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

Will Bunten Will Bunten (Forest Operations Manager)

Will received his degree in Forestry from the University of Vermont in 2002. He then spent eight years in southeast and southcentral Alaska working on the Forest Inventory and Analysis program for the US Forest Service. On the rugged coast of Alaska inventorying everything from old growth Sitka spruce to the smallest lichens, Will was still drawn back to the deciduous forests of his home state of Vermont.

Since returning Will has worked for large sugarwoods in Northern Vermont installing tubing systems year-round and maintaining vacuum and boiling sap during the sugaring season. Will moved to Rupert with his wife and two young daughters. They look forward to exploring Merck Forest and the surrounding area together.

Email Will at

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.

Email Melissa at

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.

Email Katie 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

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

Bryan Markhart Bryan Markhart (Apprentice)

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 Brian 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

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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