Friday, August 28, 2015

Farmers as entrepreneurs

I've been thinking a lot about farmers as entrepreneurs these last few weeks.

There's an old saying about doing the same old thing and getting the same old results, but it's clear to me that world is changing so rapidly that doing the same thing may no longer get the same results and leaders of organizations need to always be thinking about doing things differently to get different results.  I've been at very different farms in recent weeks, but heard this same message about changing with the times.

Two weeks ago, I was at Honey Dew Acres, assisting the owner, and my cousin, with the "Help Sami Kick Cancer" event.  While this was a fundraiser for the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund, there is no way it could have been pulled off if this horse farm's owners had not been taking an entrepreneurial approach.  The facilities and operations they have put in place to make the farm a viable business also allowed them to host this incredibly successful fundraiser.

Barley sprouts growing
on the barn floor
A week or so later, I took part in the St. Lawrence County Ag Tour and visited three different farms.

  • Fobare's Fruits in Renssalaer Falls has turned what started as a hobby apple orchard into a large orchard and a destination, with their store and Fort Applewood playground.
  • Our second stop took us to a dairy farm at Black Lake that is growing barley sprouts on a concrete floor to supplement their cow's feed.
  • And our third stop was at Bella-Brooke Vineyard in Hammond, where we saw an old dairy farm converted to a vineyard and event space.

All three farmers on this tour impressed me with their creativity and imagination.  They could have kept doing things the same way and maybe lost the family farm in the process.  But they had a vision, took a risk, and have developed great businesses.  The Watertown Times covered the tour with a front page story.

Dan Kent gives a tour of the farm to GardenShare supporters.
Then last Saturday, GardenShare hosted a reception for members of our Sustainers Circle* at Kent Family Growers in Lisbon.  Listening to Dan Kent talk about the challenges and rewards of farming, really brought home that need for entrepreneurial vision and skills.  It's not enough just to work hard, he also needs the right equipment, an appropriate labor force, and access to markets.  Dan is creative and entrepreneurial and yet, it's still a challenge to make a living and support his family.

* Don't know what the Sustainers Circle is?  It's a group of people who have made a three year pledge to GardenShare.  The pledge can be in any amount, but the three year commitment is so important to a small organization like GardenShare for it lets us make plans free of some of the angst of annual fundraising.  Contact Gloria if you would like to learn more.