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I was born and raised in Canada. Up there we were isolated, our life was primitive. I grew up in the tradition and was raised in the Church of the German Mennonite. We believed in the Lord Jesus but we didn’t have fellowship. There were a lot of do’s and don’ts but nothing about living-making.
In ‘62, I was 25 and me and my sister went to Pennsylvania. The church there had about 25 families. I liked the atmosphere very much and realized the salvation we had with Jesus Christ. We had a lot of trials, hard times, disappointments but the Lord led us through. At a church dinner, I tried sorghum for the first time. I loved it. I don’t know what I loved about it, but I loved it. There wasn’t much sorghum in Pennsylvania at that time. People there weren’t making it.
In ‘63 we moved to Tennessee where Joe Schock and his family lived. They were born in Indiana then moved south to Mississippi then Tennessee. He and his family knew sorghum from the South: they liked sorghum so they grew it. When we moved to Tennessee there were about 12 families in the community. It was a wilderness here so we pioneered. No power tools or nothing. Cleared land with an axe and handsaw and by hand…It was primitive. We built our houses from pine wood, just threw up logs, added hardwood. It was an old-time sorghum operation. We cut the cane by hand, with a machete, hooked horses to a mill, put the cane in and squeezed the cane, and got the juice from it. Then we boiled it down in pans, big pans, over a fire. The first year or two everyone was involved. We didn’t have a market established so we didn’t need much land…Most of the family did other things, too. Carpentry. Making bread. I went and picked corn and made $8.00 in one day and that seemed like a lot. We didn’t need much money.
In ’64, I married Joe’s niece. She was a school teacher in the community when I married her and had always been a servant. We had eight children. When the youngest was born she went back to teaching community children. In the 80’s, we started our own family operation. I’ve been here for 49 years and have made sorghum every year. Making sorghum is a family operation and family is a big part of our operation. We learn about love and humility working together. We believe in honesty and making a living by growing on the land is honest work. The land is in our care. We seek the Lord and believe in the Lord’s promise to come; we live in humility and live in the belief we should never despise and forsake.
Things are a lot better now than before. Our operation is more like a factory… better set up…screened in and inspected…We still use the horses, but that’s for show for customers. In September and October, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is sorghum-making days. You should come see our operation. That’s the best way to know about sorghum. There’s a sorghum association that has a meeting every year. Anybody can join in.