Merck Forest and Farm Center Farm Management Rupert Vermont
Teaching and demonstrating the benefits of innovative, sustainable management of forest and farmland

Merck Forest & Farmland Staff

Melissa Carll Melissa Carll (Communications Coordinator)

The opportunity work for a historic, natural landscape where people can learn about sustainability is what drew Melissa to intern on the farm, then apprentice under the education director, and, currently, work full time as the Communications Coordinator for Merck Forest. Her undergraduate degree in historic preservation taught her how people have interacted with landscapes in the past, and she feels that historic uses of a landscape can help shape present and future land use decisions. After obtaining a graduate degree in ecological planning and design to learn sustainable methods for designing and caring for landscapes, Melissa began work at MFFC.

Melissa works daily on a variety of communications material, and the big project this year is designing new signage that enhances visitors' understanding of Merck’s working landscape: the land's ecology, its history, and how we can all be a part of creating a resilient system.

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Jesse Gelinas Jesse Gelinas (Resource Specialist)

A New England native, Jesse grew up in the small town of Weare in southern New Hampshire. Throughout high school he spent his summers working in the White Mountains, and there he developed a love of nature and the outdoors.

Jesse also has strong ties to this area of Vermont. He studied at Green Mountain College, just a few miles north of Merck Forest, and received a degree in environmental studies with a focus on education. During college, Jesse spent three years living and working on Up Tunket Farm in Pawlet before joining the Merck team. His time at Up Tunket gave him a solid foundation of knowledge in sustainable farming and off-the-grid living. Now, Jesse and his partner Garland have a small farm of their own where they raise beef cattle, dairy heifers, poultry, goats, and pigs and milk a single jersey cow named Cricket.

With strong passions for the environment, education, agriculture, and the outdoors, Jesse has certainly fit in well as a member of the Merck Forest team.

Email Jesse at:

Tim Hughes Tim Hughes-Muse (Farm Manager)

From working as an adjunct professor as well as serving as the Farm Manager and Coordinator of Sustainability Programming at Green Mountain College, serving as the Farm Manager of the North Country School/Camp Treetops in Lake Placid, New York, to working as the Field Manager for Denison Farm (Schagticoke, NY), Timothy brings a breadth of comprehensive and engaging educational and hands-on farm experience to the fields of Merck.

Timothy lives in Pawlet, VT with his wife and four daughters. Together they enjoy canoeing and hiking.

Email Tim at:

Sarah Jackson Sarah Jackson (Apprentice)

Sarah is spending 2014 apprenticing at Merck Forest; she is continuing an agricultural education that she began in her home state of Georgia several years ago. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2013 having studied horticulture, sustainable agriculture, and English. Throughout her time at UGA, she also worked at botanical gardens in Ontario, organic farms in Ireland and Georgia (the state), and a folk arts school garden in North Carolina, where she gained interest in woodturning and banjo pickin'.

Southern-grown Sarah is exploring northward to learn more about sustainable land management at Merck, as well as to get familiar with animal husbandry. She hopes to integrate it into her own prospective farm plan and completing the essential animal-plant-food-community cycle of comprehensive agriculture.

Email Sarah at:

Rose Karabush Rose Karabush (Apprentice)

Rose arrived at MFFC fresh from her first season of full-time farming. She previously worked as an apprentice at an organic vegetable CSA in Stanfordville, NY. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and after some traveling and an adventure or two, attended college in Montreal. During her time in the Great White North, she studied anthropology, worked with on-campus food system projects, deepened her appreciation for maple syrup, and ran off to woods or farms whenever possible.

Thanks to an epiphany--and the embarrassing number of YouTube permaculture documentaries that triggered it--Rose decided to become a farmer, and her experience as a farm apprentice in the Hudson Valley last year sealed the deal. She's particularly looking forward to working with Merck's diverse animal residents, spending quality time in the woods, and learning more about farm-based education.

Email Rose at:

Kathryn Lawrence

Kathryn Lawrence (Assistant to the Director)

Kathryn joined the Merck Forest staff in October of 2010 as office coordinator and bookkeeper. Her professional experience includes book keeping for a local motel, a local contractor and most recently as office and finance manager for Riley Rink at Hunter Park, for six years. She has three married children, whom she home schooled while partnering with her husband Rick in the operation and management of a 90 cow dairy farm. Her farm responsibilities included farm bookkeeping, calf management, milking and driving tractor in whatever capacity needed. She has a love for farming and the outdoors, which attracted her to the opportunity at Merck Forest.

Kathryn grew up in Arlington, has lived in numerous places in Vermont and Pennsylvania but chooses to call the beautiful Mettowee Valley home. She and Rick live in Pawlet and have transferred their love for farming to a small farm with perennial gardens, a vegetable garden and five horses. Their children and grandchildren come to Vermont to play as often as is possible.

Email Kathryn at:

Colene Reed Colene Reed (Assistant Farm Manager)

Colene Reed always talked about animals as a young 4-H-er in Michigan. Growing up, she raised and showed hogs, lambs, and rabbits, and during college worked as a barnyard educator at the Kalamazoo Nature Center while pursuing a biology degree from Western Michigan University. After school, her first pilgrimage to Vermont was to work as a diversified livestock apprentice at Shelburne Farms. Most recently, Colene was in Grand Rapids, Michigan raising livestock and her own meat rabbits, and growing vegetables at Trillium Haven Farm.

This year Colene felt it was time to get back to the Northeast. So after accepting her new position at MFFC, she packed up her pasture-raised rabbits and her dog, Cricket and "hauled buns" to Vermont. You may see Colene up at the farm busy with haying, school groups, and daily farm activities. Her meat rabbits live on pasture at the farm. Their whole pasture-pens are moved daily to new grass. Colene is more than happy to share her knowledge about farming and her rabbits with visitors.

Email Colene at:

Tom Ward

Tom Ward (Executive Director)

Tom is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University (BS, Marketing 1969) and The University of Vermont (MS, Forestry 1981). After graduation from undergraduate school he served as a Maintenance Officer with the United States Air Force and with the New Jersey and Vermont Air National Guard when a graduate student. On active duty he oversaw as many as three functional areas with over one hundred enlisted men and women under his supervision. He has prior experience in non-profit management as the Director of Smokey House Project in Danby, VT, and Executive Director of the Community Agriculture Center in Manchester, VT.

He has served on numerous non-profit boards of directors and chaired the Manchester, VT, school board for four years. Tom also has over twenty years' experience managing his own business as an investment advisor. He is an avid birder and gardener and enjoys hiking, biking and long winter walks with his wife, Jean.

Email Tom at:

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We are not part of any government agency. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent
allowed by law and are greatly appreciated!

Banner photo courtesy of Dan Sullivan
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