Family kicks in $10,000 to boost Young Farmers

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A column by Tom Van Dusen

Alain and Sue Leduc built what they have from scratch… and they have a lot.

Although both are from farm backgrounds, circumstances early on required that Sue work as a nurse and Alain in a local agribusiness for several years.

Along the way they built their Wanna Make It Farm at Moose Creek into a mega business with thousands of acres of cropland, elevator and commercial drying, seed dealership, grain marketing services, trucking and excavation, all of it employing 40 people, two of them Leduc offspring.

The name of the farm says it all and Alain readily connects the secret to continued success and expansion to the decision by both kids, Erin and Patrick, to stay in the family firm.

Now the Leducs want to give a leg up to other young people with the same ambition. They’ve come up with a competition to appeal to 13-18 year olds with an interest in agri-business, giving them a chance to express agribusiness ideas and to try them out for a substantial reward.

Project coordinator Garret Munro, grain logistics coordinator at Wanna Make It, said there’s nothing in the region like the 1-Acre Challenge to help young people focus on the business side of farming. While Junior Farmers and 4-H have their place, they’re not really about instilling business practices, Munro stated.

The Leducs have set aside one acre where four teams will be invited to compete on one quarter each for total prize money of $10,000 contributed by the family towards post-secondary education costs.

There’s no charge to participate and the Leducs will also make available up to $1,000 in no-interest, repayable seed money.  Applications from individuals or teams will be accepted Nov.1-Dec.1, with four to be chosen.

Entries will be assessed by Munro and family members; no other agricultural organization is involved. A business plan must be submitted along with the application available on the 1-Acre Challenge website. Top candidates will be selected for an interview Jan. 1-31 of next year.

While the contest is open to all, Munro expects most applicants to come from Eastern Ontario partly because they must have daily transportation to the site.

The objective is to find the most unique, sustainable and profitable use of the land, Munro explained. While submitted projects don’t have to be pure agriculture, he suspects most of them will be.

Although it’s far from the goal, Munro allowed the contest might tap into a potential source of future workers which are almost always needed at Wanna Make It. Winning candidates will have 10 months to implement their proposals, mentored and guided along the way by business professionals. They’ll be allowed to keep any profits minus loan repayments from their projects.

“You simply can’t lose,” the 1-acre Challenge website enthuses. “You either learn or you earn. If you’re not chosen as the winner, you’ll still walk away all of your profits and a wealth of knowledge in business and management that can kick-start your career.”

Applicants are invited to let their “imaginations run wild”… within limits! Nothing illegal can be grown on the Leduc acre, nor can anything be done that might harm the environment, the soil, or interfere with neighbouring crops. More lessons learned!

It’s uplifting to see such a prominent farm family which has accomplished so much try to impart some of what they’ve learned along the way to those coming along behind.

Read Ontario’s premier agricultural publication — Farmers Forum

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