From the Founder

From Founder Carl Ferenbach ’64

In the spring of 1988, Judy and I bought a small farmhouse and 90 acres of land in Townshend, Vermont. It was an old, hilltop farm dating from the late 18th century. The sheep and wool industry had long ago departed and the forest had reclaimed the once open fields and climbed over the stone walls. We began a long process of reclaiming the fields, adding horses and more land and then roads and trails to give access to what became several hundreds of acres. Here migratory water fowl stop in the beaver pond, often hatching and growing their young before moving on north or south; wild turkey grub; deer browse; coyotes hunt; beavers build; black bears raid beehives in search of honey; and now and then a moose wanders through. And us humans somehow coexist. Along the way we found stored in an old barn a sign. It read “High Meadows Farm.” We immediately cleaned it up and happily hung it out. Soon after, we discovered we could make maple products with sap from our own trees.

In 1999 we were introduced to Fred Krupp of the Environmental Defense Fund. And not long after received an invitation to join him and others for eight days of rafting and hiking in the Grand Canyon. We were delighted because by then we were asking questions about what impact we were having on the land in Vermont. And how was climate affecting us? And had acid rain been significantly reduced by the 1990 Clean Air Act? And what about all this habitat we seemed to be stewarding? Could EDF be a resource for us to find answers to these questions? Of course, they were.

A year or two later in my office at Berkshire Partners, I was reading the backgrounds of our newly recruited associates for that year. A Berkshire Associate joined a two-year program after having completed their undergraduate degree and, typically, had worked for Goldman Sachs or Bain Consulting. Leaving us they expected to attend a top business school. Our new Associates had outstanding academic records and great recommendations from their employers. Which lead us in turn to wondering why a similar two year program couldn’t work at the Environmental Defense Fund or at one of the other wonderful organizations we supported. And wouldn’t there be equally talented students from Princeton who would welcome an opportunity to start there? And so the High Meadows Fellows Program began.