Farming has been a common thread throughout Sophia Christoe's life.
The 31-year-old grew up on her family's farm in Undera, about halfway between Shepparton and Echuca.
But despite feeling a strong connection to the land, Ms Christoe decided in high school that farming wasn't for her.
"I didn't think I would go into farming," she said. "When I was 15, I realised my life's ambition and passion was to 'save the world'.
"So that directed my end of school and studies in university more towards landscape, environmental management, and sustainability."
After finishing her schooling in the Goulburn Valley, Ms Christoe moved to Canberra to study sustainability science at the Australian National University.
"It wasn't until I was at university that I had the realisation that you can create an immense amount of ecological positive change through the act of growing food, and that food and farming can be an incredibly ecologically regenerative practice," she said.
Ms Christoe began connecting with other young people who were passionate about regenerative and ecological agriculture.
She built on that passion when she returned back to Victoria after university.
Ms Christoe spent some time working in an organic orchid in Gippsland, before moving to Melbourne where she worked in the sustainability space.
She worked with the Melbourne Farmers' Markets and also became involved with the Victorian Farmers' Market Association.
But the 31-year-old said it was in 2015 when she spent about six months in Italy that she really found her calling.
Ms Christoe spent her time in the northern Italian region of Piedmont where she participated in WWOOF'ing - a worldwide movement where volunteers stay and work on organic farms in exchange for free accommodation and food.
"I was riding my bicycle around northern Italy and spent some time at a small sheep and goat dairy," Ms Christoe said.
"The volunteer labour was hand-milking the sheep and goats in the morning, and then taking the sheep and goats out to graze in the pastures and fields in these amazing hills of Piedmont.
"I was standing in a field as a shepherdess with these sheep and goats, and then going back to the farm in the afternoon and watching my host make cheese with that milk.
"It was that experience that made me think this is the connection between food and landscape that I want to pursue myself."
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It was after that trip that Ms Christoe joined Holy Goat Cheese - an organic goat dairy in Sutton Grange, about 30 kilometres south of Bendigo.
"I had some family friends say to me that if you want to learn anything about goats and cheese making, then you have to talk to Ann-Marie and Carla at Holy Goat," she said. "That's essentially what I did.
"I mustered up the courage to approach them about doing an internship on farm and learning how they have been running their certified organic goat dairy and farmhouse cheesery for about 16 years now."
Ms Christoe left Melbourne last year and has been working at Holy Goat Cheese ever since.
"I have found a path that I want to pursue in having a sustainable, regenerative farming and food business," she said. "I'm at Holy Goat learning from some of the best in the industry."
Ms Christoe is still involved in the Victorian Farmers' Market Association and was recently appointed to the Young Farmers' Advisory Council.
The 31-year-old said she really wanted to support other young people so they could find their place in farming.
"I think it's important because not everyone has the privilege of entering the agriculture industry through their family and the land inheritance that that can entail," she said.
"The price of land is a huge barrier for young people who want to get into farming, particularly if they're not coming from a farming background.
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"So I think any opportunity I have to advocate for programs and initiatives that reduce some of those barriers to entry is really something that I want to grab with both hands."
Ms Christoe said she also wanted to highlight the close link between farming and action on climate change.
"One of the major opportunities we have to draw down carbon from our atmosphere and try to reverse some of the negative consequences that we're facing, is by increasing carbon that is stored in the soil," she said.
"One of the most powerful ways you can capture and store carbon in soil is with a really healthy pasture ecosystem.
"So if you have healthy pastures that are being managed well by animals and humans, then you can store more carbon. This is why I have become passionate about working with animals in a farming system."
Ms Christoe said she also wanted to acknowledge Traditional Owners in her future farming work.
"I want all of that work and farming to be underlying a foundation of acknowledgement, respect, and celebration for the first farmers of our land," she said. "In our region, it's the Dja Dja Wurrung people.
"I think it's important that all farmers and people that have a working relationship with land acknowledge and understand the history that was there before white colonisation.
"I really hope that whatever I do will be in a positive relationship with the Traditional Owners of the land where I work."
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