Agriculture and entrepreneurship: The perspective of an observer

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Some months ago I had the opportunity to be involved in the ENTREDU ICT-PSP project, a project that aims to explore the current status of the entrepreneurship education and to support both the teachers and schools (primary and secondary ones) to develop the pedagogies, concepts and curricula required for entrepreneurship education. Since my involvement was focused on the identification of the state of the art and the available related data sources, I actually managed to identify several of them, including metadata aggregators, digital repositories and websites which provided access to related learning material and useful information. Taking into consideration my agricultural education background, it made sense to me to see how this information and approach could be applied in the agricultural sector. It was a good thing that the data sources were domain-agnostic, providing information about entrepreneurship in general, which of course could be easily adapted for use in any domain, including agriculture. It was also important for me to understand that entrepreneurship education covers several educational levels, including secondary, vocational training and even adult learning.

 

 

However, I soon realized that I needed to get my hands on something less generic and more focused in agriculture; this is when I came across an excellent FAO publication, titled “Entrepreneurship in farming” (PDF) by David Kahan, Senior Officer in FAO’s Agricultural. Management, Marketing and Rural Finance Service. According to the author, “the purpose of this guide is to provide a better understanding of the concept and practice of entrepreneurship. With this understanding it is hoped that extension workers will be better able to help farmers develop the skills and spirit of an entrepreneur”. Since I didn’t intend to get into details and become an agricultural entrepreneurship expert myself, I quickly went through the book and realized that I found what I was looking for. The 123-page long document includes the following chapters:

 

  1. Chapter 1: Understanding entrepreneurship in farming, including all the necessary basic principles and concepts of entrepreneurship and its application in the agricultural context;
  2. Chapter 2: Entrepreneurial responses to change, which includes, among others, information about the role of the value in the supply chain and the optimization of the process, as well as the role of the new technologies;
  3. Chapter 3: Entrepreneurial qualities, which focuses on the qualities (such as characteristics, skills & competencies etc.) required by an agricultural entrepreneur;
  4. Chapter 4: Building entrepreneurship skills, which details the skills needed by an agricultural entrepreneur;
  5. Chapter 5 Extension support for developing entrepreneurial capacity, focuses on the role of the extensionists/extension officers in the capacity building for agricultural entrepreneurship.

I personally believe that this is a publication that everyone needs to read if he/she wants to get substantial information on the agricultural entrepreneurship.

In the context of European projects, Agro-Know was recently involved in the project V-3DAS: Virtual 3D Agri-Stage, a project co-funded by the European Commission in the context of the Lifelong Learning Programme– KA3. The project aimed to “offer farmers of the new generation a technological training tool able to help them to understand the importance to be entrepreneurs, to acquire the entrepreneurial mindset, to interact within a dimension oriented to the market and to run their farms in a managerial perspective: not as an enterprise that produces for the subsistence thanks to the EC funds, but with the possibility of alternative sources of income“. Despite the fact that Agro-Know was not a consortium member from the beginning of the project, we managed to provide substantial feedback and significantly contribute to the successful end of the project, including the organization of a number of trainings in Greece, as well as exploring common ground with the OER Growers trainings that AK was offering at that point.

Of course, there is a wealth of related information online, including multimedia files (presentations, videos etc.), publications and other material. One of them, which I distinguished for obvious reasons, is the following video which describes case studies of Greek agro-food entrepreneurs who present their experiences in developing their own business while specialists describe the future of this sector in Greece. The video is in Greek but with English subtitles.

 

 

At the educational level, I found extremely useful the Agri-Entrepreneurship Education Program of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization. This set of twelve free lesson plans were recently developed that educators can use to teach various entrepreneurial concepts. The Agri-Entrepreneurship Program is sponsored by USDA Rural Development as a special project of the National FFA Foundation and the curriculum is based on the U.S. standards.

Last but not least, for anyone interested in more practical information and learning from the experiences, or just interested in a “lighter” article on entrepneurship, you may take a look at the Lifehacker article titled “Five Things I Learned In My First Year of Entrepreneurship” which includes some do’s and dont’s for anyone planing to start his/her own enterprise. This of course falls into the adult learning category, targeting people who wish to become entrepreneurs without having a related background.

I admit that this article sees things from the view of an observer; despite the fact that I have made my research on the topic, I never aimed to start my own business. However, I strongly believe that there is a wealth of information and resources on entrepreneurship education, which might be appropriate for a diverse audience, ranging from students and general audience to farmers and other professionals who wish to take a step further and move from the position of a producer to the one of a business owner.

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