May 14, 2021 | By: Carol Lea Spence

LEXINGTON, Ky., — Roger Snell, retired farm-to-retail liaison at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, recently received the 2021 Bill Best Award for Food and Farm Stewards from the University of Kentucky’s Food Connection.

The honor is named after Bill Best, collector and preserver of heirloom beans, author and founder of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center. Lilian Brislen, executive director of The Food Connection at UK, said the award is a way of thanking the people and organizations who dedicate their lives to building and preserving local foodways.

“As noted in our inaugural remarks about Mr. Best, stewardship is the slow work of seasons on the practical labors of caring for each other and the land that sustains us,” Brislen told those in attendance at the event. “We honor those whose work is defined both by humility and by generosity. Grounded in an infinite knowledge of land and place, food environment stewards build our self-reliance while simultaneously showing us our deep interconnections.”

Nancy Monroe, ag program coordinator in KDA’s Direct Farm Marketing Division, nominated Snell and introduced him at the ceremony held at The Cornerstone on the UK campus. In her nomination, she stated that Snell was tireless in his work to help Kentucky growers find and expand local markets for their products.

“As the Kentucky Proud program rolled out in the early 2000s, Roger was instrumental in its growth, as he promoted it to the producers across the state and helped forge connections with the retail community that will last long after his retirement,” she said during her introduction.

Cindy Finneseth, executive director of the Kentucky Horticulture Council, also nominated Snell. In her nomination letter, she praised his dedication to helping farmers succeed.

“I had the pleasure of working with Roger on several projects, assisting growers in making connections with potential buyers. As an example of his dedication to making those successful connections over two co-hosted Grower-Buyer MeetUp events, we were able to connect over 100 growers and buyers, with many of those relationships continuing to thrive,” she wrote.

During his tenure at KDA, Snell helped more than 1,000 Kentucky Proud farm families sell their products. He developed ties with Valu Market, Kroger, Fishmarket Inc, Critchfield Meats, Piazza Produce, Creation Gardens and other distributors and independent retail stores around the state. He also worked with restaurants and other entities who wished to source Kentucky Proud ingredients.

In accepting the award, Snell made it a point to share the honor.

“It took everyone, the distributors, retailers, buyers to make this happen. And everything was driven by the consumer,” he said. “It’s a celebration of teamwork. We were often blessed that the decision makers, the people with authority to purchase these products, had Kentucky farm backgrounds. They felt they were on an honorable mission.”

He also said he and his team learned that “no” was just another word for “try again later,” which they did until they succeeded.

Snell recently retired and is enjoying his free time painting landscapes of rural Kentucky. He said it means a lot to him to have been able to contribute in this way and to be honored for that contribution with the Bill Best Award, which he called the “best” award he could receive.

The Food Connection at UK is an applied food systems center housed in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. It serves farmers, food producers, students and community members by supporting the development of vibrant and sustainable food systems on campus and across Kentucky.


Lilian Brislen,

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