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Minnesota farm teen already going strong in ag career

Jacob Chisholm is a farmer, investor, entrepreneur, licensed seed salesman and something of an expert on risk management. He's also 17 years old. The Gary, Minn., farm kid operates two agricultural businesses in conjunction with an FFA project. "...

Jacob Chisholm is a farmer, investor, entrepreneur, licensed seed salesman and something of an expert on risk management.

He's also 17 years old.

The Gary, Minn., farm kid operates two agricultural businesses in conjunction with an FFA project.

"I look it as my future. It's worth putting in the time and effort," says Chisholm, a junior at Norman County East.

Now Chisholm is one of 10 winners from around the country in the 2011 National FFA Risk Management Essay. The 10 will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington May 4 to 8 and will be honored at U.S. Department of Agriculture ceremonies.

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He'll meet USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and eat a meal in the secretary's dining room.

Chisholm's essay details the risk management tools and practices used in his FFA project, which he began two years ago.

One component of the business is farming 160 acres of spring wheat, the production of which is marketed to local grain elevators and as wheat seed to area farmers. He has a seed salesman license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

In his farming operation, he uses crop insurance and carefully considered marketing techniques.

Plans to expand

He plans to expand into corn and soybeans this year and into sugar beets in 2012. He'd like to find land in his area to rent and wants "to grow friendships with retiring farmers and (I) promise them that I would care, maintain and preserve the nutrients and productivity of their cropland."

His business also involves four acres of sweet corn and one acre of potatoes, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. The produce is marketed through a roadside stand, local restaurants, flea markets and farmer's markets.

He sells the produce himself. Family members and employees help during picking.

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Chisholm rents the cropland from his grandfather and leases the farm equipment from his father. His grandfather, Keith, and father, William, raise wheat, corn, soybeans and sugar beets in the Gary area.

Jacob Chisholm earned money to start his business by working as a cashier at a convenience store that his parents own near Detroit Lakes, Minn. He invested his earnings in certificates of deposits, bonds and annuities.

He says that working at the store helped him learn to interact and socialize with customers professionally. It's no coincidence that he goes out of his way to thank the people who buy his farm products. He also thanks friends, family and teachers.

Chisholm continues to work at the store to supplement his farm income, which, as he notes, is increasingly common with small farmers.

Big FFA involvement

Chisholm has been active in FFA since his sophomore year in high school. His SP Red River Valley chapter (he's chapter president) is new, an online program serving four separate schools, Norman County East, Crookston, Fisher, and Marshall County Central schools.

SP stands for sparsely populated.

Chisholm's FFA adviser, Amanda Fickes, spends one day a week at each of the schools.

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"He gets things done," she says of Chisholm.

Jacob is involved in just about every activity that FFA offers, and he's advanced to the regional and state level in a number of FFA contest, Fickes says.

Chisholm says he has a life outside FFA and his ag business. His other activities include varsity gold and student council.

Finding time for everything isn't easy.

"I prioritize," he says.

He plans to attend North Dakota State University in Fargo and major in agribusiness. His goal is becoming a commodity broker or to be involved in the crop insurance business, while also operating his own farm.

"That off-farm income is just so important," he says.

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