Saturday, March 20, 2010

An entrepreneur on every farm

There is a strategy for helping local enterprises expand by providing the tools and resources needed to help then innovate and grow new markets.

It's called economic gardening and I greatly support the goals of this effort.

The economic gardening community would not want me to paraphrase, but I would say the basic idea is to support existing high-growth potential businesses and innovators with information and data tools needed to grow and create jobs.

In rural regions, where are those innovators, those businesses with growth potential? As I drive down my beautiful, rural Iowa County back roads, I'm passing entrepreneur after entrepreneur as I pass farm after farm.

There is an entrepreneur on every farm.

These are enterprises that need support structures to innovate, grow, and create jobs in rural communities. The demand is there for products and services ranging from food production and processing to knowledge workers. Our rural entrepreneurs need help with the infrastructure and networks required to connect them to that demand.

I'd guess that there must be a map of the density of entrepreneurs per regional population that would include farmers as entrepreneurs. I'll bet it shows rural regions having the highest densities of entrepreneurs.

And yet, in rural areas with high levels of entrepreneurship, historically there have been a lack of appropriate resources to support these businesses.

Rural entrepreneurs need data, knowledge, and help innovating and growing into new markets.

Those prospects are changing for the better. In Wisconsin there is a great program for growing new farmers. It's our School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers.

The Director of this great program is Dick Cates who also operates the award winning Cates Family Farm in - drum roll, please - beautiful Iowa County Wisconsin.

This is the kind of economic gardening support that rural entrepreneurs need: access to knowledge and training, appropriate infrastructure, and ongoing support.

We've been trying to add to that discussion with our efforts in Iowa County over the past year or so to put some network and physical infrastructure support in place to help our rural businesses utilize the knowledge that's out there to innovate and grow and make new jobs.

The vegetable processing facility in Highland will process 2011 crops.

A group of us have helped with support/training seminars held in Iowa County to help existing farmers and new food entrepreneurs to innovate and grow into our emerging facilities and expanding markets. The focus will be on profitable vegetable production, marketing and distribution in our region.

By helping make new tools and infrastructure available to our rural entrepreneurs, we can help them prosper in these new markets.

So, first up, our Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen in Mineral Point will have its Grand Opening on Sunday, July 11. We are working hard to make this facility the most valuable it can be by offering many ways for food entrepreneurs to access preparation services and processing tools needed to innovate and grow.

The Innovation Kitchen will become a knowledge hub as well as a physical platform. In one location, we will be able to link knowledge, data, and valuable personal connections to physical resources and easy access to vendors, buyers and sellers. I believe this is the kind of infrastructure and support network needed to help our rural entrepreneurs, businesses and communities grow into emerging opportunities.

Economic gardening for rural communities should include a focus on creating easier-cheaper-faster ways for farm based entrepreneurs and businesses in rural areas to access data, knowledge, and networks. It should always include support for the physical infrastructure needed to enable innovation, growth, and increasing access to markets.

There is an entrepreneur on every farm. Let's grow this resource.

School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Cates Family Farm. Our natural, delicious tasting beef is from Angus and Jersey steers grown 'free-range' in the open air on excellent quality pasture. Steers are 100% grass-fed and grass-finished spring through autumn. The steers are raised without added growth hormones, and they do not receive any type of antibiotic for a minimum of nine months prior to processing.

1998 Wisconsin Conservation Achievement Award and the 1999 Iowa County Water Quality Leadership Award.

2006 - present. Animal Welfare Institute Approved. First beef farm in the USA to earn this approval.

Download information about seminars for area growers and food entrepreneurs being held in Iowa County, WI during April 2010. The focus will be on profitable vegetable production, marketing and distribution in our region. Topics include, The economics of growing vegetables for profit, The correct way to harvest, pack, store and cool vegetables for maximum quality and market value, and The essentials of food safety and Good Agricultural Practices (also known as GAP). Expanding information leads to expanding markets. Join us!

The Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen

Schools for Beginning Fruit, Vegetable and Flower Growers also at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

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