American Farmland Trust: Connecticut Working Lands Alliance Announces Winners Of Student Essay Contest

May 29, 2014, 14:38 ET from American Farmland Trust

WINDSOR, Conn., May 29, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Connecticut Working Lands Alliance, a project of American Farmland Trust, today announced the seven winners of the first-ever FFA/Agriscience/4-H Student Essay Contest.

Students were asked to write a 750 word essay to answer the question, "If we, as a State, want to increase everyone's consumption of Connecticut-grown food and farm products from current levels of less than 2 percent to 10 percent, what role could farmland protection play and what role could agriscience schools and/or the University of Connecticut 4-H play in meeting that goal?"

Jackie Johnson, a freshman at Northwestern Regional High School in Winsted, was the first prize winner; Bailey Basiel, a senior at Middletown High School from Durham, placed second; and Carter Smith-Wellman, a senior at Deerfield Academy from Hartford, placed third.

There are also four students selected for honorable mention: Taylor Buell, a junior at Killingly High School from Dayville; Matthew Sniffen, a junior at Wamogo Regional High School in Wamogo; Sage Strileckis, a sophomore at Nonnewaugh High School in Prospect, and Heebong Kim, a junior at Stuyvesant High School, New York City.

"I am delighted to recognize these talented students who entered our essay contest and shared some wonderful ideas about increasing the sales of CT–grown products," said Terry Jones, Chair of the Working Lands Alliance.  "It is to our benefit to engage these talented young people in issues that face our agricultural sector, and we are enthused about the opportunities to put these ideas into practice. I want to offer my congratulations to the winners of the contest on behalf of Working Lands Alliance and our many partners."

"The ideas and energy of our bright agriscience students will be needed as we move agriculture forward over the coming years," said Governor Dannel P. Malloy. "This contest provided a great opportunity to involve these students in our efforts to increase the consumption of CT-grown products and grow our agricultural economy, which is vital to the state. I commend these wonderful agriscience, FFA, and 4-H students and congratulate the winners of the Working Lands Alliance's essay contest."

In addition to being high school students, many of the winning students are also active in agriculture-related organizations.

Jackie Johnson is a member of the Northwestern Regional Future Farmers of America and the Busy Farmers 4-H Club in Litchfield County.

Bailey Basiel is a member of both the Mattabeset FFA and the Jolly Ranchers 4-H Club where she has been very involved with a 4-H dairy cattle project and will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall to study animal science.

Carter Smith-Wellman is a former member of the Wesmoor 4-H Club in Hartford and plans to attend Emory University in the fall to study economics or environmental studies.

Taylor Buell is a chapter officer for the Killingly FFA, president of the Windham County Fantastic Farmers 4-H group with an animal science major and plans to enlist in the army.

Matthew Sniffen is a member of the Wamogo FFA studying animal science and natural resources with plans to attend the University of Connecticut.

Sage Strileckis is a member of the Woodbury FFA and is studying veterinary science with plans to study veterinary medicine at UConn after graduation.

A total of $1,000 in prize money was awarded to the winners: $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third place. 

In addition to the cash prizes, the three prize-winning students and those selected for honorable mention will join Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Commissioner of Agriculture Steven Reviczky for dinner at Winvian in the Litchfield Hills where Executive Chef Chris Eddy will prepare a world-class meal using Connecticut-grown foods. The dinner is scheduled for early August.

"Winvian is delighted to host the Governor, Commissioner of Agriculture, and these fine students for dinner, and to help recognize the outstanding accomplishments of the 7 awardees of the contest. Like these students, we care deeply about Connecticut agriculture, and are happy to see them contribute their ideas on such an important topic," said Chris Eddy, owner and Executive Chef of Winvian.

Representatives of the Working Lands Alliance, AFT, Connecticut State Grange,  University of Connecticut Extension and CitySeed judged the essays.

The Alliance is a statewide coalition dedicated to preserving Connecticut's productive farmland.  To learn more about the Working Lands Alliance, visit: or call 860-683-4230.

The American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land.

AFT will host the Farmland, Food and Livable Communities national conference in Lexington, Kentucky on October 20-22.  Visit for more information.

For more information on the policies and programs of the American Farmland Trust, visit, follow us on Facebook at or Twitter


Lisa Bassani, Working Lands Alliance Project Director, American Farmland Trust
Phone: 203-535-9495
Laura Trivers, Director of Communications, American Farmland Trust
Phone: 202-378-1252

SOURCE American Farmland Trust