Vernon County Leaders Participate in UW Extension “Homegrown” Training

In its service to rural communities, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension offers a training called “Homegrown: Entrepreneurship in Your Community” for economic development leaders who want to learn how to build entrepreneurial ecosystems. Through the Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative, a new program in the Community Development Institute funded by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, Extension offers the Homegrown training for free to rural communities around the state.

On February 29, 2024, in La Farge, WI, Extension teamed up with trainers from the University of Minnesota Extension to deliver the Homegrown training to the community leaders from Vernon and Crawford Counties. The training covered entrepreneurship as an effective economic development strategy, trends in demographics, business dynamics, and small business lending, strategies for building local entrepreneurial networks, and action planning for the county.

Local entrepreneur, Kevin Gonzalez, sharing his story.
Local entrepreneur, Kevin Gonzalez, sharing his story.

The training also featured a presentation from local entrepreneur Kevin Gonzalez, who started two cafes (Power Station and West-Up Nutrition) and one Nicaraguan restaurant (La Marimba) in Vernon County. Refreshments for the day were provided by The Rustic Table and Let’s Shine Coffee, both also from Vernon County.

Group discussion following next steps conversation.

During the action planning session, the local leaders discussed how they can coordinate across communities to share economic development ideas and promote their local businesses. Vernon County already has numerous strengths to build upon: a vibrant agri-preneurship scene, strong commerce within Amish and Mennonite communities, and beautiful parks and scenery. The area also attracts many tourists, as well as innovative thinkers interested in testing a business idea. The group left the day with intentions to create a resource guidebook for emerging entrepreneurs, start a mentorship program, and facilitate a county-wide needs-assessment among business owners. Vernon County Extension Educator, Hannah Altimus, will be leading further coordination around the county to pursue execution of the action planning.

If you would be interested in bringing the Homegrown training to your community, contact Maggie Cornelius, Rural Wisconsin Entrepreneurship Initiative Outreach Specialist, at
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