Sink family commits to help others sell locally
By JANE W. GRAHAM
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Scott Sink is a farmer with many marketing strategies working to get his produce to the consumer, to help others sell their goods and to tell the story of where food comes from to his customers and potential customers.
The Rocky Mount, Va., native grew up on a fifth generation dairy farm in Franklin County, but he and his wife Melinda consider themselves first generation farmers because they grow produce rather than milking cows and producing tobacco as his family did.
Their four-year-old daughter Mekinsey is learning to be part of the farm tradition too.
Sink earned his bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics at Virginia Tech, which is about a mile from his store, Hethwood Market in Blacksburg.
He also got a master’s degree in agriculture economics from Tech and took advantage of several other learning opportunities.
These included an internship with Southern States and one with a dairy in Point Arena, Calif.
He also got an internship from the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn and a Governor’s Fellowship through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service.
Farm Bureau has played an important role in Sink’s development as a farmer and business owner.
He is a past president of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Committee and was awarded the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture Award in 2010.
Sink has served as president of the Franklin County Farm Bureau and vice chairman of the AFBF Young Farmers.
While these experiences have been important in his life choices, he points to two men who got him going on the road he is taking.
He began growing produce while he was in middle school and his grandfather drove him around to three farmers markets and five wholesale buyers to sell what he grew.
In his work toward for his master’s, Sink worked with Virginia Tech Professor, Dr. Charlie I. Coale, on an agricultural marketing project for USDA in Southside Virginia.
“This led me to want to be in business now, rather than later in life,” Sink said while sitting in a rocking chair on the front of his country store-style market in an urban neighborhood of the college town.
Sink also has been a member of the Tech adjunct faculty in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Agricultural Economics but now mostly devotes himself to his own businesses.
He currently is planning to grow pumpkins and sweet corn on the land he leases in Montgomery, Va., with his partner Nick McNeil in a business they call Little River Produce.
He said they tried green beans but find they need to be more intensely cared for than the more forgiving pumpkins and corn.
Sink also grows hay with Bill and Darren Greer in Riner, Va.
Sink said he hopes to have some container gardening at the store this year so he can expand the kinds of food he grows and sells.
Last year he was able to sell his own live Christmas trees and plans to do so again this year.
Sink and his employees made their own wreaths at the market last year and sold them there, another project he plans to repeat.
He not only sells his own produce there but gives other producers the opportunity to market what they have grown, both as raw produce and value added products such as jams and jellies.
The market offers fresh meat, both beef and pork, as well.
The Sinks have their own cow-calf herd and work with Roseda Beef in Monkton, Md., which uses similar production practices to provide a year-round supply of meat.
Sink gets pork from Forever Young Farm, a swine producer in Rocky Mount.
Hethwood Market not only offers cut meat in the store but the service of cutting meat to order.
Sink said he would like to one day have an old-fashioned locker facility where people could store their meat.
Sink has a catering business and offers a meal one night a week at the store. He also provides food at Tech Athletic events. With a smoker built to look like a log cabin promoting locally grown foods he offers meals to fans at Hokies’ football, basketball and baseball games.
One of the young farmer’s goals is to help other young producers to get started in growing and selling food locally.