Shelby boy learns business from growing strawberries

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By Josh Moore

D.J. Mikels grows and sells his own strawberries.

And though that's not completely unusual in Shelby County, this local farmer is unique — he's 10 years old.

D.J.'s interest in strawberries started when he was 5 years old and visited a friend of his dad's who grew strawberries.

Though D.J. came back from that visit covered with the remnants of a strawberry fight with some friends, he also came back with an idea.

“I went over there, and when we left, I asked him [his dad] if I could start doing it,” he said.

D.J. said he likes strawberries and the idea of making money.

“I just went over to that one place, and it just looked like a lot of fun to grow them,  so I could earn some money,” he said.

Tilling the ground, digging the holes, placing the plants and then weeding the patch year-round means a lot of work for him, D.J. said.

So he said he was “devastated” when his first crop of 300 plants died.

But D.J. didn't let that deter him, and he planted more the following year. He took care of those plants by hand and finally had his own strawberries another year later. He has added more plants every year since.

He has sold his strawberries for two years now out of a shed next to his patch on Ellis Road near Eminence. He also occasionally sells them at the Shelbyville Farmer's Market.

D.J.'s business comes with a few rules from his parents about how he spends his money.

“I gotta save half of it,” he said, and he has to donate another 10 percent to his church or a charity.

That leaves 40 percent to spend.

His mom, TyiaLynn Mikels, said it has been a good way to teach her son how to manage money.

She said her husband, David, wanted to teach D.J. business.

“He thinks it's important for them to learn work ethics,” TyiaLynn Mikels said.

She said she's proud of D.J. for sticking with it when she isn't too sure she would have.

“It's a lot of work,” she said. “I thought it would kind of wear off. It was three years into it before he actually saw any revenue from it.”

D.J. said his parents help him a lot, but he also sometimes pays his friends to help pick strawberries.

He said his strawberries have been a learning experience, and they keep tasting better every year.

His trick: “Just don't use weed killer,” D.J. said. “I use a hoe and my hands. I don't spray chemicals on them.”

And though that means a lot of work for him, he said his customers recognize that and keep coming back.

D.J. said he doesn't know how long he will continue to grow his strawberries.

“I don't think for the rest of my life, but I'll do it for a few more years,” he said.

D.J. said he enjoys making money, and he already knows how he's spending his profits for this year.

Twenty percent will go to pay his parents back for the dirt bike he borrowed money to buy. The rest will go for Guitar Hero.