Profitable Farming From a 25¢ Investment

A savvy teenager demonstrates that profitable farming is a matter of identifying underserved markets.

| January/February 1983

Sometimes, when I hear folks talk about how irresponsible and lazy today's younger generation is, it's all I can do not to get up on a soapbox and argue the point. You see, my 15-year-old son Jim has taught me that stereotypes aren't always accurate. In fact, using initiative, forethought, and honest hard work, that lad (a member of the "irresponsible" generation) showed profitable farming is possible with an original investment of only 25¢!

Lesson 1: A-Maize-Ment

My "continuing education" started about two years ago when Jim (aged 13 then) informed me that he wanted to earn a little extra money and that he needed a small loan to get started. Well, I asked him just what sort of enterprise he had in mind. He figured, he said, that if a fellow raised something nobody else wanted to bother with, maybe that "something" would be kind of rare around harvest time. And a thing that's hard to come by, Jim had concluded, ought to bring a good market price.

I wasn't so sure the price/supply relationship was all that cut and dried, but I let him get a bit more specific about his plans and found that he wanted to try his hand at raising Indian corn. No one near us grew it, it seemed, and Jim thought he might just be able to corner the market. Furthermore, he assured me, all he needed to get started was 25¢ for seeds and the use of any waste land I had to spare.

Well, shoot. I figured I didn't stand to lose more than a quarter, so why not let the boy try his wings if he had a mind to? If he got them clipped a little, at least the experience wouldn't hurt him much. So I said, "Sure, go ahead" and gave Jim the 25¢ plus the "rights" to a patch of ground at the east end of our orchard, where some old peach trees had died.

That young fellow sure wasn't short on enthusiasm: He got busy clearing his corn patch with the tractor the very next morning. And a few days later, a large truck carrying a load of rotten fish pulled into our road. My son directed the driver to "his" field and had all that reeking waste dumped on the newly cultivated soil. Jim explained to me (as I hastily moved to a position upwind of the garden-to-be) that since he didn't have enough money to buy commercial fertilizer, he'd decided to do what the Indians did: feed his corn with fish. He'd called around and found a seafood market that was willing to bring its waste out free of charge just to get rid of it!

At this point I was beginning to feel more than a little proud of my young entrepreneur. But I told myself the real test would be in the crop, so I decided to reserve judgment on the project.

Jason Roberson_1
1/27/2009 5:04:38 PM

I love it when someone makes something from little or nothing at all, especially children. What an inspirational story that all of us can benefit from. It reminds me of the chocolate business that my son started at the age of 8. After much trial and error, he is turning into quite the entrepreneur himself. Jim, keep up the great work and Todd, great article bud!

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