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Friday, October 3, 2008

Nordmeyer Sorghum Farm

Sweetener consumption has been on the rise in the U.S. and around the world for decades. Sugar, corn syrup, and Sucralose are just some of the sweeteners used in food and beverages. In the 19th century, the sweetener of choice was sweet sorghum made from sorghum cane.

This circa 1910 photo of the Charley Nordmeyer farm shows a sorghum mill. The farm was located north of Gilmer Road and east of Erhart Road in Fremont Township. Illinois was a large sorghum producer at this time. Not all farms had sorghum mills, but most produced sorghum for personal use or for profit. There was always at least one mill in the area for farmers to bring their cane to be crushed into juice.

Seen here is George Schneider feeding the mill. The sorghum is stacked at left and fed into the mill by hand. The horses are the power source, walking in a circle to grind the cane. The juice is then collected in the metal "milk" cans shown in the foreground, and taken home to be cooked into sweet sorghum, also known as sorghum molasses.

The sorghum molasses was used as a natural sweetener, sometimes poured as syrup over hot cakes. The various parts of the plant left after crushing the cane could be used for livestock and poultry feed.

For more information on the tradition of sweet sorghum mills check out this interesting website on the preservation of the art of making sweet sorghum.

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