By Maddie Berwanger, loan officer for the Missouri Agricultural & Small Business Development Authority
Behind the eyes of every farmer, producer and agribusiness owner is a dream to do more with what they have and add value to their business. The agriculture industry is always growing and changing to meet new demands, new markets and new supply chains. The Missouri Agricultural and Small Business Development Authority (MASBDA) offers programs to grow those dreams.
Joe Wilson and Wayne Harth, owners of Missouri Northern Pecan Growers in Nevada, Missouri, started with a dream to do more with what their farm had to offer at face value. They wanted to take their raw products, add value and turn them into profit. The dream stemmed from picking the family trees each year and later grew to custom picking. However, this was not enough for these pecan farmers. They wanted more. In 1999, a group of pecan farmers came together and created the Missouri Northern Pecan Growers, LLC, which then utilized the MASBDA Missouri Value-Added Grant Program to fund a feasibility study. This was the springboard they used to find their future success.
MASBDA’s Value-Added Grant Program offers an inexpensive way to test an idea, or create a business or marketing plan. The materials and information gathered during the studies are tools for farmers, producers and businesses to use to make educated decisions on whether to invest or hold off on business ventures.
In 2001, Missouri Northern Pecan Growers received funding from the Value-Added Grant Program to complete a business and marketing plan. This led to the completion of a processing and cleaning plant where they cleaned and sold pecans themselves. The group also received funding in 2002 for an additional marketing grant to look at new markets and how to best market their products.
In 2003, they received funds from MASBDA for a feasibility study, as well as a marketing and business plan, to see if the business would do well under an organic method of farming. The idea was proven feasible and they started selling processed organic pecans.
The Missouri Northern Pecan Growers have looked at many different business structures and have done the research to set themselves up for success.
“Balance your capital with your marketing and production,” Wilson said. “All three need to grow together. If you over market and don’t have the production or don’t have the capital to meet the sales, then you will upset your suppliers. If any of those three get out of balance, it is going to create problems for you.”
The Missouri Northern Pecan Growers returned to MASBDA and applied for the Value-Added Farm-To-Table Grant Program in 2019. The program is used by producers and farmers who are selling or plan to sell products to schools and institutions in Missouri. They were approved in January and those funds will be used to build a commercial freezer as part of a community kitchen. Upon completion of the freezer, the Missouri Northern Pecan Growers will market and sell pecans to schools and institutions.
For more information on the Missouri Value-Added Grant Program, Value-Added Farm-To-Table Grant or other financial assistance programs MASBDA offers, visit Agriculture.Mo.Gov or call (573) 751-2129.