The Farmer as Entrepreneur

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: Southern
State: Louisiana
Principal Investigator:
Mike Tarantino
Iberia Industrial Development Foundation


  • Agronomic: sugarcane


  • Farm Business Management: economic/marketing

    Proposal abstract:

    In the heart of South Central Louisiana's "Cajun Country" lies Iberia Parish, the state's largest producer of sugar cane. The parish, with a population of less than 75,000, is highly dependant on its agriculture base where generations of families have lived the farming lifestyle passing on the knowledge, love of the land, and physical infrastructure from generation to generation. Over 97% of the existing businesses in the parish have 20 or fewer employees with many counting on the farming community to purchase their goods and services. Family farms have operated as small businesses with family members acting as bookkeepers and office managers. Most have access to accountants and other professionals but lack the business experience and formal training to implement and utilize advanced business practices. With the passing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), and the prospect of other future trade agreements,and the expected negative effects on sugar producers they will create, these family farmers are desperately searching for ways to survive and diversify. In addition, two area sugar mills have recently closed creating unemployment and confusion among the area's support businesses. "Farmers as Entrepreneurs" will fill a void that currently exists by providing information, technical assistance, and training to the farming community. Through round tables, workshops and seminars, as well as one-on-one assistance, the Iberia Industrial Development Foundation (IDF), which is the economic development agency for the parish, along with its partner agencies, will utilize its pilot rural "wall-less business incubator" system to assist these farmer families in utilizing established business methods in evaluating their current and future business opportunities. This initiative will work with the historical farming community allies such as the American SugarCane League, LSU Agriculture Center, and the Greater Iberia Chamber of Commerce as well as the Cajun Sugar Co-op, Parish and City Government, State & Federal agencies and other interested parties to address the growing need for technical business assistance for family farms. By quantifying and communicating the expected impact of CAFTA and other trade agreements, and creating a mechanism to spur long-term planning for the community, the process will promote wise and productive choices for future uses of these family farms' assets and natural resources.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The Primary Goal of the "Farmers as Entrepreneurs" program is to create a process where farmers view themselves as entrepreneurs to ensure their future viability in a changing environment.

    Due to the recent passage of CAFTA, and the closure of two area sugar mills, local sugarcane producers are searching for ways to sustain themselves and the farming lifestyle for future generations. The program will assist them in the following ways:

    1) Calculate the expected economic impact on Iberia Parish farmers from CAFTA and proposed future legislation and the resulting impact on local businesses and the community.

    2) Introduce SWOT analysis as a local mechanism for long-term community planning to offset negatives created by these expected impacts and develop a list of what programs and initiatives are needed by this sugar producing community.

    3) Provide a local support mechanism and methodology for producers, landowners and others to utilize when evaluating new business ventures and diversification opportunities.

    4) Provide business technical assistance to area farmers and affected businesses through seminars, workshops and one-on-one counseling.

    5) Create community awareness based on the facts of the impacts of pending trade agreements and communicate the assistance available to area farmers and business owners.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.