In an effort to provide youth with hands-on experience, an Eastern Ontario crop farm and grain elevator is now accepting applications for their competition of who can find the most sustainable, profitable, and unique use for one acre of land. The winner will receive $10,000 towards post-secondary education.
“We wanted to do something within the community and tie in some of our passions. We were having a meeting one day, everyone chimed in, and this is where it led to,” said Erin Leduc, who manages the grain and trucking businesses at Wanna Make It Farm at Moose Creek, in North Stormont Township.
Leduc’s farm will generously supply land and a $1,000 startup loan for the selected candidates. Anyone between the ages of 13 and 18 can apply, individually or with a team, from Nov. 1 to Dec. 1. Ap- plicants are required to provide a business plan and the selection process will take place in January of 2022.
Leduc said they’ve already received lots of positive feedback. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from everyone excited to see where it leads,” she said.
Upon acceptance into the challenge, the chosen four teams will each be given one-quarter of an acre and 10 months to carry out their business plans. During the entire length of the challenge, Leduc’s farm will bring in business professionals to aid the young farmers in their work, providing top-notch mentorship specific to each business plan.
“They’ll get experience in multiple different facets, like coming up with a plan, accounting, managing money, budgeting, execution, a bit of HR to work together in a group, sales and marketing, lots of different stuff they’ll touch on and learn, developing skills,” Leduc said.
Creativity in generating a profitable and sustainable cash crop is key to winning this challenge. A business plan that cannot be maintained year after year will not win, nor prove itself to be successful in the real world.
“There’s all kinds of hopes for what this will do. Maybe spark children who aren’t in ag to become interested or see di erent facets of it and have an opportunity where they may never have had that chance,” Leduc said. “We want to spark anyone, really, to try something entrepreneurial, maybe they didn’t realize they had a are or passion for that.”
Apart from the benefits of a farming kickstart and professional help, the participants keep the profits they make. Participants will gain experience in maintaining a profit, a necessary tool for anyone seeking to farm later on.
There are some rules: nothing illegal or harmful can be grown on the land. Unique concepts are most desirable; common row crops will not win the challenge. Lots can be done with one acre of land, and the plan does not necessarily have to be agricultural. “There’s no limitations, we wanted to keep it as open as possible,” Leduc said.
Above all, the challenge is meant to provide youth with real-life experience and reward the winner with an opportunity for further education. A blend of applied agriculture experiences and classroom instruction provides a solid foundation for noteworthy agriculturists. “I think it’s important to get education of some kind,” Leduc said. “We’re trying to help people build on their future. It may be a good stepping stone in the right direction for these people.”
The 1-Acre Challenge website promotes the program, saying, “You either earn or you learn.”