Young entrepreneurs run agriculture businesses

tom becker mapleBy Jaime Thomas

Like most eighth-grade students, Lauren Bucciero has responsibilities from schoolwork to chores at home. Unlike many of her peers, though, the 13-year-old girl also maintains her own egg business.

Bucciero has 45 chickens and recently bought 20 more. She has been selling her eggs every Sunday at church for at least four years, since the chickens began producing more than her family could consume. Though her parents help out, Bucciero collects and sells the eggs, locks up the chickens at night, pays attention to feed and finances and keeps track of her own earnings.

“It’s quite fun;DSCN1170[1] it doesn’t take too much time,” she said.

The young entrepreneur is one of several area students who has taken on her own agricultural venture.

Fellow Granville student, 17-year-old Dan Truso, and 18-year-old Tom Becker, of Pawlet, Vt., are each throwing themselves into maple sugaring business.

Like the other two, Becker has been interested in his hobby-turned-business for as long as he can remember.

“Sugaring has always been my passion. I love to do it and I’m going to do it for the rest of my life,” Becker said. Years ago, he said he helped out neighbors who were sugaring and wanted to do it himself.

Initially Becker produced about two gallons of syrup per season; when he was about 14, he and his dad built a sugar house and increased that yield to 10 gallons. It was then that he said he “caught the sugaring fever.”

He continued to expand and this year has 1,000 taps and 90 gallons of syrup. In 2010, his family stepped back and he took Perfect 10 Maple Products all on himself and realized he could make a little money if he worked it right.

The self-created learning plans at LiHigh School, which Becker attends, allow him to leave school early during maple season.

Truso also began producing maple syrup as a hobby, but expanded when he realized that everything was fairly easy to manage once it was set up. He is a fifth-generation maple producer, but his father was the first generation to live off the farm. He said the two now run the business about fifty-fifty.

He built his sugar house five years ago and currently has 3,500 taps at home and 1,500 taps worth of sap from local producers from which he hopes to make about 2,000 gallons of syrup.

Though he spends a lot of time in the off season in the woods, Truso said the job never gets burdensome.

“I have boiled round the clock, sometimes boiling as soon as I get home from school and overnight and then going back to school in the morning,” he said. “I do love it; with the long hours put into it, you have to love it.”

Terry Wheeler, Granville FFA advisor and business teacher, sees many benefits in the students pursuing these avenues.

“Any business teaches responsibility, ethics and accounting, but an agriculture business has an added degree of responsibility. There’s the safety factor, food science and the lives and health of animals,” he said. And all three of them are getting and early acquaintance with financial matters.

Truso, who sells most of his Maple Acres syrup wholesale to markets on the West Coast, said he will comfortably be able to put himself through college.

“Business and sales is definitely me, and I do my own taxes to an extent,” he said. For the past five years, he said he has reinvested his earnings for more land and more equipment, and he plans on expanding more in the future.

“I’m learning a lot in this process; if I do want to do it as a career, there is no better thing to do,” he said.

Becker also spent a lot of money on new equipment and was initially worried he would lose it.

“This year is my kick start year. I spent the last few years putting money back into the business, and now I’ve got a steady flow of customers,” he said. He plans on going into the electric field, which is slow during maple season, so he can continue to grow his business.

Bucciero saves some money from Woodell Farms for feed and some for college, and she contributes the rest to her family’s property.

Wheeler thinks the young entrepreneurs’ age encourages them to take risks rather than being too afraid to do so.

“For a kid to take the initiative and have that ambition is really wonderful and not that common. Later in life it will help them move up the ladder that much quicker,” he said.

Truso agrees.

“I spearheaded it five years ago as a hobby and now it became a big business. It does take away from sports and other activities, but in the long run it’ll set me apart,” he said.

 

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