Nathan Woodford builds round bale carrier racks. Like many entrepreneurs, he took advantage of a business grant, writing a 54-page business and marketing plan and budget after researching his market.

Today he provides farmers in the Redwood Falls, MN, area with a relatively inexpensive method of hauling hay — and is making a profit on it.

Not bad for a 17-year-old.

Last July, he started Woodford Welding, building steel racks to be attached to purchased or existing 10-ton running gear. “They're like the wooden racks but are constructed out of steel,” he says. In part for safety, the sides and ends of his models are raised. “They tip bales toward the center of the rack so you can stack two rows.”

Each 10 × 23' rack holds one tier of eight bales or two tiers totaling up to 14 bales, depending on bale weight. He recently designed a 10 × 28' model for large square bales.

Woodford buys 30'-long pipe that he hires a friend to help cut. “Other than that, I do the welding and the rest,” he says.

He markets the rack through Woodford Ag, his dad's equipment business. Mike Woodford takes orders for his son, a high-school junior.

While researching what business to form, the teenager asked the advice of his uncle, Eric Woodford, a custom harvester and inventor. “He sees guys who don't want to buy a semi to move hay,” Woodford says.

Besides giving growers a way to haul small loads, he also wanted to provide a sturdy alternative to wooden racks. “It's a lot safer to have a rack with steel beams in the center,” Woodford says.

He was urged to apply for a $5,000 grant through the Center of Rural En-trepreneurship and SW/WC Service Cooperatives by his FFA instructor, Jeremy Daberkow. His parents, Mike and Michelle, also encouraged him.

So far he's sold 11 round bale rack units at $2,150 each. His profits, he adds, will be saved for college, where he may study engineering.

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