Victoria Popp

Growing our Generation: An unconventional start in agriculture

Victoria Popp from Clermont County is the editor of the Sept. 10, 2018 Growing our Generation enewsletter,  featuring insights and ideas directly from Ohio’s young farmers and food and agricultural professionals.

One of my favorite poets and authors, the late Maya Angelou once said: “My mission in life is not merely to survive but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”

I’m Victoria Popp. My passion is agriculture, my compassion is for my family and community, my humor is sarcastic, and my style – could probably use some work.

I’m originally from downtown Cincinnati, but my family has a 150 acre hobby farm in eastern Kentucky which is where I got my first taste of agriculture. Currently I live in Clermont County, and work for Farm Credit Mid-America managing our young and beginning farmer program for Ohio.

An unconventional start in agriculture

Victoria PoppHaving grown up in the city, one of the most common questions I get asked is; How did I end up working in agriculture?

To put things in perspective, my high school didn’t have a 4-H or FFA program. I would wager that I’m probably one of few graduates who could point out soybeans in a field, or differentiate between a Holstein and an Angus cow.  

To be clear, I don’t mean this as a slight toward the quality of schooling I received. I believe it’s important to address that it is a lack of exposure –and not education – that results in these learning gaps.

In truth my roots in agriculture started with my dad who bought a farm in Robertson County, Kentucky about 30 years ago. With the help of a local family, they raised tobacco, kept horses and cut hay, and spending time there gave me my first introduction into agriculture.

I spent my high school and college years working at YMCA Camp Kern’s equestrian program, and even took a year off to live in Italy on a horse rescue/wine vineyard before attending the Ohio State University to study animal sciences.

What originally attracted me to that major was the hope of becoming a veterinarian – until my first organic chemistry course brought that dream crashing down.

I realized I would have to change course, and ended up interning with Farm Credit Mid-America in financial services. After graduation I accepted a full-time job with FCMA as a recruiter in Louisville, Ky. and last year was fortunate to have the opportunity to move back home to Ohio to partner with our young and beginning farmer program called Growing Forward.

As an industry we constantly talk about how we can get more people involved in agriculture. I’m a firm believer that the best way to learn about ag is to roll up your sleeves and dive right in, however that’s not possible without knowledgeable people to show you the way.

As a newcomer to the industry, I am forever grateful to the farmers who have opened their homes and barns to me along the way. Without their willingness to teach me what they’ve always known, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

FAQs of fox hunting

Earl the horseAlthough we’re new to agriculture – horseback riding has long been a Popp family past time. I bought my first horse, Earl Grey, in 2016, and our latest adventure has been to take up fox hunting.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when I showed up to “cap in” for my first ride with the Camargo Hunt. My mom had been a member for years, but my only real reference point was from watching one too many episodes of Downton Abbey, so naturally I had a lot of questions.

Ultimately I had a great experience, and have since become a member of the Camargo Hunt myself. However the experience inspired me to do a section on the Frequently Asked Questions of Fox Hunting:

Q: What is fox hunting?
A:
The sport of fox hunting dates back to 15th century England, and the general premise is to use a pack of hounds to track the scent of the fox wherever it might go. The riders, usually divided into “fields” based on riding ability, follow the hounds across the countryside – essentially combining a trail ride with a cross country course. There are options for various levels of riders, as well as a ton of social events that really add to the hunt weekends. One of the coolest events that is open to the public is the Camargo Hunter Trials horse show which will be held this October!

Q: Do you truly hunt the fox?
A:
Fox hunting in its original form did involve catching and culling the animal. However the sport has adapted over time and today, the emphasis is only on the chase and the hounds are called off at the conclusion.

Q: Do you have to dress up?
A:
The hunt is steeped in tradition. The attire, protocol, and structure are all formal but historic in nature. There is a hierarchy within the hunt, and members dress accordingly in coats, tall boots, show helmets and stock ties.

Q: Where do you hunt?
A:
One of the most amazing aspects of the Camargo Hunt is their access to land. They utilize 2,500 acres of trails in southern Ohio, and have accumulated over 7,000 acres in Owen County, Kentucky in a totally unique series of farms and homes.

Q: Where can I go to find out more information about fox hunting in Ohio?
A:
There are hunts all over the United States! Check out the links below for more information on the various Ohio associations:

Camargo Hunt – Cincinnati

Rocky Fork Headley Hunt – Columbus

Miami Valley Hunt – Dayton

Chagrin Valley Hunt – Cleveland

For general information on the sport visit: Master of Foxhounds or one of your local hunts.

Don’t climb so high that you lose sight of your roots

I’m pretty sure my coworker Roger Hauke thought I was kidding when I asked if I could come work tobacco with him and his family on their farm in Brown County last month.

As agriculture continues to advance, it feels like tobacco is frozen in time. It is a notoriously labor intensive crop. From harvesting each stalk, to air curing it in barns – tobacco means work.

Brown County TobaccoThe Hauke family has been growing tobacco in southern Ohio for decades, and on that Friday there were three generations in the barn. Grandpa was driving the tractor, Dad and Roger were up on the rails – and I kept to the ground trying not to slow things down.

It’s easy to take for granted the sights and scenes of the farm when you live it every day. The combines at harvest, a newborn calf, family dinner in the field…You get so caught up in the daily grind, that you forget what it’s like to see those things for the first time, or how unique it is to work so closely with the people you love.

So as the guys climbed high up into the barn, filling the space with the bright yellow and green leaves, I couldn’t help but look up and appreciate that their roots were all around them.

This post was adapted from one of my latest LinkedIn posts. For similar content feel free to connect with me @ Victoria Popp.

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