Christy Hoepting grew up on a small farm north of Toronto, Ontario. Enrolling at the University of Guelph, a top-tier ag school, was a natural fit. And though she focused on onion production while earning her master’s degree, she never dreamed she’d make a career of it. But then her advisor told her that a job with cooperative extension had opened up in western New York. She suggested she apply. The interview, after all, would be a good learning experience.
“What’s extension?” Christy remembers asking. But exceptional preparation and delivery were second nature. She got the job.
“I didn’t know the destination on the road I was traveling,” Christy says. “But I sure knew when I had arrived.” Need we say she loves her job?
Few people know onions inside-out as well as Christy Hoepting does. That “inside” part is critical. If you’re a farmer, you win when your onions pay their way; in a good year you could make upward of $4000 per acre. But you lose when one too many onion thrips — tiny pests, hard to find — sneaks between the leaf folds and starts laying eggs within its tender tissues. Or when pathogens hiding beneath the skin of healthy-looking onions trigger the long road to decline in a crop you counted on to get you through the winter.
Which is why Christy has conducted hundreds of on-farm research trials in plant pathology, entomology, weed science, cultural practices and crop nutrition. She’s presented at scores of stakeholder and scientific meetings and published scores of articles and research papers.
It’s also why she scouts farm fields relentlessly — a core practice of IPM — tracking every movement of insect and disease pests. And growers from miles around know that when Tuesday morning rolls around, they’ll meet at a corner of the road and Christy will recount what she’s seen.
Christy calls it the “Muck Donut Hour,” and it doesn’t take long for the conversation to start rolling. “I’m constantly tweaking our recommendations based on our research, of course, but also on what I hear from growers at the corner of the road,” Christy says.
Now for her exemplary work on behalf of farmers, not just in the rich muck-soil region of western New York but statewide and nationally, the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYS IPM) presented an Excellence in IPM award to Christy Hoepting on March 8, 2017 at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s “Elba Muck Region Onion School” in Albion, New York.
Good work, Christy.