ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — You might think of farming in terms of growing or raising things, and it is.
However, it is also about dollars and cents. Agriculture provides the commonwealth’s economy a $2.97 billion boost every year. With an economic impact like that, it touches nearly every person in Virginia.
“When you think about the power of agriculture as an industry, there’s also what we refer to as the multiplier effects on the local economy,” said Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Scott Baker for Bedford County.
The multiplier effect in theory means that dollars spent by farmers on farm operations go to local businesses. Those businesses employ people. Those people, in turn, spend their wages at other local businesses creating more commerce and jobs in the process.
“So, it extends beyond what the farmer must produce in cattle and crops and things that they take to market. but, they’ve got to spend their money to buy the inputs to be able to produce those crops and other livestock,” Baker added. “So, really that money circulates locally, that’s an important impact on the overall economy of a community.”
Farmers say the biggest obstacle they face in the current economy is inflation.
“People wonder why the price of food has gone up,” said Ty Walker of Smoke in Chimneys Farm in Craig County. “It’s everything that goes into making food accessible at a farmers market, at a retail store, whatever, is just going up.”
Walker raises pigs, trout, beef, and chickens at his farming operations. He says he is paying more than double this year for some supplies.
Other farmers agree with Walker.
“Our prices are not matching up with our costs,” said Bedford County beef farmer Ken Sumner. “We’ve been behind the eight ball as far as expenses to produce.”
While Sumner says inflation is digging into the bottom line, he says he will find ways to adjust.
That is a sentiment echoed by other farmers. Adjusting on the fly is something farmers have to deal with on a daily basis.
“Most days leaving the house, we don’t know what we’re going to be that day,” said Johnny Divers of Chapel Creek Farms in Montvale. “One day I’m a mechanic, the next day I’m out here doing nutrition on the cattle and grasses figuring out what’s going on in the field. We do most of our own veterinary work. It takes a big means of education and educating yourself to operate a farm.”
Being versatile is what is allowing many farms to survive and grow into the future. It often means changing farming techniques, shifting customer bases, experimenting with new crops or breeds, and knowing how to do several jobs to cut costs and stay profitable.
“We have to do it at a fair price and still cover our costs,” added Sumner, illustrating the narrow path farmers must follow to achieve profitability.
While that may mean consumers pay a little more, economists say when farm economies are strong, it is usually a sign the overall economy is strong, too.