SELT Honors Conservation Leaders at Annual Celebration

SELT Honors Conservation Leaders at Annual Celebration

SELT recognized Kate and Jeff Donald of Stout Oak Farm, Sherri Nixon of Exeter, and the City of Rochester with our stewardship, volunteer, and conservation leadership awards (respectively) during our Annual Conservation Celebration.  The sold-out event was held at Alnoba in Kensington and recognized our partners who helped conserve more than 1,800 acres in 2016. 

The Ashton Hallett Award was established to honor the original founder of Strafford Rivers Conservancy.  This year SELT’s Board decided to use this award to recognize a person or organization who has made significant contributions to the exemplary stewardship of land. The 2017 Ashton Hallett Award recipients are Kate and Jeff Donald, owners of Stout Oak Farm in Brentwood.

Kate and Jeff were nominated because of their stewardship of Stout Oak Farm, the former Creamery Brook Farm in Brentwood.  Nearly five years ago, Jeff and Kate became the owners of the farm after working with SELT and the Town to permanently conserve it. Since then, as custodians of this farm, they have worked tirelessly to transform the farm into a thriving and diverse community supported farm growing veggies, fruits, and eggs.   As farmers, they are exemplary stewards, asking for help from the Natural Resources Conservation Services and others to implement best management practices, control invasive species, and try new crops, all the while growing food for their community.  They are model landowners, responsive to SELT’s annual monitoring requests, and managing their land consistent with the restrictions of the conservation easement. Beyond this, they have hosted field trips and other events to open their farm to the public.

Kate has also supported SELT through her participation in our Visioning Committee for the SELT’s Burley Farms, where her extensive knowledge as the prior tenant farmer has informed the possibilities for SELT’s future use of the farm.  Kate and Jeff are engaged members of their community, with Kate serving on the board of Seacoast Eat Local and Jeff serving as chair of the Brentwood Conservation Commission. Thank you Kate and Jeff for your exemplary stewardship and community engagement!

sherri_smallThe Founders’ Award for Volunteer of the Year recognizes the individual whose volunteer efforts match or exceed the drive, skill, and perseverance demonstrated by SELT’s founding Board members, who launched the thriving organization we celebrate tonight.  The recipient of this year’s Founders’ Award is Sherri Nixon of Exeter.

Sherri Nixon has been involved with SELT for more than a decade, and has been a volunteer with us since 2013. For the vast majority of that time, Sherri has been charged with the very unglamorous task of properly archiving our conservation easement and fee ownership lands so we are in compliance with national quality standards.

If were to come and observe Sherri at work, you’d actually think we’d asked her to care for baby dolphins because Sherri approaches SELT’s archival work with impressive engagement, dedication, and skill. And that has not changed since she started volunteering more than 3 years ago!

We thank Sherri sincerely for her:

  •   Exceptional quality of work, which meets national standards for excellence in stewardship;
  •   Superb professionalism and work ethic, which has saved SELT the expense of hiring additional paid staff;
  •   Volunteer leadership both with SELT and also Seacoast Eat Local, where she serves as a Board member, helping to expand both the availability and sustainability of local food production.


The Jack Heath Award was established to honor Jack Heath, the original founder of the Rockingham Land Trust.  It is presented annually to a person or organization for vision, leadership, and enduring support of conservation in southeastern New Hampshire. This year, the SELT Board of Directors has selected the City of Rochester as the recipient of this award.

Over the past two years, the City has been an exemplary community partner, working with SELT on three significant projects that advance conservation of working farmland and clean water.

You’ve already heard about one of these projects –the Ten Rod Farm, which required the City to take a leap of faith in SELT and federal funding to meet a tight timeframe for the property’s acquisition and eventual conservation.

The second farm is the Gauthier Farm along the Salmon Falls River.  The Gauthier’s Farm is a diversified farm borne from Yankee ingenuity and hard work, with a variety of crops from eggs to maple syrup to hard cider.  Situated with nearly 1.5 miles of shoreline on the Salmon Falls River, the farm and forestland is critical for wildlife and water quality – and a priority for conservation. In April, the City of Rochester voted to commit the final funding and we hope to close by the year end.

The final project was the addition of 133 acres of City-owned forestland along the Cocheco River to an existing conservation easement, completed by the City early this year.  This land includes a public water supply well and was conserved as mitigation for economic development and highway improvements in the City.

The City, through its volunteers serving on the  Conservation Commission to its professional planning staff to its City Council have been exemplary partners to achieve our shared goals. Thank you!