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Finalists Selected for New England Leopold Conservation Award

Four finalists have been selected for the 2021 New England Leopold Conservation Award.

Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.

Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 23 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New England the $10,000 award is presented with New England Forestry Foundation; Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands & Communities; and American Farmland Trust-New England.

The finalists are:

  • Bread and Butter Farm of Shelburne, Vermont. Corie Pierce’s Bread and Butter Farm produces beef, pork, and organic produce, and hosts meals and educational events. Utilizing soil regeneration practices, the farm manages 20 acres for bird and bee habitat and utilizes pond-fed gravity irrigation. Through collaborative efforts, the farm is home to a café and other interdependent businesses. Its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business provides produce to 300 members weekly.
  • Guy Choiniere of Highgate Center, Vermont. Choiniere Family Farm embraces conservation practices that build healthy soils and protect water quality. The certified-organic dairy farm uses an innovative compost bedding system for its grass-fed cattle. In addition to a 50-foot vegetated buffer along the farm’s frontage with the Rock River, Choiniere has planted 5,000 trees to reduce soil erosion. Keeping nutrients on the farm and out of the river benefits water quality and the farm’s viability.
  • Cedar Mountain Farm of Hartland, Vermont. Stephen Leslie and Kerry Gawalt rotationally graze Jersey dairy cows and utilize no-till practices on their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm to grow a diverse rotation of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and cover crops. Cedar Mountain Farm’s covered manure storage, compost stacking pad, riparian buffer zones, and tile drainage around farm buildings protect water quality and soil health. A spring-fed pond provides wildlife and bird habitat.
  • Wheel-View Farm of Shelburne, Massachusetts. John and Carolyn Wheeler raise rotationally grazed beef cattle, grow apples for cider, produce maple syrup and manage a forest. By preserving the farm’s ecological significance it’s become a showcase for sustainable land management. Their conservation methods improve water, soil, and wildlife habitat, while sequestering carbon. The Wheelers have removed invasive weeds from the landscape and power their farm with solar arrays.

Earlier this year, owners of forestland and farmland in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and forestry conservation leaders. The award recipient will be revealed during the New England RCPP annual conference in November.

“For New England’s third Leopold Conservation Award, we’re pleased the finalists represent the best stewardship of both farms and forests in New England,” said Bob Perschel, New England Forestry Foundation Executive Director. “Everyone at New England Forestry Foundation is excited to recognize these landowners’ impressive conservation accomplishments.”

“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the New England award finalists,” said John Piotti, AFT President and Chief Executive Officer. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”

“One of the reasons we are such avid supporters of the Leopold Conservation Award is its focus on recognizing the boots-on-the-ground work of New England forest and farming families,” said Spencer Meyer, Senior Conservationists at Highstead. “These families are essential stewards of our planet, working each day to provide critical resources to our communities and to protect and enhance the health of our environment.”

“Recipients of this award are real life examples of conservation-minded agriculture,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and Chief Executive Officer. “These hard-working families are essential to our environment, food system and rural economy.”

The first New England Leopold Conservation Award was presented to forestland owner, Bill Hull of Pomfret Center, Connecticut in 2019. Last year’s recipient was cranberry grower Linda Rinta of West Wareham, Massachusetts.

The New England Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New England Forestry Foundation; Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmlands and Communities; Sand County Foundation, Farm Credit East, David and Ann Ingram, and the Yale School of the Environment.

In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage, which he called “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”

Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award® annually in 23 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. For more information on the award, visit

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The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont).


Sand County Foundation inspires and empowers a growing number of private landowners to ethically manage natural resources in their care, so future generations have clean and abundant water, healthy soil to support agriculture and forestry, plentiful habitat for wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation.


American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through its No Farms, No Food message. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally sound farming practices on millions of additional acres, and supported thousands of farm families.


At the core of New England Forestry Foundation’s work stands the belief that both conserving forestland and practicing sustainable forestry are essential to preserving the beauty, prosperity, wildlife habitats, and unique character of our region for future generations. Our approach strives to serve and unite people and organizations across the region to support the long-term health of New England’s forests, and to guarantee their continued environmental, recreational, and economic benefits for all New Englanders.


Wildlands, Woodlands, Farmland & Communities is an ambitious vision for New England that is rooted in science and is focused on securing a healthier, more livable planet for all. The WWF&C vision calls on the region to conserve 70 percent of New England as forests and at least 7 percent as farmland. It is being advanced by a wide range of partners and committed individuals and organizations, including WWF&C co-leaders, Highstead and The Harvard Forest, Harvard University.