MANCHESTER, VT. >> Working farms, nesting birds, river otters, scenic views — Southern Vermont and the Berkshires are known for bare ridge lines and open spaces, working and natural landscapes
Merck Forest and Farmland Center in Rupert, Vt., welcomes visitors to a working farm and forest to meet pigs and sheep, walk miles of trails and learn sustainable ways to live on and with the land.
"Probably what draws the most people to us in the summer is the sheep dog trials and farm festival," said Melissa Carll, communications coordinator for Merck.
Run by the Northeast Border Collie Association July 18 and 19, Merck hosts one of three sheep dog trial events making up Northeast Border Collie Association's Vermont Triple Crown. The group holds trials from Virginia, throughout the Northeast United States and into Canada.
Last year, 45 sheep dogs competed.
The farm festival will run at the same time in its 10th year.
"We try to focus on the sheep aspect of our farm," Carll said, with woolcraft demonstrations and fiber art.
Last year the event drew 800 people over two days.
"It rarely feels crowded," Carll said.
Merck also offers camping in cabins and sites for backpackers with tents. Carll said the same camping rules that apply in the Green Mountain National Forest apply in the Merck Forest. They ask campers to pack out what you pack in, not to make fires and to camp away from hiking trails. Cabins often have space in the summer, she said — winter skiers and snowshoers use them the most.