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12-year-old turns 4-H project into online farm business
 
By Doug Graves
Ohio Correspondent

WELLINGTON, Ohio – What started as a 4-H project a year ago has blossomed into an online farmers market. Even more astonishing, not many 12-year-olds make $9,000 annually from such a venture.
David Beekman, 12, of Hickory’s Legacy Farm in Wellington, has a taste of what it’s like to be a businessman. Beekman sells his produce and poultry online and delivers it directly to consumers in Lorain and adjacent counties in Ohio.
By partnering with Market Wagon, he can now bring tasty foods like chicken drumsticks to all of northeast Ohio while he’s still in school. Beekman began selling his chicken meat through the program in June 2021.
David’s parents, Robert and Elaine, primarily raise hay and straw to sell directly to farmers from Hickory’s Legacy Farm. The farm name is a reference to Hickory Grove Farms that Elaine’s family has been operating since 1892. Poultry never entered the scene at the farm until David started raising chickens through a 4-H project seven years ago. At an early age, David wanted to turn his passion for the birds into a business.
Elaine said it was during the pandemic when she learned on social media about an e-commerce company called Market Wagon, based in northeast Ohio. She discovered that people can shop for more than 1,400 locally grown products from their smart phone or computer and have the products delivered to their home.
Ah, but every successful venture has small beginnings, and no exception here. When David turned 7, Robert and Elaine decided it was time for their son to begin learning the same lessons and responsibilities they did growing up. At that time, David started raising just enough chickens for his family to eat themselves and sell to family and friends. But, as the years went by, the number of chicks on the farm kept rising.
“We started him out young because having animals teaches responsibility,” Elaine said. “It’s a big responsibility every day to make sure that the animals are taken care of. It’s also a big responsibility, especially if you’re growing food for other people, to make sure you’re raising a quality product. I told him it his job to make sure his animals have the best life that they can while they’re under his care.”
When David started raising chicks, he began with about 100-day-old chicks from a hatchery in nearby Polk, Ohio. David was also involved with the planning and budgeting of the purchases as well as the actual chicken coops where he raises his flock. Now, he purchases 300 to 350 chicks annually in batches five times a year.
“He’s had to sit down and figure out how much the chicks cost, the feed, the gas to get to and from the processing…all of that and then decide how much he needed to charge,” Elaine said.
Elaine says her son has grossed $8,000 to $9,000, with total profits upward of $1,500.
David is following in the footsteps of his parents and grandparents with their rich family farming and agricultural background. Both Elaine and Robert grew up on farms. From an early age, they were involved in raising their own food, partnering in 4-H and FFA, and helping out their family’s crop and livestock farms. Elaine switched professions from teaching to full time farmer. Robert maintains outside employment in addition to his work on the farm.
“We wanted David involved in 4-H and that involvement has taught him a lot about responsibility,” Elaine said.
But not all kids in 4-H are thinking with an entrepreneurial mindset. To this day, David has branched out to crops like sweet corn and raising other animals, too, such as pigs and goats.
David keeps experimenting with his offerings on Market Wagon. One of his most popular items are the apple-maple chicken breakfast links. He also recommends the bratwurst links, which he said are “perfect for grilling in the warmer spring weather.”
His mother makes certain David stay firm with his routine, and that means a balance of farming and schooling. And he’s able to keep to that schedule thanks to his highly supportive mom.
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” Elaine said.
Some in his community will say that David is intellectually special. Actually, he is typical in many ways. He enjoys history in school and loves watching videos on YouTube and playing video games. He also raises animals for 4-H.
David’s dream of farming land, just like his father and grandfather, is already coming true. It’s a career that will hopefully be as sweet as the corn grown on the family farm.
“It’s pretty cool,” David said. “I just love meeting new people, helping others and keeping out community going.”
David is a member of the Lorain County Dairy 4-H Club. He is a seventh grader at McCormick Middle School.

9/27/2022