American Farm Bureau’s Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge helps boost rural innovation and business, a critical part of the rural economy. Four finalist teams in the competition will compete for a total of $30,000 in prize money at the 2018 AFBF Annual Convention & IDEAg Trade Show in January, in addition to already being awarded $15,000. Anne Hazlett, who leads USDA’s Rural Development efforts, says the competition gives rural entrepreneurs opportunity.
“The conditions in many rural communities right now are incredibly challenging,” she said. “Rural entrepreneurship is a powerful response to begin reversing some of the sobering trends that we see. It’s so important that we have organizations like AFBF that are partnering with entrepreneurs to help them transform rural communities.”
She says the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge highlights the food and agriculture markets in rural communities, and makes them more attractive for the next generation.
“Contest like the Challenge really create a forum where we can share best practices so that other emerging businesses that have big dreams, big plans, can come along and see what has worked well for others, and then be able to tap into that essential capital more quickly and to grow and succeed.”
She says contests like the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge help USDA fulfill its mission for rural development.
“We’re focused really on three specific priorities with that core mission that we have of facilitating economic opportunity in rural places and that is our interest and our focus on infrastructure. Second is a focus on partnerships. And then finally, we’re really focused on innovation.”
Final four teams this year are from Tennessee, West Virginia, Iowa, and Utah.