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Small Businesses Can Reap Big Rewards

The American Farm Bureau Federation is now accepting applications for the 2016 Farm Bureau Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, the first national business competition focused exclusively on rural entrepreneurs developing food and agriculture businesses. The challenge, now in its second year, provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to showcase ideas and business innovations being cultivated in rural communities across the United States.

“The inaugural challenge successfully identified rural entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, proving that great business ideas can germinate anywhere,” AFBF President Bob Stallman said. “We’re excited to see the new crop of ideas our members will bring to the table this year.”

Local businesses are the heartbeat of rural communities, which is why Farm Bureau wants to reward and encourage that entrepreneurial spirit. The challenge is an important tool for highlighting the hard work and ingenuity of rural businesses. Commitment to helping rural communities thrive is what drives this competition, with the challenge awarding $145,000 to the top 10 businesses. The final four entrepreneurs will compete in a live “Shark-Tank”-style competition, similar to last year’s, at AFBF’s 97th Annual Convention in Orlando, Florida, in January.

ScoutPro, Inc., the 2015 Rural Entrepreneur of the Year, said the final four portion of the challenge provided their business the invaluable opportunity to network across the agriculture and rural development industry. In addition to creating networking opportunities, the challenge will work 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 capital,” Dr. Lisa Benson, AFBF’s director of rural development, said. “The challenge and crowdfunding are great opportunities for small rural business owners to access necessary funding to take their business to the next level.”

To apply, rural entrepreneurs need to submit a business plan, video pitch and photo by June 30. Additionally, 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 in a town with less than 2,500 residents.

If you have a great idea for a rural business or want to expand your existing business in a new way, this challenge is for you. It could be your chance to win $30,000 in startup funds to take your business to the next level!

The competition timeline, detailed eligibility guidelines, the online application and profiles of the 2015 finalist teams are available at

Jessica Wharton is a communications assistant at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

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