Agritourism: People Will Come

I am a farm boy. Grew up on a what today would be a small farm. My summers and after-school hours were spent working on the farm. Days were long and there was always something to do. Putting up hay always happened around July 4th.

For most of my farming friends, this was a way of life yet few people ever came by to see what we were doing, well maybe the relatives. There was no reason as many had grown up farming or were closely connected with the people who worked the land such as a relative or family friend.

Making hay

Making Hay (CC) by Stephen, on Flickr

In my world, I couldn’t imagine getting people to come and pay money to load hay, shovel grain, feed cows, or just wander the farm.

Today, this has all changed. People are now looking for an experience, and agritourism experiences are capturing interest. For those of us old enough, we may remember the movie “City Slickers.” . Today, some of us want to relive those days or may be a desire to learn more about where our food comes from or to experience something our ancestors once did. For a third group, it is making connections with our history.

Visiting an agritourism operation

An agritourism experience (CC) Jessica Reeder, on Flickr

Agritourism can be a business opportunity. From pick-your-own to pumpkin patches and corn mazes to dude ranches to birding and wildlife to a bed and breakfast, all of these can be developed into a profitability venture. They can be near, or even in, the city but can also be well away from the beaten path.

Not only can such businesses be economic engines for the business owner but communities can also build around those efforts. Visitors will want to see other local sites, they are interested in local history and they want to spend money, for food, beverages, gas, souvenirs, etc. The community needs to be able and willing to offer those items as well as to help link agritourism and other business owners together as collaborators.

Now may be a great time for developing agritourism on your farm/ranch and in your community. They can be good business opportunities? It may not be right for everyone (do you want people on your farm or ranch?). It may be something to consider though if you are looking for new ways to use assets you already have.

You can get more help from your local Extension office. In terms of marketing, online marketing is so important today so check out: Marketing Agritourism Online


Valentine’s Day – Thinking of . . . . Business??

Valentine heart

Photo (CC) by moonlightbulb, on Flickr

Just before Valentine’s Day for the past 10 years or so, my phone will ring a few times with a reporter on the other end wanting to discuss couples and being in business together (probably not how you expected that sentence to end).

Copreneurs, or couples in business together, seem to be a fascinating topic this time of the year. Most writers are interested in knowing if there are more or fewer couples operating a business together? Another popular question is why do they do it? And the third most common question is does it make for a stronger business?

Considering the copreneurial couple is not a new topic. Two authors, Barnett and Barnett, in 1988, coined the term copreneurs. The first chapter of their book, Working Together, sets the basic assumption for why they do it. The title of the chapter is “An End to Separate Lives and Separate Agendas.” The idea of working together is considered utopian with both spouses spending time together at work and at home.

My colleague, Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald, and I have been exploring this unique business structure for over a dozen years. In our work, copreneurs made up about 1/3 of all family businesses. That may mean 1.5 to 3 million family businesses or more are owned by such couples. Yet anytime such claims are made, you need to consider the definitions being used. One common means of defining copreneurs is by ownership. Such data is more common than what we used and is often considered an appropriate proxy. Yet ownership does not define involvement in the business which we considered important. Our definition asked if the spouse was a major decision maker. Both individuals also had to be working in the business.

But is it utopia? That question is much harder to answer. In our study, copreneurs made less income but were nearly as satisfied with the success of their business as were other family business owners. This may have come from the fact that copreners feel more strongly that the business is a way of life and not just a way to earn income. Income is less of a driving force as being able to achieve a blended relationship both at work and at home. This question really depends on how the couple choses to define success.

Being a copreneurial business has it difficulties though. Some couples express reservations about whether or not they could make this type of ownership work. Those that try it discuss issues such as role clarification and the need to capitalize on the skills of each person as being important. Most people approach me with a traditional structure in mind with the husband as the business owner and the wife working in the business. Yet we find that situation is often reversed, again based on skills and who holds the strongest passion for the business.

Is running a copreneurial business a good option? It may or it may not be. The couple, not those of us on the outside, must measure the positives and negatives in doing so. And just like not all relationships remain together, not all copreneurial couples remain in business together. The personal relationship continues but the business one does not. And the reasons why such businesses start and stop remain hazy. We know business income has some influence as does the personal relationship remaining intact. Additional understanding of such business relationships requires more evaluation.

So for you copreneurs, enjoy this Valentine’s Day as you greet the customers, tend the till and stock the shelves. To everyone else, you only have candy, flowers, dinner and cards to get you through.

eXtension FREE Webinar – Blogging for Food

eXtension Online Marketing Webinar Series
February 13, 2014
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
The eXtension Entrepreneurship webinar winter series focus is
marketing online and enhancing their online marketing strategy.
February 13 – Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
Starting your own business is not an easy task especially if you are involved with the food industry – after much research it was evident there were few resources where ‘foodies’ could ask questions and get helpful information. Jennifer Lewis will share her experience with creating a blog to provide resourceful knowledge to the artisan food community.   Learn how a blog could be useful for your business to engage with customers.

Follow Entrepreneurs and Their Communities at:
March 13
– Incorporating Video into the Marketing Strategy
Presented by Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures
Video today is as important today as content marketing.  Learn how Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures uses video to explain what their business is about, how they can share customer experiences, and what it takes to create short video segments to benefit your business.

All webinars will air monthly on the second Thursday at  1:00pm (CT); 12:00pm(MT); at  Webinars are recorded for your convenience and are archived at


Home Based Architect Runs Business From Home

Home Business

Home Business

Guest Blogger – Richard Proffer, Business Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension

As more Americans try to fit work into their busy lifestyle, one solution is to work off-site if the company allows it. For many entrepreneurs, working off site is as common as a PBJ sandwich is to afterschool children wanting a snack. In fact, many entrepreneurs work from their home. Some love it and others find it trying sometimes with all the potential distractions.

Rebecca Ward is a home based entrepreneur who owns a historic preservation architectural firm in Jackson, MO. She has been self-employed for about five years now when her corporate job was moved out of town and she could not. Her interest in historic preservation is strong as she has worked on many projects in the area and across the state. She likes taking a building back to its roots and then making it “live” again in the modern day world. She has been a client of Richard Proffer’s for about three years. He is a business development counselor in the University of Missouri Extension’s Business Development Program where he operates a small business technology development center in Jackson.

Richard recently had an interview with Rebecca where she talked openly about her experiences as a home based entrepreneur.

Why did you want to work from home?

Prior to moving to Cape Girardeau County, I worked for a design-build construction firm where I traveled seventy miles to the office, two, sometimes three days a week. I worked at home the remaining days. It was the perfect mix for the job. I communicated and socialized with coworkers in weekly meetings in the office and had uninterrupted project time at home.

This last time around it was less a planned adventure. I was working as a corporate architect for a national chain, when the upper management made the decision to relocate the architectural department to St. Louis. The architects were offered moving expenses or a limited time contract to work at home until a replacement could be hired in the city. It was a bad time to move the family, so I began working at home, the corporation keeping me just as busy as I was prior to the office relocation. It was a great time to work at home, I knew when the kids arrived home, and it was no issue if I needed to run an errand or take a child to the dentist, I could work in the evening to make up the time.

What are the advantages of working at home?

It is so much cheaper! I don’t spend the half-an-hour driving in the morning and then again in the evening, and I don’t use the gas. Lunch is in the kitchen, I save the money I would have spent eating out. I also schedule my own time, so if I need to move work around so that I can help out with one of my volunteer obligations for example, it is not an issue.

There are no distractions, unless you choose to be distracted.

I make my own hours, if a client needs to meet at 7 am, 7 pm or on a Sunday afternoon it isn’t a problem, I can just move tasks around.

What are the disadvantages of working at home?

I miss teamwork. Projects are always better with an extra set of eyes. That is why I involve my clients so much in their projects. It is extremely important to me that my client understand that I am working for them, to do the best possible solution for their project, and that it meets their needs. I also miss the social aspect of the office. Although I am an introvert by nature, I do like company. I certainly don’t miss the politics of the corporation, the backstabbing, the maneuvering and the unprofessional mean-girl behavior that seemed to go along with how much a person feels undervalued.

What has changed in your work style while at working at home instead of the former corporate setting?

My time is spent much more efficiently. I spent countless hours listening to co-workers who had come into my office to complain while I tried to finish for a deadline, a by-product of being a good listener. Now, when I am done with a project, I don’t have to stay at my desk looking busy, as sometimes required when working for someone else.

What would you change in work from home?

Ideally, I would like a separate client area. While most of my work involves existing buildings, so I typically go to the building. But a few of my clients do new construction, and they feel more comfortable coming to me. Ideally, since I specialize in historic preservation/reuse architecture, my long term goal is to own a downtown building when I can live above my office.

What advice would you give people starting a home based business?

If you have an option, don’t quit your day job until you get your business established. Going out on my own after working for a corporation where I did no public work in my home area left me without a network and name recognition. I would also say not having an advertised location compounded the problem.

I also suggest you get good advice early. I was lucky enough to have a friend that works in the local MU Extension office. She suggested that I contact the new business development specialist that had just been hired for her office. That was the best advice I could have received at that point. I can’t say enough good things about him. Richard Proffer has been amazingly patient, extremely encouraging, great at hand-holding and extremely supportive. A great person to have on my side and someone I consider a good friend.

So readers, you can see there are pluses and minuses for the pitch of working at home. A bit of advice would be think it through and make sure it is what you want.

To learn more about Rebecca, check out her website at

SCORE Looks at Home-Based Businesses

Home office desktopRieva Lesonsky, writing for SCORE, takes a look at home-based businesses. As she notes there are some distinct benefits to being a home-based business owner. Plus some of the past negatives no longer apply. Attitudes have changed and technology has made working from home much easier. the marketplace cannot tell where you work and everything you produce can look just like that of any other firm. Both of these changes has made home-based businesses a desired place from which to work. And the stats she provides reinforce why people like the idea.

Take a look at the article and consider if being home-based is right for you and your business. Don’t forget though to check with the appropriate officials though to make sure it is allowed in your situation based on where you live and the type of business you operate. You can find the full article at:

Farmers and Ranchers as Home-Based Business Owners

Red Trail Vineyard

Red Trail Vineyard

When we think of home-based business owners, farmers and ranchers seldom come to mind. Yet using a definition of operating a business from your home or that property for a profit-making enterprise and farms clearly fit the category.

But if you decide to restrict the definition even further, surprisingly many farm and ranch operations are still found operating a home-based business. Around 18 percent of farm households also operate a nonfarm business. In 2007 these nonfarm businesses employed over 800,000 workers and contributed an estimated $55 billion to the local economy. Now realize that not all of the nonfarm businesses are home-based but the vast majority are.

So what type of businesses are we talking about? Fifty-three percent are in the service sector with an additional 26% in construction and the majority of the rest involved in some value-added agriculture opportunity such as agritourism or value-added ag. The owners are doing this as it allows them to use not only their physical resources of land and equipment more fully but also capitalizes on their own human capital as entrepreneurs. Farm portfolio managers, how these multi-business owners are sometimes categorized, take advantage of their ability to organize resources across competing needs. They just begin doing it on a larger scale. Such farm households earned over $21 billion in income operating these nonfarm businesses.

It should not be a surprise that 69% of the portfolio entrepreneur farmers live in a rural residence. And although overall this groups employees a substantial number of people, the majority of them are sole proprietors meaning they employee no one outside the family.

Bottom line – the next time you think of home-based business owners, don’t forget to include farm and ranch operations especially those who are involved in one or more nonfarm activities.

To read more about the farmer-owned nonfarm business segment:

Operating a Home-Based Business

Home-based furniture maker

Working from home

July finds the ETC blog looking at a large, but relatively unseen, segment of our economy, the home-based business. Ten percent or more of households are involved in one. And some households have several. While often considered to be female-dominated, home-based businesses are owned nearly equally between men and women. While impossible to know, the first businesses were probably home-based. Certainly the early American way-of-life, saw most homes being operated at home or from the property on which the home was located.

Technology has been a boon to home-based business owners. While owners in early years were often viewed as not serious owners because of their location, today with the advent of technology, location has become invisible. Home-based business owners have as much visibility as to owners of brick and mortar shops.

If you are thinking of a home-based business, there are lots of resources that can help including:

– Operating a Home-Based Business –

– Cashing in On Business Opportunities –

– Can I Start a Business in my Home –

– Home-Based Businesses –

Starting from home is a great way to test a business idea while holding down costs. The one key factor is to ensure that you can legally operate from your home. Often this depends on local regulations and codes. Be sure to check these out ahead of time as it may save lots of headaches later or even the possibility of having to close the business down.

For more information regarding home-based businesses, check with your local Extension office.