Farmer Vic – Ag’s Goodwill Ambassador
Farm Bureau member Victor Pozzi reaches out to city folks who flock to his Windsor farm
By Tim Tesconi
This old farm is the best show in town, attracting visitors from around the world who have come to know “Farmer Vic” as the kindly keeper of a menagerie of feathered and hooved critters in pastures along Shiloh Road in Windsor.
Critters like an emu named “Arnold Schwarzenegger” and his mate “Maria Shriver” and a big Brahma bull named Turkey. (The bull earned his name fair and square, he was born on Thanksgiving Day)
Farmer Vic is Victor Pozzi, an 82-year old bachelor, retired dairy rancher and ex-volunteer firefighter, who has turned his 28 acre dairy ranch into a kind of Noah’s Arc of the Barnyard. Vic, a longtime member of Sonoma County Farm Bureau and a fixture at fairs and Ag Days, often entertains up to two dozen people a day. These are the visitors who stop in his driveway to feed stale bread and bagels to the animals that line up along the fence for the high-carb treats.
Vic is a genuine dirt-under-the fingernails farmer whose big hands and signature vice-grip handshake are testament to a life of hard work. For nearly 40 years he operated a dairy on the property, never missing a morning or evening milking in all the time he had the cows. In sickness and health, he was in the milk parlor.
Now he is like a zookeeper, overseeing a growing menagerie he admits is out of control. But he loves every minute of the daily sideshow at his ranch gate, amusing himself by engaging in lively banter with the people who stop by, many of them guests at the Wyndham’s WorldMark resort across the road. During a couple of recent mornings, visitors from New York, San Diego and Napa gathered at his gate to watch the animal spectacle and regale in Vic’s wit and wisdom. They even sign Vic’s guest book.
“This is the entertainment center,” said Vic. “It’s a big draw for these city folks. I enjoy the people who come by.”
He said it’s entertainment for him as well.
“The hours and days don’t mean anything here. The days are all the same and I just roll along with them,” said Vic, who epitomizes the notion of simple living. And he just may be the happiest human in Sonoma County and beyond.
The farmer has a stash of one-liners that keep people laughing and coming back for more. “These are show cattle,” he says of his Brahma cattle when people ask what he does with them. “I show them to you and then I show them to you and you and you and whoever else comes by.”
The show and conversation are free. He even gives visitors a postcard with a picture of him and his animals.
People leave with a positive attitude about Sonoma County agriculture and the iconic farmer they just met. Vic has become Sonoma County agriculture’s goodwill ambassador, enhancing the image of farmers everywhere because of his caring ways and kindred spirit.
“Vic is the best thing going for Sonoma County agriculture. We definitely need more people like him,” said Sonoma County agriculture leader Saralee McClelland Kunde, who is among Vic’s friends and admirers. Many suggest he should be recognized as Friend of Sonoma County Agriculture for all the good he does to bridge the gap between urban and rural, city and country.
Vic’s farm is on the urban edge, located just north of the county airport, south of the Windsor Golf Club and west of SRJC’s Public Training Safety Center. Ten years ago the WorldMark Windsor vacation ownership resort went up across the street. Guests walk over to see the emu and Brahma cattle.
Vic and his Brahma cattle are known worldwide. A photograph of Vic feeding loaves of French bread to his cattle – taken by ace photographer Kent Porter of the Press Democrat - went out over the wires and was printed in newspapers around the globe. Vic got a clipping from someone who had seen his picture in a newspaper in Afghanistan.
The numbers of animals on the farm keep increasing because Vic rarely sells anything, admitting they are pets and in his book you don’t sell or eat your pets. Eating one of his Brahmas would be like eating Jeffrey, his ever-working Border Collie. Vic estimates the flock of geese numbers 500 and there are 40 or so sheep. Dozens of ducks – all named Quacker – chickens galore, a pack of emu – all rescued - and 13 head of Brahma cattle, all as gentle as his lambs.
“I couldn’t eat this guy,” said Vic, petting Norman, one of his Brahamas. “If I want a steak I buy it at the store.”
He estimates it costs him an average of $1,000 a month to feed all the animals, buying all of his hay and grain from Hunt & Behrens in Petaluma. He said it takes two truck and trailer loads of hay each year to feed the cattle and sheep. He reduces his feed bill a little bit by picking up old bread and bagels from the Food Pantry in Windsor, feeding the recycled bread to everything on the farm, even the sheep.
“It’s very poor management here, everything is out of control,” admits Vic, who seems to relish the chaos. “I spend a lot more time with my animals than most people would but I have the time and they are my pets.”
Vic sold his dairy cows in 1987 when he was 56, exiting the competitive dairy business during one of the federal government’s efforts to shrink the milk surplus by taking dairy cows out of production. He was among more than a dozen Sonoma County dairies that signed up for the government program that year.
Vic grew up milking cows on a family dairy in the Sonoma Valley, working with his father Jerry Pozzi. He learned to work at an early age and has never stopped.
“When I came home from school I milked cows, there wasn’t time for baseball,” he said.
With deep roots in Sonoma County, Vic is related to many of the old farming families including the Corda, Sartori, Ramatici and Roselli families. He counts about 16 first cousins. He leaves the farm to attend birthday and anniversary parties, funerals and reunions with his extended family members.
Vic graduated from Sonoma Valley High School in 1950 and four years later left the family farm to serve in the Army. He returned home in 1956 and went back to milking cows. It was at this time that he became a volunteer with the Schell-Vista Fire Department, the start of what would be a life-long connection to volunteer firefighting.
When he moved from the Sonoma Valley to the farm in Windsor in 1963 he and some neighbors decided the rural area needed a volunteer fire department. He and a couple dozen others donated $100 each and then went to door-to-door to enlist a fire brigade.
The volunteer fire department, which today is the Windsor Fire Protection District, went into service with some old trucks in 1965. For decades, Vic was one of the most dedicated of the volunteer firefighters, jumping into action each time the fire horn would sound. He was named Windsor Fire’s “Most Dependable Firefighter” of the year nine times.
But, all good things must come to an end. When he turned 75, Vic was asked to give up volunteer firefighting because of his age.
“They kicked my ass out because I was too damned old,” said Vic.
But Vic, one of the last co-founders of the department, continues to serve on the Windsor Fire Protection District Board of Directors. A meeting room at the fire department is named for him.
Between the farm and fire department, he keeps busy and connected to the community he loves and that loves him.
“I hope that along the way that I have helped somebody,” said Vic, whose daily acts of kindness have brightened untold lives.