by Sanne Kure-Jensen
The “Young Nurseryman of the Year” award was presented to Melissa Minto of Watson Farm by the Rhode Island Nursery & Landscape Association. Shannon Brawley, RINLA executive director said, “This prestigious award is given to promising young people in the agricultural and plant based industries.”
Jean Cotta, co-owner of Portsmouth Nursery in Portsmouth, RI, presented the Award to Melissa at the 2014 RINLA Winter Conference held at the University of Rhode Island.
Melissa was born and raised at historic Watson Farm in Jamestown where she spent her childhood immersed in farming, animal husbandry and exploring nature. Watson Farm is owned by Historic New England and provides sustainable agriculture education. Melissa has a spirited commitment to working landscapes and the beauty of nature. Her upbringing nurtured her passion for agricultural education and encouraged her to pursue a career in environmental stewardship.
At North Kingstown High School, the principal presented a new “Unsung Hero” award to Melissa for her behind-the-scenes dedication to organizing school functions and events.
Melissa earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies at the University of Connecticut. From 2001 to 2008, she served as the Sustainable Agriculture Delegation Leader for the non-profit New Haven/Leon Sister City Project, which organized high school and college work delegations to rural Leon, Nicaragua. These delegations fostered sustainable development projects in new communities of families displaced by Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Dozens of delegations helped the families of rural Leon and the experience changed the students’ worldviews.
In 2004, Melissa worked as Jamestown’s Teen Coordinator to develop youth programming and activities. Melissa led organizations, individuals and town agencies to create a successful model Teen Center that is still thriving today. This job gave her valuable insight to the inner workings of community development projects and the needs of today’s youth.
Melissa has since earned a Masters of Professional Studies degree with Cornell University’s International Agriculture and Rural Development Program. This program fit her passion for agriculture and youth development and leads towards a career promoting the benefits of environmental stewardship for everyone, regardless of their age.
Her thesis “School Gardens to Promote Science Discovery: A Pilot Project in the Mountains of Chiapas, Mexico” was a culmination of Melissa’s focused vision and understanding of world community needs.
Although much of Melissa’s work has been in Central America and Mexico, she realizes the importance of agricultural and environmental awareness and education here at home.
Melissa’s continued goal is to strengthen awareness of agriculture and the traditional green industry across the region. She develops experiential outdoor educational programming for families visiting the farm and garden center at The Farmer’s Daughter in West Kingston, RI.
She works to create programs and activities that foster environmental stewardship and a connection between people, sustainable food production, land and nature.
Melissa Minto awarded RINLA’s “Young Nurseryman of the Year”
by Sanne Kure-Jensen