• Benee Hershon

From Friday Tree Walks to CCCD: My Journey to Conservation

I never considered a career in conservation until my first week of college, when a friend insisted that I had to check out that, “awesome tree class”. The “awesome tree class” was the introduction class for the Environmental Studies program: “Fundamentals of Environmental Challenges”, where I immersed myself in conservation topics from best forestry practices to learning about aquatic ecosystems. The highlight of the class was Friday tree walks around campus where we learned how to identify New England plants and trees. Each week I looked forward to joining my fellow environmental enthusiasts, as we stood in circles under beautiful trees carrying magnifying glasses and journals to write down every fact that we could. My favorite tree of the semester? The Shagbark Hickory or Carya ovata.

I quickly became involved in all things environmental. I felt particularly drawn to sustainable agriculture, working landscapes conservation, citizen science, and engaging my peers and community in conservation. These interests lead me to becoming president and farm manager of Brandeis University’s rooftop farm, a Teaching Assistant for a Citizen Science course, a Natural Resources intern at Minute Man National Historical Park, an Avian Specimen intern, and eventually lead me to the foothills of Shenandoah National Park at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

This past year I had the incredible opportunity to plan and farm a 3-acre no-till community engagement farm for The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts through the TerraCorps program. It was an amazing year working within the Pioneer Valley farm and food system, but I also missed working in my other interest areas within the conservation field. As my service year drew to a close, I found myself back in the same position I had been following graduation, scrolling through just about every job site in the environmental field. About a month before the end of my service term I found a job posting that made me do a double take! I have always had so many different interests in the field of conservation, that I never thought I could find a job that engages the community in all my interest areas. I wrote up my application immediately and sent it in the next morning. I am so thankful to have found the job posting for CCCD and am thrilled to be working in the role of Outreach Coordinator. I am so excited to have the opportunity to work with an incredible organization, board, and community, while also promoting the conservation of our natural resources in Cheshire County!

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