Photo Contest

Vote for a Grand Prize Winner

Two kids play in a creek. A farmer checks his crops. A butterfly flits down to land on a native wildflower. These are just a few of the winning images in the 5th annual Nature and Farm Photo Exhibit. Amateur photographers from across southern Indiana entered photos inspired by the “Earth Day Every Day” theme. Judges narrowed the field to these top photos. Now, the contest organizers are asking the public to help select a Grand Prize Winner – and pick an Earth Day Every Day Challenge! Everyone is invited to vote one time:

One photo in the exhibit highlights one the easiest – and most enjoyable – ways to celebrate nature. Erin Schuerman, of Ripley County, Indiana, entered a photo of her two young sons crouching and looking at bugs. Erin says, “Every Sunday when the weather permits, we hike at Versailles State Park and get ice cream afterwards. This is a photo of my boys stopping to check out one of the little critters on the path. (No bugs were harmed!)”

“Just pausing to pay attention to nature is something we can all do,” adds Liz Brownlee, Executive Director of Oak Heritage Conservancy. “We can get outside with loved ones, and enjoy a break from screens and meetings and worries.”

When you vote for a Grand Prize Winner, take a moment to pick an Earth Day challenge.

We’re inviting you to do something good for the planet (and yourself!) today. You’re right – it’s not Earth Day (that’s April 22!), but we challenge you to pick out an Earth Day Every Day challenge.

Plan to Plant

Go Zero Waste

Take Reduce/Reuse/Recycle to the next level, and Reimagine your impact on the planet. The Earth Day Network explains how you can track your waste and bring it down to Zero.

Eat Local

Eating locally and with the seasons is easier on the planet and good for your local economy. We can help you find a nearby farmers market. Curious to learn more? Let author Michael Pollan explain, and then click here to find a farmer’s market near you (even in winter!).

Support Nature

And one of the challenges is self-serving: we’re challenging people to support nature right here in southeast Indiana by joining Oak Heritage Conservancy or another conservation group they support,” adds Brownlee.

Oak Heritage collaborates with George Rogers Clark Land Trust to host the annual contest and exhibit. Both groups protect land in southern Indiana. Oak Heritage focuses on natural areas, like old growth forests, wetlands, and pollinator habitat. They open their properties to the public to visit. Click here to support Oak Heritage.

GRCLT protects working farmland, especially farms with the best soils. Both groups conserve land forever – so the land will always be habitat or farmland, and can never be developed. Click here to support GRCLT.

2019 Contest Results: Hoosiers Say Nature Matters to Their Communities

“We all need to be outside. Nature is our foundation.”

“Natural areas are a getaway. They give us time to unplug and be free.”

“Having nature and somewhere to explore nature makes the community more beautiful.”

“Nature adds to the whole grand picture of life.”

“Protecting greenspace areas is critical to improving and maintaining high quality of life. It inspires play, exercise and overall well-being.”

Photo by Sheena Grim

These are just a few of the quotes from the 1,292 Hoosiers who voted for a Grand Prize Winner in Oak Heritage Conservancy’s annual Nature and Farm Photo Contest.

This year’s entries showed kids playing in a clear creek on the family farm, a tree swallow feeding its young at a wildlife refuge, old barns with a sunset in the background, the milky way above a covered bridge, and other common – but beautiful – sites from around Indiana.

The Grand Prize winning photo was submitted by Sheena Grim of New Albany. Her photo shows sunrise over a foggy Ohio River, with a metal bridge in the background.

“Nature allows everyone to relax,” says Grim. “Taking pictures of nature allows me to take a break from my busy life.” Her photo received almost 200 votes. Clearly, she caught people’s attention by focusing on this intersection between people and nature.

When people voted for their favorite photo, they were also invited to chime in about how they thought nature contributed to their community.

“We believe whole-heartedly that nature is part of what makes a community special, but we were curious what others thought,” says Liz Brownlee, Executive Director of Oak Heritage. The group has nature preserves scattered around southeast Indiana. Some of the preserves include amenities for the community, like hiking trails and regular nature events.

Natural areas, trails, and other natural amenities can be part of a community’s “sense of place,” says Brownlee.

“Sense of place” is a relatively new idea, but basically, it’s what makes a community stand out. It’s the mix of the land, the history, the people, the art, the farms, the stores, the stories, and the natural world that are unique to that place.”

“People want to spend time in communities that have a sense of place,” she adds, either as visitors or residents. These communities often have a mixture of the arts, public walking trails, parks, independent restaurants, a sense of history, community events, and more.

Photo by Steve Robert Simmons

One question the survey asked was: “Do you think protecting more natural areas can help a community’s ‘sense of place’”? Over 95 percent of people said yes.

“This definitely is not a scientific survey,” says Brownlee. “But we’re encouraged that so many Hoosiers spoke up and said that nature is a key part of what makes their communities strong – and that they want to protect more special places in their communities.”

People can turn that desire into action by getting involved with conservation says Andy Kain, president of Oak Heritage Conservancy.

“Our members fuel conservation in southeast Indiana. Their $25 and $40 memberships add up, and they help create nature preserves, hiking trails, and nature programs for kids.”

Anyone can join their group – and each year, the Grand Prize Winner of the photo contest receives a membership as their prize.

“Sheena is joining a growing community of nature-lovers,” says Kain. “We hope that many more people will follow her lead. Right now, we’re the first 50 new members to join get a free, limited edition Oak Heritage t-shirt so that they can tell the world that they value nature in their community.”

Oak Heritage protects natural areas, like forests and wetlands, that are free for the public to visit and enjoy. They have nature preserves with hiking trails and host nature events, like butterfly walks and scavenger hunts. Their partner on the photo contest, George Rogers Clark Land Trust, helps farmers protect their land as working farmland.

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Oak Heritage Conservancy protects the special places that make southeast Indiana unique – and we host programs that get people outside in nature.

Click to learn more about the natural areas we’ve protected forever, for you to enjoy or to learn about our upcoming events in nature. Or better yet – get involved with our conservation work. You can help protect the special places in southeast Indiana.

George Rogers Clarks helps farmers protect their land from development and subdivision. Learn more at

The photo contest is made possible by the Indiana Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Many thanks to the these groups for making the arts come alive in southeast Indiana.