Mary Donnell: A successful farm or food enterprise should have a marketing plan and pricing strategy.

Growing a Farm or Food Business

Donnell presented at the 2nd Annual Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum, which brought together members of farm and food organizations, civic groups, businesses, government and other sectors for a discussion on how Ohioans can effectively engage and improve their local communities. Ohio Farm Bureau helped host the event.

“You can start with an idea and a feasibility study and a business plan and make it come to reality, but there are certainly lessons to be learned along the way,” she said.

For starters: “If you can’t sell it, it’s a hobby,” advised Donnell, who emphasized the importance of understanding how your products and services meet the needs of prospective customers.

She also cautioned against underestimating competition, which can come in the form of a vendor at the farmers market or from somebody much farther away.

“We have a very robust, efficient food system in the United States, and it means food comes from all over the world, almost in perfect quality in terms of visual attributes, and really at a very cheap price point,” she said.

A successful farm or food enterprise should have a marketing plan and pricing strategy to deal with those issues, she explained.

“What is your unique value proposition? What are you going to bring to those customers that nobody else can?” Donnell asked.

Proper planning as well as ensuring you have plenty of working capital and time are essential to getting a business off the ground, she added.

“Start with the seed of your business idea, use the business planning process to germinate that idea, to grow that idea, to make sure it’s a healthy idea and then see the fruits of your labors,” she said. 

Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge
Michael Koenig, of ScoutPro, an Iowa business that develops software to assist farmers with crop maintenance, was recently named Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year from a field of four finalists and received a total of $30,000 in prize money to implement his business idea.

Pasturebird, LLC, California, won the People’s Choice award in the competition and $10,000 in prize money. Pasturebird is a cost-effective method of producing pastured poultry on a large scale.

The Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge is a key component of the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative, a joint effort between American Farm Bureau and the Georgetown McDonough School of Business. The Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative is directly tied to AFBF’s mission of building strong and prosperous agricultural communities.