Entrepreneurial farm businesses and their success stories

A recent two-day entrepreneurial farm tour featured 11 farms and food-related businesses. Many share common traits that enable them to be successful even though each one has their own unique story.

Participants on a two-day entrepreneurial farm tour in northwest Michigan on September 11-12, sponsored by Michigan State University Extension, saw outstanding operations and families with a true passion for what they do. Highlighted on the tour was an artisan bakery, on-farm ice cream production and retail, milk processing and bottling, off-the-grid living, agri-entertainment, vineyards, a fiber mill, fruit orchards, farm markets, high quality small scale sustainable vegetable production, both organic and conventional farming systems, and more.

Although each farm or business that was visited told a unique story of their entrepreneurial journey, tour participants heard common advice important to achieve a successful sustainable business. A few of the key points included customer focus, high quality, resourcefulness, diversification and vision.

Customers are central to all businesses. Know what your customer needs and wants. Truly care about the customer’s health, well-being and satisfaction. Everyone deserves fair and honest treatment. Today’s trends focus on healthy, local and good tasting food. Provide the customers with high value products, service and experiences. A high quality product brings the customer back.

Be resourceful and use what you have already. You do not have to be large or have all new equipment. Identify what you might have as assets like your location, soil and farm buildings. Also, inventory your skills, ability and passion. Your venture needs to make economical sense. It needs to make a profit for you and it needs to be a value for your customer. This requires a well thought-out business plan.

Consider diversification. It may not be wise to put all your “eggs in one basket.” We live in a fast changing world. Demand and supply can cause feast and famine. Multiple income sources can guard against weather issues, changing trends and challenging competition.

Dream your dreams. Formulate a vision and develop goals. Put a plan in place and evaluate your progress. Make adjustments as needed.

This tour featuring folks with an entrepreneurial spirit was very motivational. You can start new food-related ventures and be successful. These operations are a testimony that it is possible.

Do you have an idea you want to explore to add more profit to your farm operation? Whether you want to add value, a new enterprise, or expand what you are already doing, take note that the MSU Product Center has innovation counselors that are trained and available to assist you to get started. To start the process, go to the MSU Product Center website and fill out a request for counseling assistance, or call any of the staff or counselors that are listed there. You may also call the MSU Product Center directly at 517-432-8750 to get connected with an innovation counselor who can provide assistance with your business venture.

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