Virtual Gathering Addressed Access, Equity, and Justice on the Land in Vermont
Five recognized for their commitment to conservation and farming
October 6, Montpelier, VT — Nearly 200 Vermont Land Trust members, supporters, and conservation partners gathered virtually on Monday, October 1 for the organization’s annual meeting where Xusana Davis, Executive Director for Racial Equity for the State of Vermont, was the keynote speaker.
Nick Richardson, President & CEO of the Vermont Land Trust, began the meeting with a land acknowledgement to recognize and respect the Abenaki and Mohican people as the traditional stewards of this land, and Vermont as their ancestral land. He also addressed why the Vermont Land Trust is focused on access and equity.
“The Vermont Land Trust inherits a troubling legacy of exclusion and inequality that is woven into the fabric of Vermont. It’s something we cannot ignore. And I believe our love for this place, which I know we all share, gives us the strength we need to grapple with that legacy,” said Richardson.
Keynote speaker Xusana Davis followed with an overview of Vermont demographics and highlighted the ways in which land plays a central role in perpetuating power imbalances.
“This place we call Vermont existed long before we arrived,” said Davis. “It was unceded Indigenous territory. Land is both possibility and exclusivity.”
During the hour-long meeting, Board Chair Marc Mihaly welcomed four new Trustees to the land trust’s Board, voted in by the membership: Susan Goodfellow of Chester, Ramsey Luhr of Montpelier, Meriwether Hardy of Denver, CO, and Lynn Ellen Schimoler of Essex.
Each year, the Vermont Land Trust recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to conservation and farming in Vermont.
Mount Holly Conservation Trust, Richard W. Carbin Community Conservation Award
The Board of Directors for the Mount Holly Conservation Trust received the Richard W. Carbin Community Conservation Award for commitment to conservation in their communities. The Trust helped to protect 346 acres of strategically important forestland connecting the southern part of the Green Mountain National Forest with Okemo State Forest, providing animals uninterrupted habitat and a safe corridor for travel.
“I’m proud to have worked closely with MHCT on [this] project. They continue to achieve ambitious conservation goals, and in this case a project of statewide significance,” said Joan Weir, long-time Southeast Regional Director for the land trust who retired this past summer.
Terisa Thomas, Francisca King Thomas Award
Terisa Thomas, Senior Program Manager of Water Finance for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, was the recipient of the Francisca King Thomas Award in recognition for her profound contribution to the Vermont Land Trust. Known as Tee by her coworkers and friends, Thomas manages the State Clean Water Revolving Fund, which has expanded its impact under her leadership to include natural solutions to improving water quality.
“Tee’s groundbreaking work and savvy leadership managing the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has provided us nearly $7 million in low-cost financing to deepen our work with farmers around the state,” said Siobhan Smith, Executive Vice President for the land trust.
Nancy Everhart, John Bailey Dunne Conservation Award
Nancy Everhart, Agricultural Director for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board (VHCB), received the John Bailey Dunne Conservation Award, which recognizes a member of the conservation community who has made a profound impact on the state. After 19 years with VHCB, Everhart will retire this fall. During her tenure, she helped to protect thousands of acres of farmland, improve stewardship of those lands, and support the viability of farming. She serves on numerous boards and committees and operates her own organic-certified dairy in Marshfield.
“Nancy’s experience as a farmer and her passion for the future of Vermont agriculture are hallmarks of her career. Her work has been impactful and collaborative—putting Vermont on the map as a national leader in farmland conservation,” said Tracy Zschau, Vice President for Land Conservation at the land trust.
Amanda Andrews of Tamarack Hollow Farm and Tom Gilbert of Black Dirt Farm, Eric Rozendaal Memorial Awards
Amanda Andrews and Tom Gilbert will each receive a $5,000 award in recognition of outstanding service to community, land stewardship, and innovation.
Andrews owns and operates Tamarack Hollow Farm, producing vegetables and pastured poultry in Plainfield. When the pandemic disrupted the farm’s primary sales channels, Amanda and her team developed a contact-less produce box program and other avenues to get their products to customers. The farm regularly makes food donations, and recently worked with partners to donate, pack, and ship food to a community hit hard by the pandemic.
“I am honored to receive this award…,” said Andrews. “[Eric] was one of the first farmers I met when I moved to Vermont. I was impressed that he was doing a little bit of everything and doing it well. Even with so many irons in the fire he remained a relaxed and confident presence—we could all use a little of that positive energy right now.”
Gilbert started Black Dirt Farm in Stannard in 2014, where he and his crew produce pasture-raised eggs, meat birds, garden compost, worm castings, and seasonal crops. They also offer a food-scrap collection service. Known for innovations in composting, Gilbert shares his knowledge and skills with others, hosts field trips for schools and colleges, and donates eggs, gleaned crops, and compost.
“I am honored…,” said Gilbert. “Being recognized in Vermont feels particularly special given that we operate in a peer environment so rich and well-articulated with talented people and innovative farmers.”
The award is granted annually in honor of Eric Rozendaal who passed away in 2018. This year’s prize also aimed to recognize farmers who have been serving people affected by the pandemic. Thanks to a generous donor, the committee was able to grant two awards this year.