I have been learning a little bit about the U.S. Cooperative Extension System, as well as other programs designed to assist farmers and rural communities create and sustain viable businesses. Each state's land grant university hosts an Extension program to provide research-based advisory services for anyone, geared toward rural and agricultural endeavors, with offices in counties throughout the state. My interest was piqued by the The University of Tennessee Extension program called MANAGE, which "helps families analyze their total farming business." It made me wonder, why is something like this not more prominent for businesses in urban areas?
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture says that when the Extension system was originally created by Congress, more than half of the population lived in rural areas. The MANAGE program helps farm families look at their financial plans, potential capital investments, "the likely consequences of changing the scope of enterprises," and other areas to help ensure success in a business as challenging as farming. I am not sure of the number of farmers who participate, but if I was a farmer, I would be eager to take part. The benefits of such advice for existing businesses all over the state seem obvious. The gap between entrepreneurship education and a full business degree was what I wanted to see filled by something local, affordable, and with a very similar scope to the MANAGE program before I even knew that program existed. Businesses in any area--rural, urban, or suburban--can benefit from assistance with marketing, risk management, planning, and many other things a farm business must master to be successful.
Then, suddenly, I remembered SCORE and the Small Business Administration. Services DO exist for businesses in urban areas, for little to no cost. SCORE has the same sorts of seminars, webinars, workshops, and other information as the Extension available for anyone with web access, and their offices are located within large population centers. The resources are out there, but the for-profit entrepreneurship programs and business degree programs seem to take precedence, drown them out, diminish their market presence. Knowing these things exist, though, keeps me from working so hard to convince someone to reinvent the wheel and further convinces me that my writing and advocacy could be the best thing I could do to improve the lives of others. Maybe instead of my creating something new, I should write about and highlight the services that already exist. I wonder, is there an app for that?