We’d like to welcome Merck Forest and Farmland Center (MFFC) as the newest partner with the Vermont Atlas of Life. MFFC is an education non-profit, which strives to teach, demonstrate, and sustain a working landscape. MFFC’s 3,100-acre property, in the Taconic Mountains of southwestern Vermont, is open to the public daily. With no admission fee, the public is invited to spend time on the 60-acre working farm and perhaps add some observations to VAL. You can also see animals on pasture, help out with farm chores (see schedule online), and pick berries (seasonal). Recreationists can enjoy 30 miles of trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and horseback riding. Woodstove-heated backcountry cabins are available to rent year-round, and MFFC also offers dispersed tent camping for visitors. Place-based educational programs are scheduled for school groups. Visit the Visitor Center to purchase MFFC’s pasture-raised pork and lamb. Merck Forest and Farmland Center is located at 3270 Route 315 in Rupert, Vermont.
Last May, expert naturalists teamed up with volunteers to catalog living species on site during Merck Forest and Farmland Center’s inaugural one-day BioBlitz. Armed with weathered field guides and infinite curiosity, thirty participants, including twelve students from Burr and Burton Academy, broke into small groups and hiked through five different study plots at Merck forest and Farmland Center (MFFC). Depending on the expertise of the naturalist leading each group, participants were on the lookout for birds, trees and non-woody plants, mushrooms, and amphibians. After a few hours in the field, and a little (albeit at times heavy!) rain, the lists were in, and a few unknown species were keyed out.In collaboration with Dr. Kerry Woods of Bennington College, this event proved to be a fun and engaging way to study biodiversity at MFFC, and it served as a pilot for a larger, more substantial BioBlitz next summer contributing all of the information gathered in real-time on the Vermont Atlas of Life.