Jones Family Farms and Winery Receives New England Leopold Conservation Award
October 04, 2023
Jones Family Farms and Winery of Shelton, Connecticut has been selected as the recipient of the 2023 New England Leopold Conservation Award®.
Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the prestigious award recognizes those who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care. The Terry H. Jones family, who own and operate Jones Family Farms and Winery, receive $10,000 and a crystal award for being selected.
Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states for extraordinary achievement in voluntary conservation. In New England the award is presented with New England Forestry Foundation; and American Farmland Trust-New England.
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 New England Leopold Conservation Award is made possible through the generous support of American Farmland Trust, New England Forestry Foundation, Sand County Foundation, Farm Credit East, David and Ann Ingram, and the Yale School of the Environment.
To view all of the recipients chosen for the New England Leopold Conservation Award since 2019, visit www.sandcountyfoundation.org/NewEngland.
In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac; Aldo Leopold called for an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage. He wrote it was “an evolutionary possibility and an ecological necessity.”
Sand County Foundation presents the Leopold Conservation Award® annually in 27 states with a variety of conservation, agricultural and forestry organizations. For more information on the award, visit www.leopoldconservationaward.org.
Like the four generations who have worked its fields and forests before him, Terry Jones has a deep respect for the landscape of Jones Family Farms and Winery.
Terry credits his conservation ethic to working alongside his father and grandfather as a child. An avid gardener in his teens, he sold vegetables on a card table to families coming to their farm to buy raw milk. The proceeds from his produce sales helped pay for his tuition at the University of New Hampshire, where he met his wife, Jean.
Over the next 54 years, they grew the former dairy farm to more than 500 acres. Pumpkins, strawberries, blueberries, vegetables, and Christmas trees took the place of cows. Twenty years ago, their son Jamie developed an award-winning vineyard and winery on the farm. This scenic spot in rural Fairfield County provides a “micro-Vermont” getaway for the one million residents who live within a 20-mile radius.
The farm’s motto, “Be good to the land and the land will be good to you,” is attributed to Terry’s great-great grandfather, Philip James Jones. Terry has spent his life honoring this credo by adopting conservation practices that have produced higher-quality crops while benefitting the environment. He says better yields are just a dividend of properly caring for the land.
Conservation leadership has run in the family. Terry’s grandfather encouraged his father to fence off steep slopes and rocky pastures to plant trees. These areas have since produced more than five rotations of Christmas trees, while others are in timber production of Tulip Poplar and Eastern White Pine. Terry’s father also experimented with innovative erosion control by interseeding a cover crop of winter rye into unharvested corn fields 75 years ago.
Other steep, rocky slopes where mowing is unsafe were treated with low rates of herbicides to suppress weeds. The result was a diverse mix of herbaceous flowering plants that provide habitat for pollinators and other beneficial insects, while stabilizing soils. Native wildflowers flourish in the soils among the pines, and along old stone walls, to encourage bee and butterfly populations.
Another example of adopting the best available science to improve ecological sustainability was their early adoption of crop rotation and cover crops to replace soil fumigation where strawberries are grown. Soil health improved, common root diseases were suppressed, and strawberry plants lasted longer. Thousands of tons of wood chips are composted to amend the soils around berries and Christmas trees.
The Jones family also found success in planting pumpkin seeds into rye straw. A winter cover crop of rye grows to about six feet high in the spring. After crimping the rye with a roller, pumpkins are seeded directly into the flattened rye straw versus a tilled field. The pumpkin roots feed organically from the decaying straw, which also protects the topsoil from erosion from heavy rains and keeps the pumpkins clean.
Each generation of the Jones family has, as Terry says, “tried to leave the wood pile a little higher than they found it.” Jones Family Farms is a frequent host of school tours and research trials. Terry has advocated for farmland preservation and environmental causes by chairing Connecticut’s Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust. He also led local efforts that protected over 1,000 acres of farmland and forests, and secured 30 miles of public recreational paths throughout Shelton.
Since childhood, Terry has felt proud that his family was presented a National Gimbel Award from Eleanor Roosevelt in 1942. He hopes the 2023 Leopold Conservation Award will inspire and instill pride in future generations of the family.
Watch their conservation success story
“New Englanders are fortunate to have about 88 percent of the landscape in a mix of farms and forests and Aldo Leopold, a farmer and forester, was educated right here in our region,” said Robert Perschel, Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation. “The Jones farm honors this legacy of agriculture and forestry, and it is fitting they were selected as this year’s honorees.”
“These award recipients are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.
“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of the Jones family,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “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.
LEOPOLD CONSERVATION AWARD PROGRAM
The Leopold Conservation Award is a competitive award that recognizes landowner achievement in voluntary conservation. Sand County Foundation presents the award in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). www.leopoldconservationaward.org
AMERICAN FARMLAND TRUST
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. www.farmland.org
NEW ENGLAND FORESTRY FOUNDATION
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. https://newenglandforestry.org/
SAND COUNTY FOUNDATION
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. www.sandcountyfoundation.org