An Assessment of University Agri-Entrepreneurship and Value Added Programs

November 30, 2008 - William A Knudson and H Christopher Peterson

The Issue

A recent trend in land-grant university programs has been the emergence of entrepreneurship as a content topic for teaching, research and extension. This emergence is likely related to the so-called “value added” movement in agriculture over the last decade. Value-added ventures were encouraged by government policy and by market opportunities to create more consumer-oriented, niche products by transforming agricultural commodities right on the farm or through producer-owned processing. A focus on entrepreneurship was a logical part of developing such ventures. 

A number of land-grant universities have programs that deal with agri-entrepreneurship and value added agriculture. However, there has been very little  work done on the structure, services offered and effectiveness of these programs. Parcell and Sykuta analyzed the interest in agri-entrepreneurship at the undergraduate level at the University of Missouri, and Ulmer et al analyzed the economic impact of firms assisted by the Oklahoma Food and Agricultural Products Center. One of the few, if only, studies that assessed more than one state program was carried out by Woods and Hoagland that analyzed seven programs located primarily in the Midwest and South.

Given the growing interest in agri-entrepreneurship, there is a need to expand the analysis of such programs beyond the limited research done to date. This paper is based on a survey of land-grant and related universities. The analysis of the structure of agrientrepreneurship programs and how performance is measured is provided, as well as an accounting of the universities that offer some type of agri-entrepreneurship and value added program.


An internet search was conducted to obtain the names of contact persons at every land grant university, both the 1862 and 1890 schools, as well as selected universities that were known to have departments of agricultural economics, agribusiness or similar departments. A questionnaire was mailed to the contact person. A total of 70 questionnaires were sent with 18 responses. Of the 18 respondents, six are located in the South, three are located in the West, one is from a Mid-Atlantic state, two are from the Northeast, and six are located in the Midwest. Of the six Southern schools, two are 1890  institutions. All but one represent public universities, and there is one public university that is not part of a land grant institution.

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