Since 2005, the Vermont Land Trust has been recognizing outstanding high school juniors and seniors who are dedicated to agriculture and forestry. This year, seven students received the Land Stewards Awards presented by the land trust, along with a check for $250. 

“The Vermont Land Trust is thrilled to honor these students and to recognize the importance of technical and vocational schools,” said Nick Richardson, president of the Vermont Land Trust. “Talented agricultural and forestry professionals are vital to the careful management of Vermont’s farms and forests.”

The students who received the awards are:

 Ben Kerstetter, Stafford Technical Center, Rutland

Donald Campbell, regional director for Vermont Land Trust; Ben Kerstetter; Mark Raishart, natural resources instructor 

Ben manages his own small sugarbush on his property and, along with his family, he taps several hundred trees and sells the sap to a neighbor. He is also seasonally employed with a consulting forester and works independently doing property management. He placed first in the 2018 state Game of Logging competition and received a silver medal in the Vermont SkillsUSA welding competition. “Ben is polite, respectful, kind, hard-working, responsible, and committed,” his instructor Mark Raishart said. Because of Ben’s achievements at school, he will be starting a year early at Vermont Technical College after he finishes his junior year at Stafford Technical Center. 

Carson Patterson, Missisquoi Valley Union High School, Swanton

Al Karnatz, regional director for Vermont Land Trust, presents Carson Patterson the Land Stewards Award at Carson’s family’s sugarhouse in Franklin.

Carson is the primary caretaker and manager for his family’s 3,500-tap sugarbush in Franklin. He also runs a business assembling and selling maple pipeline components, employing himself and several friends. And he works part time for CDL, a major maple production equipment supplier. “Not only is he an expert in the science and business of maple production from tap to table,” said Richard Barwin, work-based learning coordinator. “He understands the importance of embracing sustainable practices that will ensure healthy forests, fields and water.”

Isaiah Norton, Randolph Technical Career Center

Isaiah (holding certificate) is with his instructor Matt Dragon (blue polo shirt) and the rest of his classmates in the diversified agriculture program.

Isaiah is passionate about working with small animals, particularly goats. Isaiah is dedicated to learning about and practicing sustainable goat farming. He has attended meat-cutting courses, entrepreneurship training, shadowed jobs in related fields, and is currently in a co-op at Howling Wolf Farm and works part time at Ayers Brook farm in Randolph. Isaiah has even started raising goats for milk and meat at his home. “I have not seen a more dedicated student in the field of sustainable animal farming,” his instructor Matthew Dragon said.  “Isaiah is always centered on doing right by the animal and the land.”

Ora Astbury, Woodstock Union High School

onna Foster of the Vermont Land Trust, Ora Astbury, and John Hiers

In addition to his classes at Woodstock Union High School, Ora has been in the Hartford Natural Resources program. His focus is on forestry, soil, and land practices. Ora received outstanding recognition from Hartford High School for his achievements in the program. “Ora is very passionate about the environment and wants to pursue a path in helping to preserve it,” said his instructor, John Hiers. Ora is also a member of the school’s Future Farmers of America, captain of the school football team and lacrosse team, is a volunteer fireman in his hometown, and volunteers at the Bridgewater Historic Society.

Shapleigh ‘Shap’ Andrew, North Country Career Center, Newport

Dan Kilborn, VLT forester, presents Shap Andrew with a Vermont Land Trust hat as part of the awards presentation at Bluffside Farm in Newport.

Shap has demonstrated great stewardship through his commitment to the family farm and a 2,000-tap sugaring operation he runs. “I have no doubt that he will be working Vermont’s fields and forests his whole life,” said teacher Sam Nijensohn. “He has seen the ups and downs of the lifestyle but embraces it wholeheartedly. He has been working hard at his family’s dairy farm since he could hold a shovel.”

Tianna Rivait, Vergennes Union High School, Vergennes

Al Karnatz of Vermont Land Trust presents the Land Stewards Award to Tianna Rivait

Nearly seven days a week after school, Tianna has worked at Nea Tocht Farm in Ferrisburgh, where she milks about 250 cows. During lambing season, she also helps with sheep at the Thompson DuClos Farm in Weybridge. “When she commits to an employer, she is all in and will make her job a top priority,” her teacher Bill Van Der Weert said. She has been an active member of Future Farmers of America and was part of the chapter’s parliamentary procedure that competed nationally in 2017. 

Will Trudeau, Center for Technology, Essex Junction

Al Karnatz, Vermont Land Trust, presents the award to Will Trudeau

Brian Japp, Will’s forestry instructor, nominated Will, citing his commitment to stewardship through work on his family’s sugarbush and his studies. “Will has an observable understanding of how his work can help protect and preserve Vermont’s agricultural landscape and heritage,” Japp said.  “Will is dedicated and hard working in class.  He dives right into any material we are exploring and contributes his own personal knowledge.”