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









Darla J Belevich Darla J. Belevich (Visitor Center Staff)

Darla Belevich is a long-time member of MFFC and last year become part of the Visitor Center staff.  You will recognize Darla by her enthusiastic welcome of hikers and campers to the Visitor Center and her animated stories of growing up on her family’s dairy farm in central New York State.

Darla brings to Merck Forest forty years’ experience as professor, coach and Athletic Director at the State University of New York/Adirondack.  She was instrumental in the development of the College’s Adventure Sports Program, and started ACC ROCX, the outdoor-adventure club.  She is a New York State Licensed Guide in Hiking, Camping and Tier II Rock-climbing.  Darla taught rock-climbing, hiking, first aid, and physical education to generations of college students, and she has introduced hundreds of those students to the joys of the outdoors in trips to Merck Forest, the Adirondack High Peaks, West Virginia’s New River Gorge and the Grand Canyon, among other destinations.  She writes, “I love Merck Forest and am so thankful that George Merck and his family had such a beautiful vision – for this place, and for the generations to come!” 

Email Darla at

Katie Connor Katie Connor (Visitor Center Staff)

Katie grew up on a 95-cow dairy farm in Fort Ann, New York. She is the 2nd oldest of five 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, Vermont. 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

Ethan Crumley Ethan Crumley (Forester)

Growing up in nearby Granville, New York, Ethan enjoyed visiting Merck and romping around the forest as a small child. Merck played a key role in inspiring Ethan's curiosity for the natural world and a love for the outdoors. In 2011, Ethan completed an A.A.S. Degree in Forest Technology from the SUNY- ESF Ranger School in the Northwestern Adirondacks. Two years later he completed a degree in Forest Resource Management at SUNY- ESF in Syracuse, N.Y. He has worked as a Summer Forester with Finch Forest Management in the Adirondacks. Most recently he has worked for Cersosimo Lumber Company in Brattleboro, Vt. as a Log Scaler, measuring and grading logs.

Ethan is excited to be back in the area and to take on the variety of forest management challenges that Merck offers. He hopes to continue to sharpen his own skills while inspiring the next generation of forest managers and stewards.

Email Ethan at

Sarah Elliott Sarah Elliott (Visitor Center)

Email Sarah at

Chris Hubbard Chris Hubbard (Education Director)

Growing up in Salem, New York, Christine Ferris-Hubbard had Merck Forest in her backyard. Her early memories of Merck include hiking up the backside to settle into lean-tos for camping and roasting marshmallows with the Girl Scouts and climbing into the hollow tree.

Chris graduated from Green Mountain College with a BS in Elementary Education, and from the College of St. Joseph with a Masters in Literacy Arts. She has spent a number of years working with children, both in and out of the classroom. She is fascinated by science, and completed a 3-year science and technology resource program, and was involved in a teacher leadership program focusing on science in the classroom.

A traditional folk artist with over 25 years' experience in chair caning, Chris has given demonstrations at Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks through the New York State Council of the Arts, and has lead classes for their Intergenerational Grands camps. She has taught a variety of seat weaving classes, and is on the staff of the Adirondack Folk School in Lake Luzerne, NY. She especially enjoys weaving with locally gathered birch bark. Chris and her husband have a small farm with a growing flock of sheep, two alpacas, a flock of chickens, 3 cats, and their Border collie, Maisie. They enjoy visiting Maine, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Chris is excited to join the staff at MFFC, and is looking forward to working with students in the sciences, helping them learn about the world around them.

Email Chris at

Jonathon Kilpatrick Jonathan Kilpatrick (Farm Manager)

Jonathan comes to Merck from nearby Washington County, New York. He caught the farming bug at an early age when his family moved to New York. He raised various species of livestock in his younger years and worked on the family's mixed vegetable farm. After spending a summer managing the farm for his brother, Jonathan realized that farming and clean food were something that he was passionate about, and he wanted to see it perpetuated in his generation and those to come. He interned and subsequently apprenticed at Polyface Farms with the Salatin family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He was also able to intern at Cobb Creek Farm in Texas, furthering his education in grazing and pastured poultry production.

Jonathan is passionate about connecting farmers and consumers, holistic management, building soil through proper grazing management, sustainable forestry, and seeing new farm enterprises start and succeed. Jonathan especially enjoys educating and seeing others learn and grow in their farming skills and knowledge.

When not busy farming, Jonathan can often be found enjoying God's creation -- hunting, fishing, or playing a mean game of volleyball. He also cherishes any time he gets to play the piano or read.

Email Jonathan 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 tractors 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

mb Marybeth Leu (Communications Coordinator)

Marybeth joined the MFFC staff in the autumn of 2015. Her background includes an undergraduate degree in English from Northeastern University, and Certificates in Landscape Design and Landscape Management from Harvard University's Radcliffe Seminars program and the University of Massachusetts' Green School. Her professional experience includes nearly two decades in the Hospital Information Systems industry and over a decade as a landscape designer in the Boston, Massachusetts, area, where whe was principal in Boston Garden Gems, a design/build firm specializing in the urban landscape.

She loves scuba-diving, woodworking, puttering in the garden, and she is thrilled to become part of the Merck Forest family.

Email Marybeth at


alessiaSarah Mc Alessia McCobb and Sarah McIlvennie (Farm Apprentices)

Sarah and Alessia are from Ithaca, New York, and although they met briefly in high school, and both studied Sustainable Agriculture at Cornell University, their lives took separate paths. Subsequently the two ran into each other at an intern mixer in the Adirondacks, where Sarah worked as an outdoor educator for Great Camp Sagamore, and Alessia was a naturalist for The Wild Center. After the mixer, their lives went separate ways again.


They were not, however, to be separated for long: both applied for apprenticeship positions at Merck, and now here they are. Sarah started at Merck on Valentine’s Day, and Alessia joined the team after Easter. In the past few weeks, they have experienced the briefest Vermont winter on record, the festivities at the Pancake Breakfast and the Return of Eliot the Ram. They've helped deliver Peggy Sue’s piglets, learned to drive the horse-drawn wagon pulled by Fern and Arch, and instructed an audience of three year olds on the fine points of maple-sugaring. Suffice it to say that these two will keep busy as the lambing and growing seasons start to ramp up. Email Alessia at and Sarah at



eriks Erik Schlener (Assistant Farm Manager)

Erik's most recent professional assignment was as a farm consultant in Australia. In that role, he assisted the owners of startup farms as they developed strategies for conducting their operations in a manner both financially viable and ecologically responsible. Prior to that, Erik interned at Polyface Farms in Virginia, developing his knowledge of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Merck's new Assistant Farm Manager has a deeply-felt commitment to providing healthy food, and in educating people to develop healthy lifestyles, so he has a special interest in the educational mission of Merck, and in the entreprenurial aspects of Merck's farming operations. In his spare time, he loves to travel, and he recently bagged his first elk on a hunting trip in Idaho.

Email Erik 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, Vermont, and as Executive Director of the Community Agriculture Center in Manchester, Vermont.

He has served on numerous non-profit boards of directors and chaired the Manchester, Vermont, 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 affiliated with, nor do we receive annual support from Merck & Co. Inc.
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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