Youth Entrepreneurship Program Leads to Farm Stand Success!

A new partnership between Penn State Extension and the Hilltop Urban Farm aims to teach youth about entrepreneurship by giving them real world experience.

Extension Associate Molly Berntsen at farm stand with youth entrepreneurs. (Photo by Ned Brockmeyer)

This summer, the Hilltop Urban Farm in Mt. Oliver, Pittsburgh hosted it’s very first neighborhood farm stand. Who was running the show? Middle school students. The farm stand was the culmination of a new youth entrepreneurship program developed and delivered in partnership with Penn State Extension.

Extension Education Associate Molly Berntsen used her past experience as a youth educator combined with her experience on the Business Management & Community Vitality team to create youth-oriented curriculum covering the foundations of entrepreneurship, business management, accounting, merchandising, and customer service.

After learning these business basics, the students, ranging in age from 6th to 8th grade, set to work designing their farm stand. They were responsible for every aspect of the stand, from the vegetables they decided to harvest and sell, to the prices, to the market setup, and they even opted to slice up the two sugar baby watermelons that were ready for harvest and use them as “free samples” to draw neighbors to the stand.

The market was a great success, drawing over 30 customers and earning over $250! Most of that money went back to the Hilltop Farm, but each student got to leave with one crisp $5 bill which was very well earned. For the two hours it was open the market served a consistent flow of neighbors and friends of the Hilltop Urban Farm.

“Our Young Farmers Camp was meant to give the youth a taste of what it meant to be an entrepreneurial farmer by choosing what to sell, how to market and price the product, and finally treating customers to excellent service,” said Ned Brockmeyer, Youth Farm Director at Hilltop. “With the help of Molly from Penn State Extension, these kids had an amazing experience that allowed them to understand that their hard work on the farm can lead to a livelihood that has both monetary and social value. We look forward to our next youth farmer’s market and know that we can continue to grow the success from the first one.”

Looking forward, Berntsen sees many opportunities for entrepreneurship programming with middle and high school aged students, both with the Hilltop Urban Farm and with other entities in and around Pittsburgh. When students are given an opportunity to put their knowledge to use in a tangible way, the lessons learned are internalized in a practical, real world manner. Students can dream bigger having proven to themselves that they already possess the ability to create something real that has impact.

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