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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Katie Connor Katie Connor (Visitor Engagement Specialist)

Katie grew up on a 95 cow dairy farm in Fort Ann, New York. She is the 2nd oldest of 5 kids and loved being homeschooled all the way through high-school. She has always enjoyed the outdoors and working with animals. On the farm she did anything from milking, delivering calves, herd health, driving tractors and any other heavy farm equipment. She also worked on a pig farm, where she delivered over a hundred piglets, managed the care of the all the pigs and did some of the field work.

In the Fall of 2011 and 2012, Katie got to experience working at her Aunt and Uncle's apple orchard in Middlebury, VT. She loved learning about all the different varieties of apples and working with the customers. Some of Katie's hobbies include: reading, riding horses, hunting, walking, playing guitar and singing with her siblings in her Uncle's bluegrass band. She also enjoys hanging out with her family and friends.

In 2013, Katie went to Cosmetology school to get her hairdressing license. She hopes to someday open up an organic salon with her mom, who is also a hairdresser, and have a little farm on the side. Katie is looking forward to building her knowledge of farming by working at Merck.

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Meghan Feldmeier Meghan Feldmeier (Apprentice)

Meghan is a growing farmer from the heartland, and a rooting reader of everything in her heartland. In Milton's Paradise Lost, at the Vassar College Farm, and fermenting in the kitchen, she found that growing healthy food is the oldest and most radical medicine. She reads collective memories and listens to spoken secrets: she is in love with the magic that crafts geography, botany, and farming knowledge into poetry. Since graduating, she hiked alone on Italy's mountains, farmed for a season with Greek Orthodox nuns on Mount Olympus, made jam and cheese, fermented everything, arranged vegetables at an overpriced co-op, saved seeds, and grown vegetables on an island. She's found that greenhouses womb her, fields stretch her, and harvests carve her. She's looking forward to how forests and pigs and horses and sheep and hay and maple sugar will move her. Pickling cabbage and sharing it with you is her greatest joy. She is a committed to creating connections, consciousness, and community with carrots, cabbage, and lamb cutlets. She dreams of the song inside seeds waiting to come home to sprout, and uses her life to write its poem. Working within an underserved community to grow and share healthy organic food is the doing-dream, as is food justice, health and healing. To Meghan, farming is an occupation, a lifestyle, and her love.

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.

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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.

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Bryan Markhart Bryan Markhart (Assistant Farm Manager)

Bryan has spent the past four to five years pursing an agricultural education, one that will hopefully continue indefinitely. He graduated from Bennington College in June of 2013 having primarily studied food systems and sustainable agriculture. During his years at Bennington he gained as much agricultural experience as his academic schedules would allow by working on a variety of farms around the country during this summers and winters. Bryan also worked to establish the student garden at Bennington. After spending last season working for the Youth Agriculture Project in North Bennington, he tried to escape from VT to explore new horizons in his home state of Minnesota. This proved a short lived plan (turns out this winter was not a good one to move to Minnesota), and he found himself back in the beautiful Greens just five months later.

Bryan is very excited to be at Merck, continuing his education in agriculture, learning about animals, and getting practice with many of the practical skills of farming. Besides farming he really appreciates cooking, good food, rock climbing, and lakes.

Email Bryan at

Kate Parsons Kate Parsons (Apprentice)

Kate was born and raised in western Massachusetts but moved away upon graduating high school to the famed dairy state of Wisconsin. Her time there was filled with cheese, studying alternative education at Beloit College, founding a student-run dining cooperative, and working with Driftless Folk School as a program assistant which taught her about the challenges of non-profit organization. As a believer in hands-on, grassroots education she hopes to re-establish a lost network of folk schools with her work with the Folk Education Association of America.

In the last four years Kate was impassioned by dirty hands and worked on several large CSA farms in the northeast and the midwest. She's started seeds, transplanted chard, picked onions, laid re-may, thinned beets, packed boxes, pounded fenceposts, mulched with hay, and dang, she sure knows how to pull a weed to two. When Kate is not in the field, you may find her picking up her fiddle or wearing out her boots out at a contra dance in town. She is feeling more ready than ever to be at Merck Forest and can't wait to get her hands in the dirt again. She is interested in simpler agricultural techniques, animal husbandry and care, BERRIES, low impact forest management, sugaring, and connection with young humans on the farm.

Stephanie Pittman Stephanie Pittman (Apprentice)

Over the past decade, Stephanie traversed the country, learned to cook, toured by bicycle, wore out a few pairs of dancing shoes, studied microbiology and human physiology, and found herself growing a lot of vegetables. She volunteered as a community garden R&D assistant, a literacy tutor, a mapmaker, and an HIV/AIDS advocate. After a transformative season spent interning on a small, diversified farm in the Puget Sound, Stephanie discovered her vocation—striving to create a healthy, viable community through well-loved land. From there she winter homesteaded on an island in the Tennessee River and spent two feisty summers farming, baking, and adventuring in and around Yosemite.

Stephanie comes to Merck seeking to further her education in closed-loop farming, animal husbandry, and homesteading. Apprenticing here will solidify her current knowledge and allow her to garner new skills critical for sustainable land management—especially the introduction to forestry and draft horses. She is both honored and totally pumped for the opportunity to craft a more capable self and a more useful land steward.

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.

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Patty Wesner Patty Wesner (Education Director)

Pat Wesner has her degree in Zoology from SUNY Oswego and taught high school science and was also a preschool teacher for several years. She has been involved in many community activities including: spokesperson for Double H Hole in the Woods Camp and has served on several non-profit board of directors. Pat co-authored and lobbied successfully to pass a New York State Law requiring insurance companies to pay for nutritional formulas for special needs children.

Pat Wesner recently retired as Executive Director of the Pember Library & Museum and Hebron Nature Preserve in Granville, NY. Over 24 years at the Pember, she also served as the Museum Director, Museum Educator and Naturalist. As the Executive Director Pat was the official administrative head of the Pember Library & Museum and had overall supervision of its operations, property, collections and staff. She served as fundraising Campaign Director where she coordinated all efforts raising capital funds and funds for the restoration of the historic Pember building. Pat was a member of several national museum groups and co-author of the published "Resurrecting Nineteenth Century Herbarium and a Collectors Career."

Pat has a daughter, a son and two step-sons. She is an advocate and caretaker for her son Ryan who has multiple disabilities. She lives with her husband Mark in East Greenwich, NY on her gentlewoman farm where she enjoys driving draft horses, fishing, hunting and raising organic meats and vegetables.

Email Patty 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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