Taking the leap to pursue a passion

Ginnie Hope-Johnstone didn’t grow up on a farm, although she always wished she did. She’s never really been an indoors-person, always chasing wide open spaces. 

Growing up in regional Western Victoria, however, it was always drilled into her that success was to get a degree and a good job in Melbourne. 

So, after school, this is what Ginnie did. She graduated with a dual degree in sports administration and events management and went straight into Melbourne’s corporate world.

The job she loved, city-living – not so much. 

“After about five years of working there, I was getting restless in Melbourne. So I ended up giving up my job, which was hard to do at the time.”

“A few years before I’d decided to resign there, I’d mentioned to my Dad about wanting to go up North and work on a cattle station and he said to me, ‘what the bloody hell would you want to do that for?’ So, I shut it down at the time and pressed on with the corporate world in Melbourne.”

“But then it came around that I was unemployed with nothing to do and I couldn’t find a job that I really liked. I guess a sort of a now or never moment popped up.”

She made some calls and then, all of a sudden, Ginnie became a first-year ringer at the age of 28. It’s one of the best decisions she’s ever made, she said.

“It’s certainly a lifestyle that you could live forever. It is fishing on your days off and having a few beers. It’s bloody good,” she said of her two years spent up there.

“But I needed to get back to reality. And I wanted to use my degrees and certifications and put them to good use.”

Back down south, Ginnie began to look for jobs in event management that catered to a regional population – she was adamant that she wasn’t going back to the city. But she couldn’t find anything.

“I just couldn’t find a job that fitted what I wanted to do. I think I knew I wanted to do events with a bit of an ag interest to it, and I couldn’t find anyone that was doing that.”

She had nothing to lose, she said, so she started her own business catering to regional and remote Australia: VC Events.

Ginnie at Beef 2021 in Rockhampton

The response was big. 

“It was a pretty untapped market,” Ginnie said, “there are already so many community events that happen in country Australia.” 

VC Events began to work with the likes of Graziher and the iconic annual Birdsville Races. Now, Ginnie’s sights are set on a new concept: The Paddock.

This idea came to her as she watched one of her neighbour’s canola crops become bombarded with trespassers flocking over the fence to take photos with the beautiful yellow flowers. 

“It bugged me a little bit – watching people take all these photos but they don’t actually understand what that crop is for or that canola is transformed into oil that you cook with all the time.”

“It got me thinking. And I’d always been keen to do some cool long-table lunches and to put these lunches in these amazing locations like a canola crop just seemed to link in really nicely.”

The Paddock will work to incorporate the farmer’s perspective and the chef’s perspective on some of the products grown in Australia, all while sitting for lunch in the crop itself. 

“Ultimately I want to get the message across about linking that paddock to the plate,” she said, “and educating people on that.”

You can listen to Ginnie’s episode on the Humans of Agriculture podcast on your favourite podcast app, or on the link below.

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