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Why Italian graduates are choosing life on the farm

Discussion in 'Business Models, Niches, Industries' started by MTF, Apr 17, 2019 at 2:42 AM.

  1. MTF
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    MTF Never give up Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Watch the video first:


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B29EuKANqmE


    Italy's youth is breathing new life into the country's rural areas. In the past two years, the number of young graduates - often from urban centres - starting up their businesses in the countryside has increased by 35%. Many are driven by a deep appreciation of Italy's rich local produce and have a good understanding of environmentally-friendly practices. These new forms of agriculture are now playing a significant role in youth employment and Italy's economic recovery.

    One couple portrayed in the video makes more than 4000 euros a month farming silk and selling silk products, which, according to the video, is equivalent to the salary of two managers. The other guy who started a farm hired 7 people within a year and runs his company more like an online startup than your standard farm.

    In the video, they mention that most of the young farmers are overqualified for the life on the farm. Which I think is actually a good thing, as the sector isn't particularly sexy for young people and probably needs some disruption.

    Obviously, not every small agricultural business has the potential to scale, but I think that this interesting trend provides a lot of opportunities for the right-minded. I myself feel drawn to this sector even though I've spent my entire business life doing stuff online.

    What do you think are the biggest opportunities in this industry now?

    Some ideas to kick off a discussion:
    • an organic spin on animal products - I recently visited an organic goat farm. They primarily make a living from organic goat cheese they produce themselves. It's different than the stuff you can buy in a supermarket because it doesn't come from over-exploited goats, plus a lot of people want to support real people working on a real farm, not a faceless industrial farm. They also have some rooms for tourists (primarily families from big cities) who want to "get closer to nature" and interact with the goats.
    • an organic spin on vegetables - this is already big, but I believe that it will get even bigger. According to The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower's Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming, the most profitable crops are: 1. Greenhouse tomato, 2. Mesclun mix, 3. Lettuce, 4. Greenhouse cucumber, 5. Garlic, 6. Carrots (bunch), 7. Onion, 8. Pepper, 9. Broccoli, 10. Snow/snap peas. You can sell microgreens to restaurants or maybe sell ready-made boxes you deliver directly on a weekly basis to your customers.
    • an organic spin on fruits - including superfruits which can be sold for higher prices and target primarily a more affluent, health-oriented buyer. Maybe work with a yoga instructor and organize fitness getaways there. You could serve superfruit smoothies, acai bowls, and offer people a unique (to them) experience of working in the orchard.
    • handmade/custom, etc. stuff made from natural materials you grow yourself - ideal for Etsy and similar platforms. A lot of people are interested in "natural" products and the trend is unlikely to stop.
    • a modern take on rural tourism - so many opportunities for rural tourism, like the goat farm I mentioned or countryside fitness getaways. Maybe you could have a small, organic farm mostly to feed yourself and your family and organize workshops to teach others how to do it or just as an educative experience for the kids who parents want them to learn that food doesn't grow in a supermarket.
    Probably not all of these ideas have the potential to become a million-dollar business, but it might still be a pretty interesting way to build a lucrative business given that a lot of people in the "old" industries aren't as entrepreneurial minded as people in the crowded online space.
     
  2. Michael Burgess
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    Michael Burgess Bronze Contributor Speedway Pass

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    I think at a small scale, farming can be just as challenging as any other small business - maybe even more so - but there is definitely lots of opportunity in the industry. There's a growing segment of the population that has disdain for the conventional food system (massive animal factories, pesticides, GMO's, etc), and are seeking alternatives. That's creating demand for different forms of production and distribution.

    The potential market for any agricultural products is massive - in a perfect world, 7+ billion people are hopefully eating something like 3 meals a day, every day, for the rest of their lives. The challenge for anybody in the business lies in finding a profitable niche for their particular circumstances, and repeatedly executing well.

    I hardly expect it to become profitable quickly, but I just bought a 7 acre farm property 30 minutes from Toronto. It's got great fertile soil, I'm immediately next to a river, and plan to produce top quality organic fruits and vegetables for restaurants and retail outlets in the city. It's also going to serve as a place to run my landscaping business from, and camp on whenever I want to "get away". Should be a fun challenge to get a meaningful business there up and running!
     
  3. MTF
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    MTF Never give up Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    100%. And with the higher barrier of entry, the potential consequences of a failure are even worse.

    Definitely. Doing what everybody else is doing will not work in such an industry.

    Sounds awesome! I love that there are so many potential uses of the same plot of land. Do you need to hire full-time workers right away or can you rely on temporary workers?
     
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  4. Michael Burgess
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    Michael Burgess Bronze Contributor Speedway Pass

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    Initially, I'm going to be doing all of the labour myself... hahaha

    I actually love the joy of getting my hands in the soil, building things, and being outside in nature. This business is just as much me enjoying a hobby, as it is something I plan to make profitable. It's not truly "fastlane" to make a business out of something you love, but I don't care. It's going to bring me happiness :)

    The spring weather is just starting to dry up the fields around here, and I haven't decided yet whether or not I will try to run this farm commercially this year or not. I'm already swamped with my landscaping business, and just bought my first 4-unit apartment building in a totally different community, so I'm not sure if I can make the time to actually run it well. Entertaining the idea of producing microgreens, salad greens, and fast-producing veggies this year, while generally improving the farm (planting wind breaks, cover crops, building a road & parking, etc..)
     
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  5. Michael Burgess
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    Michael Burgess Bronze Contributor Speedway Pass

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    Few photos for an idea of what I'm working with... it's the two fields on the right of the satellite image, with a drainage ditch in the middle of them (really wet area). Just got a 30' long free camper the other day, and definitely got stuck in the field dropping it off at the farm... it took two tow trucks to get me out, but now I have somewhere to sleep when I'm out there! haha
     

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  6. MTF
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    MTF Never give up Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED FASTLANE INSIDER Speedway Pass LEGENDARY CONTRIBUTOR

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    Thanks for sharing the pictures, @Michael Burgess. That's a lot of land to work with for one guy!

    Sounds like turning it into a commercial operation in one season would be very difficult for one guy busy with other projects, so taking it step by step is probably your best bet.

    Do you have experience with it?

    That's what I like about this business. It might not generate the same profits as a more "proper" Fastlane business, but in the end we pursue the Fastlane so we can construct an ideal lifestyle—and running such a business might be actually an end in itself.
     
  7. struka
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    struka Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    I love this idea and I think over time we will go back to our roots of having food that is made by local farmers where we get to enjoy it seasonally.
    The thing that makes me wonder is how does it relate to the USA within big corp overtaking small farmers (pushing them out) and all the added laws that make it hard on farmers (I don't know all the details but it is something I have heard so someone may chip in).
     
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  8. Michael Burgess
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    Michael Burgess Bronze Contributor Speedway Pass

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    @MTF Yeah, I do have experience growing food commercially - I had a business like this before on rented land, and it worked pretty well. Grew enough food to sell to a dozen local restaurants, a few farmers markets, and a food co-op I was a part of. I decided to scale up the business in my second year doing it, and moved to a bigger rented property, but had a horrible experience - crap yields, super aggressive weeds, little water, etc. Decided not to grow again until I could own the land...

    @struka I'm not sure if it's laws so much that are really stopping most farmers? Seems to me that it's just economic pressures and demographic trends (average farmer is pretty old) that's really making it an unpopular business
     
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  9. GrandRub
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    GrandRub Contributor I've Read UNSCRIPTED

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    farming is a great thing and also a place for entrepreneurial spirits.
     
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  10. luniac
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    luniac Gold Contributor Read Millionaire Fastlane I've Read UNSCRIPTED Speedway Pass

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    ill take the farm over the office any day
     
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