It is hard to believe that graduation season has already completed its swing through another year.  Smyth County has graduated another crop of new people and I use the word “crop” very deliberately because that is exactly what these young men and women are… a crop.

In agriculture, perhaps more than any other industry, we hear the term “sustainability” tossed around quite a bit. More often than not, the term sustainability in our line of work is used to promote some sort of production practice that may be less impactful on the environment. To be honest, using the word in this fashion loses two-thirds of its meaning immediately.

In order for a farm (or company, church, school or even a family, for that matter) to be sustainable, there are two very important aspects that cannot be overlooked: profitability and people. Too often the word profitability is viewed as a bad thing, even evil, and, to be sure, business profits can be too big of a focus for any of us. However, it is also true that if a farm is to survive, there must be a certain amount of profitability dialed in.

One only has to take a trip to the nearest parts counter to experience how quickly profits on the farm can go from “in the black” to deep red. Being able to not only cover one’s costs but squirrel away a bit of cash for a rainy day is important to insure that we are not “living on depreciation.” Depreciation is the calculation of how much value a piece of machinery, barn or other owned property loses value over the life of its use. Living on depreciation occurs when you are using up the value of a past purchase without being able to earn and save enough back to replace it with a new purchase when it becomes worn out.

Liquidity is another term we might use to define our financial circumstances. Liquidity is the amount of cash that one might be able to call upon at any one time. Many landowners are very wealthy if you consider the value of their holdings; however, if they cannot generate enough spendable cash to live on, then they are considered illiquid. Land and other farm holdings can be seen as being not unlike baseball cards. They might be very valuable, but their value is realized only by selling them off, and then they are gone.

Being able to generate cash leads to the most important piece of sustainability, people. Young people entering the workforce or job site have a higher cost of living than their parents do. They are trying to pay off debts, purchase necessary resources and grow their family as well maintaining their standard of living. Thus the need to be profitable is even more critical as our “next crop” joins us back home on the farm.

Therefore, if we are to be truly sustainable, yes, we need to be cognizant of our impact on the environment, but we must remember the need to generate cash and attract our next generation of leaders.

This past week, I had the honor of working with two entities in our farming community here in Smyth County, Smyth County Farm Bureau and Evergreen Soil and Water, to recognize and reward a young person who is focusing his future squarely on agriculture. On Tuesday, May 7, I journeyed to Northwood High School to award Zach DeBusk scholarships from each of the aforementioned organizations so that he can continue his studies in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

Both our county Farm Bureau and the Evergreen SWCD boards recognize that connecting bright young minds to academic scholarships helps Smyth County’s leading industry to continue to be sustainable well into the future.

Upcoming Events

May 27--VFW Memorial Day Parade and Celebration, Marion.

May 30--Older American’s Day, Chilhowie Town Park.

June 17-21--Smyth County 4-H Camp.

June 21--Deadline to Consign Calves to July 17 VQA Sale.

June 24-27--Kentucky State Ag Agents Meeting, Owensboro.

July 17--VQA Sale, 7 p.m., Tri State Livestock Market.

July 19--Deadline to Consign Calves to August VQA Sale.

July 22--VQA Steer Take Up.

July 22--Wool Pool Take Up Day, Wytheville, 2-4 p.m.

July 24--VQA Heifer Take Up.

July 29-30--Rich Valley Fair Livestock Shows.

July 30--Wool Pool Take Up, Russell County, 10-11:30 a.m.

July 31--Wool Pool Take Up, Tazewell, 8-10 a.m.

Aug. 21--VQA Sale.

Aug. 22--Forage Field Day at Glade Research Farm.

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Dr. Andy Overbay is Smyth County’s agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

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