Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest: “Rest,” Cries the Chief Bean Picker!

For the last year, Trish Stevenson (daughter of Nina Leopold Bradley and former Aldo Leopold Foundation board member) has been heading up a volunteer committee to launch the 2016 Wisconsin Aldo Leopold Writing Contest, with support from staff at the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center. This program was modeled after a similar grassroots effort in New Mexico.

Under Trish’s leadership, the Wisconsin Writing Contest group successfully raised funds and forged partnerships to support the program, and the contest was announced early this year. A panel of judges reviewed over 80 entries from across the state and the winners were honored at a ceremony at the Leopold Shack in May. Over the next month, we are pleased to be able to bring you a selection of the winning essays from this year’s contest here on the Building a Land Ethic blog. Please join us in congratulating and appreciating these fine young writers! Many thanks also to the sponsors of this program: The Boldt Company, Cedar Lakes Conservation Foundation, The Natural Resource Foundation of Wisconsin, Conserve School, and CTI Meeting Technology. Thank you!


Students were asked to craft their essays in response to the following writing prompt, based on the February chapter of A Sand County Almanac:

“Why is it important to know where your food and energy come from, and how can you (or how have you) made changes in your family or school life that reflect this understanding?”

This week we are pleased to share one of the winning essays in the 9th-10th grade category.

Aldo Leopold Essay

By Kalyn M. Cronk
Grade 9, Spooner High School

My family has a garden. From this garden, we receive fresh and organic vegetables. We work together to pick the tomatoes, beans, peas, broccoli and other vegetables. We are able to eat them as we please, and my mother cans them so they are preserved for later consumption. The tomatoes are made into sauces, of which we use for spaghetti. Tonight we ate the spaghetti, and knowing that my tomatoes weren’t put through factories and pesticides makes me happy. It is keeping me and my family healthy, and we aren’t polluting the wonderful Earth we live on.

Across the road from my house is a field, and every year the farmer puts pesticides on his plants and after it rains, the pesticides make their way into the neighboring lake and pollute the water. If people started paying more attention to what is in their food, we would all start making healthier choices (which links to the obesity problem we have as Americans). The more chemicals we put in our food and consume, the more harmful chemicals we release into the air from the factories, and this links to global warming.

Leopold Writing Contest

I think that the more you know about where your food and energy come from, the more you appreciate it (or not appreciate it, in some cases). Just like Aldo Leopold, my family burns wood to heat our house. We also have a geothermal system to heat it. I think that having renewable resources as sources of heat are great! When you use coal or other nonrenewable resources, you aren’t able to turn them into something else once you have harnessed their energy, and that pollutes the Earth. With renewable resources, you can reuse them over and over without depleting them. When you are buying a house, I think it is very important to have the Earth in mind because every little detail can make a big difference.

veggies_Blue Hill_sm

Image courtesy of Blue Hill farm from in the Soils issue of the Leopold Outlook magazine

At Spooner Schools we have multiple gardens in which we plant and raise vegetables to put into our school lunches. By doing this, we are reducing the amount of chemicals released into our air and bodies, and educating us about why it is important to take care of the Earth. At the end of the day, it is very important to know where your food and energy come from, and help keep the Earth clean. We only have one, and we need to preserve it. So the next time I’m picking a basket of beans, I will think to myself, “Rest! cries the chief bean picker, and we pause for breath”.

Kalyn KronkKalyn Cronk grew up and still lives in Spooner, Wisconsin. She is just finishing up her freshman year of high school, and hopes to become a traveling writer. When she enters college, she is also hoping to pursue her dream to continue as a volleyball player while keeping up with her writing courses.


Explore the rest of the winning essays!

Week 2: Lessons from the Good Oak

Week 3: Rings of History and Good Oak

Week 4: Environmental Rings