Young entrepreneurs: farmers’ markets fuel small farming

The push for local and organic farming could mean more opportunities for young entrepreneurs.

The rising popularity of farmers' markets provides a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs. Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

The rising popularity of farmers' markets provides a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs. Photo credit: ANR Communications | MSU Extension

Farmers’ markets are on the rise. In the past five years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of local markets available. The increase has been more than 70 percent since 2008, according to a National Geographic article on Food for the City. Spurred by the demand for fresh produce and the desire to invest in local businesses, new farmers’ markets are popping up all over the country in both urban and rural areas. Many are even backed by nutrition programs.

Adding to the rise in the small farming movement is the demand for specialty or organic crops and meats. Restaurants are using local farm produce and organic specialty items to meet their customers’ demand for fresh and seasonal dishes.  Not only can the local farmers provide these crops, but they can also cut out the middleman to help cut costs. This reduces shipping costs, along with the amount of spoilage.

Despite the growing popularity, the USDA reports that for every farmer under age 35, there are seven over 65 years of age. As a result, the older farmers that retire in the next five to ten years could leave a shortage of skilled farmers to meet the farmers’ market needs. Or instead, this trend could offer young entrepreneurs a great opportunity to step in and fill the void. Michigan State University Extension can provide educational opportunities for youth to gain the skills needed to become successful entrepreneurs. 

4-H programs like Be the “E” and Dollar$ and ₵ents are designed to give youth a solid foundation for starting or running a business. Skills like record keeping, budgeting, marketing and financing are covered. These programs can be used to supplement youth 4- H projects, start small farming practices or prepare kids for post-secondary success. They can also help them learn to budget finances in their daily lives. MSU Extension can also help with training in program areas such as Community Food Systems as well as Agricultural Business Management.

As the local farming industry grows, the skills of a good farmer are not the only thing that will bring success to young entrepreneurs. The young farmer needs a green thumb and a strong sense for business. These farmers are required to wear more hats as they take on a greater role in the business of getting their product from the pasture to the plate. The combination of innovative farming practices, solid business practices and the integration of technology will make the difference in a successful farm that is able to help feed the world.

If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a young farming entrepreneur, please contact MSU Extension or explore some of the 4-H youth development programs in career preparation or entrepreneurship.