NorthWoods Guild Gathering – an Autumnal Ramble in the Northeast Kingdom

Written by Maddie Eberly 

October 6th in Greensboro, Vermont was a bit grey, and the autumn chill had settled in. Yet, for the group of Guild Members gathered at the Caspian Beach parking lot, nobody seemed to notice too much. Friends and colleagues greeted each other, exchanged laughs, and sipped steaming coffee. A holler gathered folks around for an introduction circle, launching into the first day of the NorthWoods Guild Gathering. 

Our weekend host, the NorthWoods Stewardship Center, has been a longtime partner of the Guild. They embody Guild values while stewarding the forests of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont – including the management of a Guild Model Forest! The NorthWoods Stewardship Center is a remarkable organization transforming seasonally from a small, localized staff to a large, well dispersed team of forest stewards working on projects throughout Vermont. 

Leaving the beach, we arrived at the Vermont Land Trust’s Mud Pond location. Dan Kilborn and David McMath from the Vermont Land Trust alongside Tony D’Amato from the University of Vermont led us through the day with visits to various sites of an Adaptive Silviculture for Climate Change (ASCC) study. The ASCC study project was designed to implement experimental, climate change adapted silviculture across various landscapes to inform the decision-making processes of forest managers.  

In the evening, we gathered at the NorthWoods Stewardship Center for a delicious meal. Following dinner, Sam Perron and Devan Pensinger led a presentation about NorthWoods’ forest management, commitment to local communities, and support of early career forest stewards and students. Folks then dispersed for the evening. Some played piano as others sat in chairs and couches talking about the intersections of their work and the day’s learnings or wandered off into the woods to find Oberon, the local barred owl. 

October 7th started early with coffee and breakfast at Northwoods followed by a short drive over to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge’s Nulhegan Division Refuge visitor center in Brunswick, Vermont. While gathered in the center’s parking lot, we were honored by a visit from Bren Whittaker, founding Guild member and recently recognized outstanding tree farmer. Stepping into the woods, Jeremy Goetz, Refuge Forester from the Nulhegan Division Refuge, and Tony D’Amato guided the group through a couple more ASCC sites managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At each stop, Guild members engaged in thoughtful conversations, intrigued by the management at hand and how the mixed conifer treatments differed from the previous day’s adaptation approach to northern hardwood silviculture. 

The gathering concluded with lunch and a closing circle where each attendee shared a takeaway from the two days – one of whom insisted it was the food which brought them to the gathering. Guild members were excited to learn about the climate change-focused forestry occurring in their region and connect with one another. Even if they had already visited one of the sites, there were novel conversations, new connections, and fresh observations. Longtime members were excited to see young professionals joining the gatherings, while the young professionals were excited to meet some of the original Guild members. Some folks in attendance were new to the northeast or traveled over from Maine, and all were excited to learn regional perspectives. “It’s the way life should be, but this is the way sugar maple should be!” said Tony D’Amato, taking a play at the Maine state’s slogan. Laughter bubbled up again and again. 

As the Guild members parted ways, filled with the warmth of community and the thrill of digging into silviculture, the grey skies finally let loose. The smell of petrichor drifted up as rain thundered on the windshields of the vehicles traveling away.