Since 2005, the Vermont Land Trust has been recognizing outstanding high school juniors and seniors who are dedicated to agriculture and forestry. This year, nine students received the Land Stewards Awards presented by the land trust, along with a check for $250.
“The importance of our rural economy and local food is clearer than ever,” said Nick Richardson, president and CEO of VLT. “The students who received this award are our future farmers, sugarmakers, and forestry professionals. Vermont’s working lands and rural communities need innovative young entrepreneurs like these, and we are thrilled to honor them.”
The students who received the awards are:
Anna Doane, Bakersfield
Anna was nominated for the award by Sarah Downes, her instructor at Cold Hollow Career Center in Enosburg.
Anna lives on a small dairy farm. “She has worked on the farm her whole life,” said Sarah Downes. “She milks morning and night when there is no school and after school every day; she helps with cropping as well. She’s hardworking, dedicated, and passionate about agriculture.”
“I enjoy working on the land here in Vermont because I grew up on it,” explained Anna. “It has provided for our cows and our own little maple sugaring hobby. The land in which I have grown up on as been part of the family for several generations.”
Generations of her fathers’ side worked the family’s land for two centuries. Ancestors on her mom’s side grew up working other land Bakersfield. “Both places mean a lot to me since I know where I am coming from and there is so much history between both sides of my family,” said Anna.
Anna is the vice president of her FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter and is in the honor society for Career and Technical Education. Anna is planning on continuing her studies in agriculture after graduation.
Calvin Smith, Montgomery
Calvin was nominated for the award by Sam Rowley, his Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems instructor at Green Mountain Technology and Career Center in Hyde Park.
Sam Rowley said he was impressed with Calvin’s hard work and motivation. “During the time I have known him, he has successfully juggled three jobs at once and still kept up with his school work,” explained Sam. “After learning about silvopasture methods at school, he raised pigs and used them to turn a piece of his home’s marginal land into productive terrain. He successfully raised the pigs for home consumption and sold the meat to neighbors and a local restaurant.” Calvin also has a steady egg clientele.
“I’ve lived on the same plot of land and in the same house since I was born,” explained Calvin. “I was super fortunate to come from two people who never underestimated how important it is to be able to get what you need from the land without destroying it, because without all the earth had to offer us there would be nothing.”
“I believe that Calvin has what we need as the new generation of farmers: a work ethic and dedication to the working landscape,” added Sam.
This past year, Calvin worked at the West Farm in Cambridge as part of a co-op program at his school. The West Farm operates on the Brewster Uplands property owned by the Vermont Land Trust. The career center also operates a farm on the land. While working at the West Farm, Calvin grew organic vegetables for Deep Root Cooperative.
“One thing that I have observed from the time I’ve had on my land is how our actions affect the future of the nature that surrounds us,” said Calvin. “Being able to influence the land the way we do as humans makes me feel obligated to take care of and maintain a healthy biology on any part of the earth that I am given permission to influence.”
Calvin plans to continue farming after graduation.
Jonathon St. Peter, Benson
Jon was nominated for the award by Mark Raishart, his natural resources instructor at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland.
“Jon has developed a strong skill set and a visible passion for timber harvesting and maple syrup production through his work with his family’s business and as an employee of a local logger and sugarmaker,” said Mark Raishart. Jon’s teacher also cited his commitment to safety and his positive attitude, sense of humor, and hard work.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to work outside,” said Jon. “I’ve been running a chainsaw for as long as I can remember, wanting to create a safer and more beautiful landscape. Going to the Stafford Technical Center has given me the time and experience to practice real world logging skills. And for me, logging has become an escape, or a meditation.”
Jon is completing his junior year, and plans to continue to work in logging and maple syrup production.
Lillie Tuckerman, Woodstock
Lillie was nominated for the award by John P. Hiers, her agriculture instructor at Woodstock Union High School in Woodstock.
John Hiers said: “Lillie is an outstanding student, who demonstrates a real desire to learn each day… She is very passionate about agricultural and environment issues.”
“I enjoy working on farms which include many aspects connected to working with the land,” said Lillie. “I enjoy managing how animals work with and affect the land. I work and try to find ways to give back to the land because it provides so many resources.”
Lillie, who is completing her junior year, has been a member of 4-H for eight years and has received many awards for horses, goats and poultry at agricultural events such as the Big E and the Tunbridge World’s Fair. She is the president of her school’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter and an employee at the Billings Farm and Museum.
Mitch Clark, Addison
Mitch was nominated for the award by Bill Van De Weert, his agricultural instructor at Vergennes Union High School, who cited Mitch’s work ethic, positive attitude, and farming skills.
Mitch works for his cousin Ethan Gevry, who owns Champlain Valley Farm. Ethan himself won the Land Stewards Award in 2014!
Mitch helps Ethan with his hog and cropping operating by feeding, trucking, and haying. Mitch participated in the National FFA Agricultural Mechanics and Technology Competition in Indianapolis. After graduation, he plans to continue work at Champlain Valley Farm.
Nikolai Pughe, Charlotte
Niko was nominated for the award by Brian Japp, his instructor at the Center for Technology in Essex. “Niko is a dedicated worker, who cares about agriculture and the Vermont landscape,” he said.
Niko says he enjoys his work on a hay farm near his home. “I have worked there over three years,” he said. “I am lucky to have such a beautiful place to work. I get to be outside, work hard, and enjoy nature and beautiful views while I bale the hay. We take good care of the land so we can get high quality hay. I take pride in delivering our hay from Vermont to horse farms in other states.”
Niko represented his school in a tractor driving competition, where he placed. He also operates a tractor each year at the Charlotte tractor parade. After graduation, Niko plans to continue working at the farm and take some courses in agricultural management so he can learn more about the business side of farming.
Olivia Limlaw, Bradford
Olivia was nominated for the award by Ian Blackmer, her instructor at River Bend Career and Technical Center in Bradford.
“Olivia is an exemplary student and person in many ways,” said Ian, citing Olivia’s hard work, enthusiasm and curiosity. “She is an environmental steward and is concerned for the natural environment and its ecosystems.”
Olivia plays a key role in all aspects of a large sugaring operation owned by her family. She’s also involved with the family’s logging business and has worked at Root 5 Farm in Fairlee, a vegetable farm conserved with the Vermont Land Trust. She is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and has completed levels 1 and 2 of Game of Logging, a chainsaw safety and productivity training program.
“I enjoy working on the land because I am able to look back on the work that I have done, and be proud of it,” said Olivia. “I live by the ideas of leaving things better than you found them, and/or leaving close to no trace. So, being able to either utilize the land or improve it helps me know I’ve made an equal or positive impact.”
Olivia plans to attend Unity College for wildlife management this fall. She will also continue to be a part of her family’s sugaring operation.
Peter Thornton, Randolph
Peter was nominated for the award by Matthew Dragon, Diversified Agriculture Instructor at Randolph Technical Career Center.
“Peter is a dedicated, outgoing, extremely hard-working person,” said Matthew. “Peter has been an asset working on the school’s fledgling CSA program, helping grow, harvest and process crops for community members.” Peter is completing his junior year and has been recognized for outstanding performance in the Diversified Agriculture program and twice as Student of the Quarter.
Since 2019, Peter has worked with horses at Schleicher Farm, a therapeutic horse farm in Sharon. He has worked full-time there throughout the Covid-19 outbreak as an essential worker. He is also a volunteer firefighter with the South Royalton Fire Department.
“I enjoy working on this land because I enjoy living on it,” said Peter. “I have lived here as long as I can remember and those are some great memories. I use the land as much as I can, from riding horses to hunting and spending my summers bailing hay; to the excitement I used to get when steam was rolling out of sugar houses and I knew maple syrup was near. So most of my life so far has revolved around these outdoors and they mean a lot to me.”
William Johnson, Barton
William was nominated for the award by Sam Nijensohn, his instructor at North Country Career Center in Newport.
Sam described William as smart and hard-working. “William is highly engaged with both forestry and farming work on a regular basis,” he said. This spring, William worked on a dairy farm and in the woods, where he developed skills in tree felling, skidder-winching operations, chainsaw rebuilding, and sawmilling. “William is most passionate about running a chainsaw and equipment in general,” added Sam.
William will be a senior next year and is interested in pursuing forestry after he graduates. “I would like to do forestry in the future because it is a good career, and you learn something new every day,” said William. “It also helps people with everything that they need to do like building a house or preparing firewood for the winter.”