch now and then not a lot around here.

  3. This looks like a fun experience! I live on a cattle ranch but all of our land goes to them not crops.

  4. Great post! Steve sees this plant's cousin, shatter cane, and just goes into fits of anger and destructive ideas. Farmers! I will have to show this one to him!


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