As Tracy Emrick thinks back to her farming roots, she describes herself as a weekend warrior. She grew up in suburban Summit County, but spent a lot of time with both sets of grandparents who shared their love of gardening, animals and food preservation with her.
Today, she’s the core partnership manager with Countryside Conservancy, which allows her to combine her love for getting her hands in the dirt with her passion for saving farmland and providing access to good food.
Making her way
Emrick’s early career was spent in California where she was involved with natural health organizations, and where she began growing her own organic herbs and organic foods. When she returned to Ohio, she leased land in Summit County and in 2006 started selling at Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Countryside Farmers Market. “I got to know this organization as a vendor. I did this for several years. In the meantime, my kids were growing up and I went back to college to finish my degree in political science. I wanted to mesh all of my passions.” Through her experience as a farm market vendor, she learned of the job opening with Countryside Conservancy and it piqued her interest. “I thought I would have to move to D.C. or New York, and yet this is right in my backyard.”
Countryside Conservancy partners with the national park, where there are 11 working farms. In her position, she works with farming partners and the park, helping the park understand the needs of farmers and farmers understand natural resources obligations.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to be involved in an ag-related career. There’s nothing more noble than putting food on the table. Farming is so important. Yet people take it for granted. They don’t understand, and there’s an opportunity to help people understand. That’s one of the things I like from Farm Bureau.”
Finding her fit in Farm Bureau
With her background and work coming from the small farm perspective, she’s aware of the differences and even sometimes divisions between small and large scale farms. “I was caught up in those things. The differences don’t matter. What’s important is what we have in common. That’s why I got involved in Farm Bureau.”
The primary way Emrick has been involved is through the Our Ohio Cultivators program, a two-year pilot project in 2012 and 2013. Ohio Farm Bureau started the program as a way to gather members’ input and opinions on a variety of Farm Bureau programs and provide a platform to promote the things members were doing within their communities. Through a Facebook group and some in-person events, Cultivators members were able to connect with a group of like-minded individuals that care about the future and sustainability of Ohio food production.
“Farm Bureau state staff and especially the Cultivators program gave me more connections with Farm Bureau,” she said. Through the Cultivators, she said she’s been more aware of what’s happening in the different counties and learning about farmers’ issues and concerns and how they’re dealing with them. Then she can share that information with the farms she works with. “It’s good to see different perspectives, sharing those things with each other.”
She said being a Farm Bureau member gives her an opportunity to share the small farm point of view and she can understand conventional farming’s point of view. She admits not everything is the same for all farms, “but let’s talk about what is the same: Putting food on the table and economic interest in farm businesses.”
“Those things are huge. You have to be financially sustainable. What you’re doing keeps the world alive. We should start thinking about that, (and) stop bickering and come together on things that really matter.”
Home and Community
Tracy and her husband Dave, who is the vineyard manager at The Winery at Wolf Creek, live on her grandparents’ land in Wayne County, and they are working to restore it. She said years ago, Christmas trees were planted but never harvested. Their plans? “We’ll be planting a small vineyard and poultry and some sheep. How long will it take? That all depends. We’re both happy in our careers, so we’ll see.”
She serves on the Ag Success team in Wayne County, a diverse group of members devoted to supporting Wayne County agriculture. She also sits on Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Green Team, which is a group that comes together to actively plan ways to mitigate the park’s environmental impacts, and she is involved with the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
If you enjoyed this article, consider becoming a Farm Bureau member and you’ll receive ongoing access to information about your local food community, including seasonal recipes. Membership includes a free subscription to Our Ohio magazine. Learn more about other exclusive member benefits.