Through our initiative, Cultivating Commerce, the Council brings together people, needs, concerns, opportunities, and solutions while relying heavily on partnerships and our own membership expertise to foster entrepreneurship through wise and environmentally sound sustainable use of agricultural and natural resources within our 4-county area.  Whether adding a niche marketing endeavor such as boutique honey production to an existing winery or pursuing a startup organic vegetable farm, entrepreneurs struggle in developing and implementing a viable business model in our rural area.  Cultivating Commerce is designed to assist these entrepreneurs in expanding or establishing their businesses while ensuring environmental protection of our agricultural and natural resources

Many agricultural operations have slowed or been eliminated in the past few years in our 4-county area as small farmers and ranchers struggle to make ends meet, especially during a length drought period.  Entrepreneurships in agricultural and natural resource areas add to job growth while helping maintain the quality of life for the people who live in the region.  Some of the entrepreneur opportunities include nature and agricultural tourism, beekeeping/honey making enterprises, local food production with local marketing, and alternative energy development.  Tourism is one of the major industries in Northern California.    Encouraging entrepreneur growth in agricultural tourism can result in additional new startups as well as addition of value-added activities for local farmers, resulting in increased jobs.  Examples are many with Farm Stays,  local food production for the emerging grow local/eat local movement, or new beekeeping operations which can provide both niche honey production as well as pollinator supply for crops.  Finally, alternative energy production such as from biomass also adds jobs, which are enhanced when the energy production can also result in a product to sell, such as biochar from sustainable biomass energy development. 

There are unmet needs for supporting startup businesses or expansion of business related to the agricultural and natural resource areas.  Cultivating Commerce is designed to teach farmers, ranchers, and others specific skill sets to allow them to focus on new business opportunities.   Our business model includes developing additional partnerships with other non-profits doing related, but different, business support.   We also have cooperative relationships with local governments, especially economic development agencies as well as the permitting and planning arms of government.  We intend to facilitate classes and workshops in key areas of business development especially directed to the agricultural and natural resource-related entrepreneur through work with our cooperating partners.  Participants in Cultivating Commerce will find support for their unique entrepreneurship creativity, learn techniques and processes to make their entrepreneur endeavor a success, and will improve their quality of life and that of others in our area through expansion of job opportunities.