Sheep rotationally graze in the pastures of MFFC's regeneratively managed demonstration farm. Photo provided by MFFC.
Sheep rotationally graze in the pastures of MFFC's regeneratively managed demonstration farm. Photo provided by MFFC.

A vision of connection and community

By Jennifer Brandt, Vermont Country Magazine correspondent.

RUPERT — Founded by pharmaceutical executive George Merck and his wife Serena, Merck Forest was envisioned as a place where families and friends could bond over the wonders of nature. Today, that vision lives on as a nonprofit, donation-driven organization committed to connecting people through place, shared learning and community.

Embrace Nature’s Classroom: Discover Merck Forest & Farmland Center

Panoramic view of MFFC. Photo provided by Anna Terry.

In a world filled with screens and concrete jungles, there’s an oasis waiting to be explored: Merck Forest & Farmland Center. Nestled in the heart of Rupert, this 3,500-acre haven has invited adventurers, learners and nature enthusiasts since 1950.

A Sanctuary for Outdoor Enthusiasts

At Merck Forest, time spent outside isn’t just valued; it’s cherished. Whether you’re strolling along scenic trails, cozying up in rustic cabins, or basking in the beauty of open vistas, every moment is an opportunity to reconnect with the land and rejuvenate your spirit.

Preserving Nature’s Legacy

Merck Forest’s team of dedicated land managers ensures the preservation and sustainability of this cherished landscape.

From managing a 3,500-acre forest to overseeing a 62-acre working farm and a 3,000-tap certified organic sugarbush, their efforts ensure a thriving ecosystem for generations to come.

Join the Journey

With over 20,000 visitors connecting with this treasured landscape every year, Merck Forest & Farmland Center inspires curiosity, love and responsibility for natural and working lands. Discover the magic of Merck Forest and embark on a journey of exploration, education and community-building unlike any other.

Discover, Learn and Play!

Merck Forest offers a myriad of activities and programs to suit every interest:

  • Tours and Guided Hikes: Explore hidden gems in the forest and on the farm, guided by knowledgeable staff.
  • Workshops and Trainings: Develop outdoor stewardship and leadership skills through hands-on, certified skill-building activities.
  • Signature Events: From maple sugaring to lambing, ecology agriculture and agroforestry, these family-friendly festivals showcase the best of each season.
  • Day Camps and Kits & Cubs: Engage in nature-based exploration, crafts and activities for children of all ages.
  • Institutional Programs: Tailored experiential programs and service-learning opportunities for learners of all levels.

For March, April and May, mud season and early spring have a lot to offer at Merck Forest. There are two first annual signature events: family-friendly open houses that offer food, crafts, hands-on activities and lots of fun.

  • Maple Open House on Saturday, March 23: Boiling and tapping demonstrations, stories and maple traditions, maple candy making, farm animals and food available.
  • Meet the Lambs on Saturday, May 18: Meet our baby lambs, chicks, piglets and goats, touch a tractor, wool and fiber crafts, activities and food available.

Other things to do:

Baby Lambs enjoy spring sunshine on MFFC’s 62 acre farm. Photo provided by Hadley Stock.
  • On the farm: Check out the baby animals. We will have baby chicks, lambs, piglets, goats and turkeys on the property. Watch the farm come to life. Maple sugaring is in full swing.
  • In the woods: Book and enjoy warm cabins with dry firewood available to rent. Find ephemerals as they sprout up in the forest and listen for birds and owls.
  • In the Visitor Center and Friends of the Forest Gift Shop: Merck Forest & Farmland Center’s friendly staff will orient you for a great visit. Purchase organic, Audubon-certified, bird-friendly maple syrup, gorgeous sheep skins, and Merck Forest-raised lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. Pick your own blueberries in late summer. Hiking and camping essentials and maps to help you chart your course.

With 35 miles of hiking trails and incredible vistas at every turn, this community-supported environmental nonprofit organization is open daily, 365 days a year, from dawn until dusk.

Other events, March to May

For kids, from pre-K to graduate students, Merck Forest is an outdoor learning campus for all ages. Dive into ecology and sustainable land management education, participate in service learning opportunities, and witness climate-smart farm and forest management demonstrations. Workshops, trainings and public events offer firsthand experiences that ignite curiosity and foster a deeper appreciation for our natural world.

  • Kits and cubs toddler/preschool and parent/caregiver twice weekly meetup
  • Spring Break Camp for grades 3 to 6, April 15 to 19
Kits and Cubs is MFFC's popular toddler/pre-schooler weekly meet up. Photo provided by Elena Santos.
Kits and Cubs is MFFC’s popular toddler/pre-schooler weekly meet up. Photo provided by Elena Santos.

For families and all ages, with our In the Forest series, we offer Full Moon Hikes, Who’s in our Woods and Sunrise Hikes, where you can experience the serenity of the full moon, explore woodland flora and fauna and see the break-of-day crest over the Taconic.

  • Full Moon Hike: March 25
  • Sunrise Hike: March 1, 15 and 29
  • Solar Eclipse Viewing Party: April 8
Photo provided by David Kraus.

Boundless recreation opportunities include:

  • Walking
  • Birding
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Riding

Plan your visit

Just minutes from the Dorset Green and Salem, N.Y., Merck Forest & Farmland Center is easily accessible year-round. Visit the Visitor Center daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or explore the Friends of the Forest Gift Shop, which is open Thursday to Sunday, also 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For program information and registration details, visit or call 802-394-7836.

Embrace nature’s classroom. Experience Merck Forest & Farmland Center today!

Jennifer Brandt is a born and raised Vermonter and a recent Brooklyn transplant. She has worked as a freelance writer and event coordinator for the past decade focusing on food and Intersection with social justice issues. She has combined her passion for food and sustainable food systems with her Indigenous heritage by creating a series with MOFAD celebrating North American Indigenous folks in the food world. When not touring cities and the back roads of the Vermont countryside in search of the endless array of food and culture, you can find her taking Instagram photos of her rescue pup Bagel.

Vermont Country magazine

Vermont Country has a hyperlocal focus on the Green Mountain lifestyle, its personalities, events, attractions and culture. The magazine appears six times a year, designed to complement the state and four-season living. VtCo magazine is a Southern Vermont publication of Vermont News & Media.

Previous Story

More than just amateurs on the stage: The Dorset Players approach century milestone

Next Story

A Grand Union of Romance and Luxury: The Wedding Offering of South Shire and Niramit Thai

Latest from Behind the Scenes