Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boys 'N' Berries: Young Trio Gets Jump-Start on Investing

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Boys 'N' Berries: Young Trio Gets Jump-Start on Investing

Article excerpt

At the tender ages of 14, 12 and 11, the Akin brothers might know more about mutual funds than many of the adult customers who frequent their pick-your-own blackberry business.

Angus, Andy and Tony Akin have sunk most of the profit from their one-acre blackberry patch into a mutual fund they hope will yield enough in a few years to help pay for cars and college.

"We bought at around $14 (a share), and now it's up to $17," said Angus, who with his brothers tracks the fund's progress in the business pages of their local newspaper.

"We're probably the only ones in our classes who own a mutual fund," chirped Tony, a crew-cutted dynamo who dreams of buying a Chevy pickup or Geo Tracker when he turns 16.

The boys' grandfather, D.L. "Dewey" Akin, thought a blackberry business would be a good way for his grandsons to learn the benefits of hard work, dedication and responsibility, and for them to earn some cash.

The boys live with their father, Matt Akin, near their grandparents' home, which sits on a hillside farm overlooking U.S. 60, between Monett and Aurora in southwestern Missouri.

Area residents and motorists have been stopping at Dewey Akin's farm each summer for the past 14 years to buy the blueberries he grows. Two years ago, he offered his grandsons an acre of their own to grow blackberries.

Akin agreed to plow the ground and buy 900 bushes for the boys to plant. The brothers had to promise to tend the plants, manage the business and collect from pickers.

The brothers could keep all profits, their grandfather told them. But if they lost interest in the venture, he said, the blackberries would be torn out.

With thoughts of shiny new mountain bikes they would buy with their first year's profit, the boys jumped at the offer. But they soon realized that tending 19 rows of thorny blackberry bushes was plain hard work.

The plants require continuous pruning from the end of the growing season in late July until late fall, then again in late winter. The bushes are fertilized in February and March and require lots of water from an underground irrigation system.

"I guess we weren't prepared for the amount of work," said Angus, nicknamed "Judge" for his no-nonsense approach. …

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