Smell Of Success

Pioneer Press:

Ever since there have been family farms, there have been farm families with small side businesses.

Whether it’s selling fresh eggs or honeycomb, sweet corn or seed, these microbusinesses provide a little extra income – and some other benefits besides.

Today that tradition lives on, most visibly in roadside stands and farmers markets.

But Kent Olson, a farm economist at the University of Minnesota, notes a change in these side businesses.

“As farms in general have become larger, within that population we see a disappearance of the side business – they’re more specialized in growing for a general market,” Olson said. “But I also see smaller farms, hobby farms, family residences, that have tried to pick that up.”

Count Mike Hicks, owner of Afton Garlic Farms, as part of that hobby farm trend.

As microbusinesses, smaller farms like his face common entrepreneurial issues: how to control costs and set price points, how to increase production and enlarge markets, when to expand and where to find labor.

The other day, for example, Hicks wanted help harvesting the summer’s first garlic, so he urged a friend to come by.

“You can usually get some help if they think there’s going to be some free garlic in it for ’em,” he said.

That’s not how a major corporation would have solved a labor problem. But for a small garlic farm, bartering worked fine.

Photo by Ale_Paiva.

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