Where there is value, there is business opportunity – even on the rural Kansas plains.

Sure, for me, the perfect snack is a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread. However, it seems a growing sector of the American public can’t eat gluten products.

This quarter’s Kansas Agland isn’t about the gluten-free debate. Instead, it is about value-added agriculture and a fourth-generation Kansas farmer who saw an opportunity to take the milo he grows on his farm and find a niche market for an ancient, naturally gluten-free commodity.

Kansas Agland and KansasAgland.com is a product of four Kansas newspapers, the Salina Journal, The Hays Daily News, The Garden City Telegram and The News. The new issue is now online and currently being mailed out to more than 26,000 farmers and rural agriculture leaders.

No, milo isn’t a superstar in Kansas like corn and wheat, nor has it seen the same research dollars or private investment in the past. However, there are many who see the crop’s potential.

This quarter’s Agland features Scott County farmer and entrepreneur Earl Roemer, who is capitalizing on a niche market in west-central Kansas. In a state where farmers grow more sorghum and in an area where the Ogallala Aquifer continues to decline, Roemer, whose ancestors have been farming the High Plains for more than a century, is marketing the sorghum he grows on his farm as flour for both the wholesale and retail market.

In fact, his fledgling business, Nu Life Market, which he began in 2004, has seen sales grow by 150 percent in the past three years, thanks to the gluten-free movement.

But he is not the only one capitalizing on sorghum. Sorghum checkoff funding is currently working to increase crop yields and improve seed technology. Dollars are also spent on expanding markets, increasing demand and developing new uses.

Moreover, says Roemer, one of the biggest things for an area of the state that is being depleted of groundwater, sorghum uses half the water of corn.

Milo, it seems, has a growing, bright future.

Roemer’s company has created more than 20 jobs so far, with prospects to double by next year. And Scott County – like more than 70 other rural Kansas counties that saw population declines after the 2010 census – is seeing growth. The 2013 population estimates show a 2 percent increase in population, although Roemer’s company is just one of the reasons.

Hopefully, the rural revival on the plains continues in other areas of rural Kansas. Maybe more homegrown entrepreneurs like Roemer will have the opportunity to return to their communities and start up businesses – whether they are agriculture-related or something else.

{em style=”font-size: 12px;”}Kansas Agland Editor Amy Bickel’s agriculture roots started in Gypsum. She has been covering Kansas agriculture for more than 15 years. Email her with news, photos and other information at abickel@hutchnews.com or by calling (800) 766-3311, ext. 320.{/em}