I’m going to begin with an obvious statement: the future of agriculture in Easton depends, more than anything, on one factor — farmers, and young farmers at that.
The median age of farmers in the United States is 53; Patti and Al Popp, of Sport Hill Farm, break that mold and many others making them, dare I say, progressive farmers. When they moved their family to Easton in 1997, Will Tressler was encouraging more families to get into farming. The Popps listened, and as they looked out their back door they began to imagine what we all know and love today as Sport Hill Farm.
When we strolled our way down the road of this interview, I have to admit I was surprised to learn that neither Patti nor Al had farming in their families. Although Patti does remember helping her Dad in his greenhouse as a child, their drive came from something within, a desire to educate and learn and, as she said, “to just grow things.”
Patti explains that this is a lifestyle, not a job, and their desire to tell a story has taken them on a crazy journey. It was simple to choose organic, says Popp. “We wanted to diversify and felt that it was the right thing to do for our land and home.”
As the Popps fell in love with their land and farming, their journey was well underway. First the seeds came, then the barn, and then the new barn, and before they knew it, there was an entire community surrounding and supporting Sport Hill Farm.
Today, Sport Hill Farm is a thriving business focused on growing sustainable vegetables and educating the public on the value of supporting local food systems and organics. They have an offering that fits everyone’s needs — you can join their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), participate in their Crop Share Program, enjoy their products at area restaurants or just hop into the barn for a carton of eggs from the “girls” (a.k.a. Patti’s chickens).
With a strong focus on education, there are many programs throughout the season that are held on the farm. It is a welcoming place where the farmers meet you with a smile and are willing to show you around their property at the drop of a hat. Al Popp is generous with his knowledge of what is happening each season, what we should watch out for and what he thinks is growing well.
Personally, I am drawn to farmers who want to tell me about their product. Patti said something that made me understand why I feel that draw — in a way, farmers consider their plants their children. When they share the story of their crops with you, they are letting you into their family. Think about it like this, the seeds come with promise and excitement, so you keep them warm and feed and water them.
Then they grow up and are ready to go out into the world, but they don’t know what dangers are out there — rain, snow, wind, pests. Finally, they make it through and it is time for harvest. As Patti says with a warm twinkle in her eye, “It is the best feeling when people tell us that our food tastes good. Those are our little ones that we have raised, and they made it.”
The Popps are the first to admit they are still learning, and I found that to be humbling. It also made me realize that great things are coming our way from this family. They represent the future of farming, both locally and nationally, and we are mighty lucky to have them in this community. So the next time you pass Sport Hill Farm, tip your hat, say thanks and be grateful we have people who want to grow our food organically and keep Easton’s agricultural tradition alive.
Their barn is a welcoming place, one to meet new friends and connect with neighbors or just sneak in and out for that one item you just have to have (that would be collards, for this Virginia gal). When I leave their barn, luscious greens in hand, I wonder to myself; do Patti and Al realize that they have created a Grange right here in Easton?
The Easton Agricultural Commission promotes agricultural interests in town and serves as a bridge between our farmers, the community, local and state government. The Ag Commission may be reached at EastonAgCom@gmail.com