WLA honored Ben Freund, The Last Green Valley, and Joan Nichols with this year’s Pathfinder Awards for their work in advancing farmland preservation through leadership, advocacy, planning, and education.
WLA Project Director said, “This year’s Pathfinder Award winners are truly leaders on agricultural and farmland preservation issues and their work has had a profound impact in each corner of our state. We are delighted to recognize them for their unparalleled commitment to preserving farmland and advancing agriculture in Connecticut.”
Join us in congratulating this year’s awardees:
Pathfinder Award For Outstanding Individual: Ben Freund Ben Freund owns and operates Freund’s Farm with his brother Matt and their families. Freund and his family truly understand the value of farmland protection, having protected 55 acres of their own farmland and having earlier expanded their operation by purchasing 200 acres of preserved farmland.
In his many roles off the farm, Freund has been an outspoken champion on farmland preservation and agricultural issues statewide. This includes his longtime service on the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board, as Director for CoBank and formerly for Farm Credit East, as Chairman of the Dairy Subcommittee for Connecticut Farm Bureau Association, and as an active member of his dairy cooperative, AgriMark.
Freund has been a strong voice for the state’s dairy farms and brings his passion to the Capitol to advocate for critical programs that support farmers (including his nieces in those trips to Hartford in recent years). Freund’s efforts over more than three decades to promote and advance agriculture in Connecticut made him an easy choice for this year’s Outstanding Individual Award.
Outstanding Group: The Last Green Valley As an organization, The Last Green Valley (TLGV) has worked for more than two decades in Connecticut’s northwest corner. In addition to the well-known Walktober tourism-promotion activities, TLGV has done outstanding work to promote sound land use planning, to sustain and expand agricultural economies in the region, and to highlight the importance of agriculture in the communities it serves.
TLGV developed “Green and Growing: A Call to Action,” a comprehensive regional plan to expand food, fiber and forest production and related agricultural economies. TLGV is also a founding member of the AgVocate Program and an active member of CT Resource Conservation and Development Council and the “Celebrating Agriculture” Committee.
TLGV’s continued educational work, its consistent efforts to promote agriculture as a preferred land use, and its commitment to many long-standing initiatives that showcase agricultural businesses make it an excellent choice for this year’s Pathfinder Award for Outstanding Group.
Education Leader: Joan Nichols Joan Nichols is Connecticut Farm Bureau’s Director of Member Relations and Community Outreach. She is also a certified forester, co-owner of Nichols Logging Company, and a private consultant to landowners. In each role, she shows a passion for Connecticut agriculture and a commitment to educating farmers, government officials, town staff, commissioner members and many others about a variety of agricultural issues.
Nichols is an invaluable resource, and her colleagues rely on her for her extensive experience in taxation, land use, farmland preservation, right-to-farm and other regulatory issues. In particular, Nichols has done outstanding work in educating officials and farmers about PA 490, which is recognized as one of the most important pieces of legislation keeping farmland in farming.
In addition, the Tool Kit for Connecticut Farmers she created will continue to help producers, agricultural commissions, and Agri-Science and Technology Center teachers advocate for agriculture in their communities. Over her career, Joan has made a lasting impact on farmland preservation efforts in Connecticut.
Established in 2003, the Farmland Preservation Pathfinder awards are designed to recognize individuals and groups that have significantly advanced farmland preservation through leadership, advocacy, planning, and education. Award winners over the last ten years have included municipalities, land trusts, farmers, town committees, and many individuals and groups who have logged countless hours in the name of preserving Connecticut’s most valuable resource – our farmland.