“New this year, competitors must submit an idea for a business that is related directly or indirectly to food and agriculture,” said Dr. Lisa Benson, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s director of rural development. “This competition aims to address Farm Bureau’s mission to enhance and strengthen the lives of rural Americans to build strong, prosperous agricultural communities. We believe supporting rural businesses that relate in some way to food and agriculture is a winning strategy to accomplish this.”
Businesses directly related to food and agriculture include farms or ranches, processing facilities, value-added food processing, food hubs, community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farm-to-table restaurants and farmers’ markets. Businesses indirectly related to food and agriculture include support services such as crop scouting, agritourism, ag advertising agencies and ag tech companies that develop apps.
Also new, Farm Bureau will endeavor to connect top-scoring teams with resources for crowdfunding loans to help them jumpstart their businesses.
“Taking a startup company from innovative concept, to strategy, to reality often hinges on access to funding,” Benson said. “The challenge and crowdfunding are great options for small rural business owners to access necessary funding to take their business to the next level.”
Applications for the competition will be accepted beginning June 1 through June 30. Entrepreneurs will compete for $145,000 in startup funds. The challenge, now in its second year, provides an opportunity for individuals to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural regions of the United States. It is the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs working on agribusinesses.
Again this year, competitors must be based in a rural community as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Competitors’ primary residences or businesses must be located in a county with less than 50,000 residents or a town with less than 2,500 residents.
The application includes a business plan, video pitch and photo. Judges will review the applications and provide feedback to the participants. Participants have the option of resubmitting portions of their applications based on feedback from the judges; resubmission is optional and participants are not penalized for not resubmitting their applications.
The top 10 teams will be announced on Oct. 15. This includes six teams who will win $10,000 in startup funds and four finalist teams who will win $15,000 in startup funds and compete in a live competition at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, in January.
Finalists will compete for the grand prize title Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneur of the Year and $15,000 in additional startup funds to implement their ideas. One of the finalists also will be honored with the People’s Choice Award and $10,000 in additional startup funding.
The challenge timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines and profiles of the 2015 finalist teams are available online at http://www.strongruralamerica.com/challenge. A preview of the online application is available. Applications may be submitted online beginning June 1.
Judges for the challenge come from a wide range of economic development backgrounds, including banking, universities and rural development non-profit organizations. Farm Bureau staff at the county, state and national level may not serve as judges.