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Iowa State University Extension

Entrepreneurs on farms improve local economies

Peter Korsching

From flower shops and auto repair to bed and breakfasts, substantial numbers of Iowa farm families start and operate businesses in addition to their regular farming operations. If they succeed with their long-range growth plans, they can have a considerable impact on local employment and income, and improve their community’s overall social and economic vitality, says Peter Korsching. The ISU professor of sociology examined information from 144 farmer entrepreneurs who responded to the 2007 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

“Some farm families operate businesses for additional income or to take advantage of perceived investment opportunities. Others see it as a way to expand their operations and bring their children into the business,” Korsching said.

The 2007 Survey Report on Farmer Entrepreneurship focuses on responses to a series of questions farmers were asked in the 2007 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll on the nature, problems and prospects of their entrepreneurial activities. This report and others from the poll are available from Extension’s online store.

More than one-half of these businesses have been in operation for more than 20 years, Korsching said. Some were extensions of existing farming enterprises, but many are not. Networking is important to a majority of the business proprietors, especially those expressing a growth trajectory for their businesses.

The farmer entrepreneurs reported that their businesses provide 369 full-time and 201 part-time jobs in their communities. About one-third of the proprietors are interested in growing their businesses to the extent that they will have an impact locally, statewide or even nationally.

More than 1,000 agricultural producers responded to the 2007 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, voicing their opinions related to entrepreneurship, the bioeconomy, bias among sources of information about ethanol, grain storage and transportation, alternative energy, land use issues and farming plans.

For more information contact J. Arbuckle, ISU Extension sociologist and co-director of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll,

This article appeared in March 2008 -- From Jack Payne Newsletter