One of the four finalists for the 2023 New England Leopold Conservation Award is Jones Family Farm, located in Shelton, CT.
The Sand County Foundation describes the award as a recognition of “landowners who inspire others with their dedication to land, water and wildlife resources in their care.” Terry Jones, one of the owners of Jones Family Farm, said being a finalist for the Leopold Award is “an enormous honor – very humbling.”
This family owned and operated farm is now in its seventh generation and is continuously diversifying. Specifically, Terry said, “The unique thing about our farm is that each generation has started a new enterprise – which doesn’t mean we throw out the old…”
For example, the first generation started working with livestock; the second started to focus on the dairy business; the third started growing potatoes. Now at the seventh generation, the farm also has a Christmas tree farm, U-pick strawberries and blueberries, a pumpkin patch, a vineyard and winery and maybe even U-cut flowers soon.
When it comes to productivity of the farm, it’s difficult for Terry to choose just one enterprise. In terms of acreage, he knows the Christmas trees are his most productive. Back in the 1940s, Philip Junior (of the fourth generation) was given $50 to buy a few evergreen trees, and by 1947, he sold a dozen of them to his neighbors as Christmas trees.
“That officially started the Christmas tree business,” Terry said. “We sold 12 that year and now we sell over 12,000.”
In addition to their wide variety of enterprises and products, the Jones Family Farm also focuses on sustainability, hospitality and experimentation. When it comes to sustainability, their main focus and success is simply caring for the soil and the environment. Terry mentioned how “just caring for the ecosystem here is the key to sustainability.”
In fact, the motto of the Jones Family Farm is “Be good to the land and the land will be good to you,” from Philip James Jones (1821-1912).
The main focus of the experiments that occur at the farm center on sustainability. They have scientists from both the UConn Extension Service and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station come and develop ground covers to protect the soil, discover how to integrate beneficial insects to help control the bad insects and just learn how to be “environmentally correct.”
Hospitality has been a huge priority for the farm as they work to make their land and operation community friendly. They have many non-family employees that are able to help strengthen the winery production and the hospitality aspect including managers, interns and even retirees.
Terry’s goals for the farm, besides seeing it last another seven generations, are “to see the benefits and the passion continue,” maintain their diversity in enterprises and to lead a good example. Terry hopes that being a finalist for the 2023 New England Leopold Award will “demonstrate to our children and grandchildren, and so on, the importance of caring for the land.”
by Kelsi Devolve