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Small Business

Indiana Expands Training for Small Farmers and Agribusiness

Steven Van Elk

If society expects to function smoothly, it must excel at the education and training of the public as they enter the workforce. Many of us have it drilled into our heads from a young age that there are only a few pathways to reliable career success after high school: attend college or opt for an apprenticeship program. However, the risk-averse majority often disregards another option, which isn’t a career in entertainment. For those out there with a penchant for hard work, a novel idea, and a bit of luck, starting a small business could be the ideal road to long-term financial success and immense personal satisfaction. 

In many people’s eyes, the problem with starting a small business lies in the idea that the era of entrepreneurism has left the younger generations behind. Today, more than 40% of Americans aged 25–34 have said that the fear of going belly-up pushed them away from starting one and instead toward the college or trade school route. And they wouldn’t be wrong to do so — 30% fewer businesses were created in 2019 compared to 1970, and the last 30 years have seen a decline in new business creation of nearly 50%.

This shocking trend is a major reason behind new efforts by states like Indiana to rekindle that entrepreneurial flame by offering business grants and training programs. Of these programs, one of particular interest is the new Indiana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Agribusiness Initiative, which offers current and future small-scale farmers specialty business training and advising at no-cost to grow their operations efficiently. 

Photo Courtesy Marta Ortigosa

The recent announcement is a collaboration between state organizations, including the Indiana SBDC, the Purdue Center for Regional Development, Purdue Extension, and the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. The program is designed for farmers and any Indiana resident that owns or would like to start a small agricultural business. Startups like a drone-based farm data service company or an improved nitrogen fertilization company would be encouraged to apply, as would those who work on the agricultural commodity side.

Participants can enjoy free access to various business advisory and training programs, including financing, crop yield projections, loan packaging for U.S. Department of Agriculture funding, value-added product development, and commodity-exporting.

The move has garnered immediate praise from local industry figures as the state looks forward to the future of agribusiness. “Small business development is big business for the state of Indiana,” says David Watkins, director of Indiana’s SBDC and vice president of small business for Indiana Economic Development Corp. “Entrepreneurs and small businesses are fundamental to the future growth and sustainability of communities across the state, and this partnership will focus on providing small Hoosier agribusinesses with the tools, resources, and training they need to start, grow, and innovate.”

Photo Courtesy Nandu Kumar

Initiatives like these are especially crucial for farm-heavy states like Indiana, where the agricultural sector is an economic contributor of more than $30 billion each year. Current estimates put the total number of Indiana farmers at 94,000, with more than 15 million acres of farmland currently in operation. 

“Over the past few decades, the needs of Hoosier agribusinesses have rapidly evolved,” said Bruce Kettler, state department of agriculture director. “This initiative recognizes the critical role agribusinesses, supply networks, and distribution channels play in helping to ensure a strong Indiana economy.”

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