Farm Progress

Bouncing back from failed business ventures

Being an entrepreneur can sometimes lead to business ventures gone bad

Maria Cox, Blogger

June 8, 2015

2 Min Read

In last week’s blog, I talked about how we used to be in the hog business. We jumped ship when the market bottomed out. It was a difficult time financially and also mentally, but Dad refocused on his core business and times got better.

If you ever talk with my dad about his 47-year farming career, he will tell you he has made lots of mistakes. The main mistake he mentions often is how he wished he owned more land so I could have a better start in my career. He regrets selling a farm he once owned. I tell him it wasn’t a mistake, and the money helped him pay down debts and create more operating capital.


Farming can be full of mistakes. We sometimes think we are doing the exactly right action, and later find out we are dead wrong.

In the early 2000s, Dad experimented with raising worms. Yes, worms. The hog barns were empty, and we filled up some of the stalls with worms. The idea was to grow these worms and sell for use in landfills. Little did we know it was a Ponzi scheme. We lost some money in that deal, but we learned to practice due diligence in the future.

We also tried raising meat goats. We figured it would be like a cow-calf operation. We experienced a huge death loss, and quickly learned that the raising goats is not at all like raising cattle. 

Going organic?
When my sister and I were in college, we talked with Dad about transitioning some of our crop ground to organic.  I helped with the transition process, and we successfully put a couple hundred acres in the program. It took more than a year, and we eventually grew organic corn. Yields were poor, price was pretty good, the buyer was very slow to pay, and weeds were a big problem. In the end, the economics pointed us away from organic production. 

I say farming can be full of mistakes, but also opportunities. The thing I love most about my dad is that he is always keeping a watchful eye for new ventures. I hope to carry his entrepreneurial mindset into the next generation of Cox Farm. 

Sometimes our ventures turn out badly, but sometimes they work. We look back today and chuckle about some of the things we have done over the years. The worm Ponzi scheme is one we won’t forget!

The opinions of Maria Cox are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or the Penton Farm Progress Group.

About the Author(s)

Maria Cox


Maria Cox is a sixth generation grain, livestock, and hay farmer from White Hall, Ill.  She has been farming with her family since 2012, and also has experience in grain marketing and crop insurance.  She holds a M.S. in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University and a B.S. in Agribusiness from the University of Illinois. You can find her online at and twitter @mariacoxfarm.

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