Thirteen-year-old Jaydynn Pope has a shy but ready smile, a thick brown ponytail and braces on her teeth. Unlike many teenagers, however, she also has three cows of her own, birthday presents from her grandparents, Kenny and Gail Pope. “We gave her her first, a Jersey, for her birthday a few years ago. We thought it would be good for her to have these cows for her own,” explained her grandmother, Gail. “It’s an investment, too. The cows my dad gave me when I was growing up helped pay my college tuition and I traded my last few to him for my wedding.”This young farmer got her 1st cow before she hit her tweens. Now that's a birthday present! Click To Tweet
As she demonstrated on a recent morning, Jaydynn has learned to handle cows with a calm but firm hand. After leading a young Guernsey up a slope to demonstrate proper showing technique, she saw out of the corner of her eye that her grandmother needed help with a cow trying to leave the paddock. The young farmer headed over and easily corralled the escape artist. “She really took to it. It’s impressive that she can just walk in and put the halter right on them to lead them,” said Gail with a proud smile.
This summer, Jaydynn is spending several days each week on the family’s farm, North Wind Acres in Shoreham, Vermont, helping out with chores and fieldwork and preparing to show her cows at Addison County Field Days, the local county fair. “I’m really looking forward to showing my calves and being there all week,” Jaydynn said. Sleeping at the fair can be a challenge, though, she admitted: “I can sleep through anything, but you do have to get up early.”
For non-farmers, county fairs are a fun way to celebrate summer. There are tractor pulls and sheep-shearing demonstrations, children’s barnyard visits and exhibits of the funniest shaped potato and largest zucchini, competitions for the best strawberry jam or pickles. And then there’s the fried dough.
For busy farmers, county fairs give them a chance to take a short break from the routine, show off their best animals and connect with and learn from fellow farmers. From Jaydynn’s three-year-old cousin, Rowdy, who will show his first calf (with some help) in the Pee Wee class next week, to seasoned farmers, the show competitions are an annual highlight.
Jaydynn remembers very clearly her first experience a few years ago with some family friends who were showing calves. “They needed an extra person to go into the ring with a calf. We ended up getting first place and they let me keep the ribbon,” she recalled happily.
Jaydynn is the second eldest of seven (soon to be eight) Pope grandkids. A few years ago, the family started their own 112-cow dairy operation, which they now run alongside their established milk hauling business with their two sons, daughter and son-in-law. Although their two daughters-in-law don’t work directly at North Wind Acres, “the whole family is involved,” said Gail.
One of their daughters-in-law, Stephanie Ouellette-Pope, actually works on her own family’s dairy farm, Iroquois Acres in nearby Bridport, also a Cabot co-op member. She serves as superintendent of the open dairy cattle show at the county fair. Despite all the work that entails, Stephanie looks forward to the fair every year to reconnect with people, visit with lifelong friends made over the years and, see her nieces, nephews and this year, her three-year-old son Rowdy, start to love it as much as she does.
There’s also that fried dough. “I don’t really get away from the barn much,” she says, “but fried dough, that’s my favorite fair food.”
Let’s go to the fair!
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Melissa Pasanen is an award-winning Vermont-based journalist and cookbook author with a focus on food, farming and sustainability. She was the writer for The Cabot Creamery Cookbook (Oxmoor House, 2015).