Do Whatever it Takes

December 1, 2010 04:22 AM

TP Web Extra IconAfter investigating several internships in agriculture during his college years at Virginia Tech, Scott Sink was convinced to start farming sooner rather than later. “Time after time, I met men who were doing what they were doing to save up to start farming. I chose to do what I need to do on the side while I grow the business to be self-sustaining,” he says.

Scott and his wife, Mendy, now in their 30s, still rent all the land they farm and live in town, but their five-year plan includes buying land to ensure the continuity of their operation. Just as they did, they want their daughter, Mekinsley, to grow up in an agricultural atmosphere.

Their involvement in agriculture and their leadership abilities have already paid off with a Kubota ATV and a Dodge Ram pickup—prizes for winning the state and then the national 2010 Farm Bureau Excellence in Agriculture Award.

A Growing Business. The Sinks, who live in Blacksburg, Va., operate S.E.S. Agricultural Enterprises, which includes beef cows, hay production and agricultural services. They are partners in Little River Produce, raising sweet corn and pumpkins and marketing seasonal products.

A strong advocate for local food and local farmers, Scott designed their concession stand at the public swimming pool to look like a barn. He tries to bring an appreciation of agriculture to customers.

The same is true of the portable barbeque business he started this year. “We will be vending outside the university stadium when football games and other sports events are held,” he says.

The keystone venture, however, is Hethwood Market. After three years of renovation, the convenience store opened about a year ago. It hasn’t recouped the capital investment they put into it, but Scott is confident it will soon. More importantly, it serves as a base for the concession businesses to take deliveries and refrigerate meat and produce.

The couple started their produce business in 2000, selling through farmers markets and direct delivery to customers. “We wanted to retail what we grew,” Scott says. “Selling locally grown produce ensures that no more than 24 hours elapse between harvest and the consumer.”

Today, they retail their own produce as well as other local produce and products.

As if their farm enterprises aren’t enough to keep them busy, Scott is an adjunct professor of small business management, entrepreneurship and agricultural problem solving at Virginia Tech. Mendy manages a housing complex with 650 homes and 1,728 apartments.

Traits for Success. Young farmers like the Sinks face the challenge of raising large capital investments that sometimes do not produce income for months or years. Their Angus cowherd is a perfect example. It can take 1½ years from the time you buy cows to breed until calves are ready to sell. “You definitely need to have perseverance,” Scott says.

“It helps to get involved in agricultural groups to connect with and learn from other farmers,” he adds.

Little River Produce got its start when Scott met another farmer through the Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Program. They partnered on an acre, which grew into a business. His hay operation began when he learned of a farmer looking for help. Now they share equipment and marketing.

It’s that passion for what they are doing and their farm work ethic that keep Scott and Mendy Sink moving steadily ahead.

Top Producer, December 2010

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