The History of the High Meadows Fund
Carl and Judy Ferenbach established The High Meadows Fund (HMF) in 2004 as a supporting organization of the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF). At that time, the Ferenbachs’ charitable giving was focused on advocacy for the environment, support for children and youth, education in the crafts, rural health, and educational institutions. They established HMF under the umbrella of the Vermont Community Foundation because of VCF's capacity as a knowledgeable and engaged partner to inform and guide effective grantmaking in Vermont. A separate High Meadows Foundation was established for philanthropic giving outside the state.
Over the course of the next few years, the High Meadows Fund narrowed its focus to environmental grantmaking directed at promoting sustainable farm and forest enterprises, clean energy, and resilient land use in Vermont.
From its inception through December 2016, the High Meadows Fund has made grants totaling over $10.5 million. You can find lists of our major grants and mission investments under the "What We Do" tab above.
When High Meadows began its work, the board sought out organizations and individuals who were respected as thought leaders and who were working in HMF’s fields of interest. Board members met with potential grantees at their sites and with leaders to discuss effective approaches to promoting energy a clean energy future, sustainable agriculture, and land conservation.
As the HMF board gained experience it decided to take a more strategic approach to grantmaking, focusing on energy initiatives that could have a statewide impact and emphasizing an outcome-oriented approach. In 2009, High Meadows hired its first staff member, Gaye Symington, who now serves as President. With that change the board also recognized that tools other than just grantmaking could play an important role in serving our mission. Convening stakeholders with well-crafted agendas, contracting for specific research, and investing a portion of our assets for mission impact became important strategies in addition to making grants.
In 2010, High Meadows began to focus more proactively on how to reduce Vermont's reliance on imported fossil fuels to keep our buildings comfortable. We have commissioned research and convened practitioners, policy makers and advocates to help us better understand barriers to making homes and community buildings more energy efficient and how to overcome them. In addition, we actively support initiatives that will both create opportunities to improve the efficiency of Vermont's buildings and use sustainably harvested wood resources to keep buildings warm in the winter.
After Tropical Storm Irene the High Meadows board devoted a year to exploring the implications of the already changing climate on Vermont agriculture, land use, and community development. The vibrancy of our communities and the health of the natural environment require that we continue to mitigate the factors that contribute to the changing climate, while also adapting to the risks and vulnerabilities brought about by more extreme weather events and other impacts of the changing climate. These challenges shine a spotlight on the environmental and social justice challenges inherent in adapting to a changing climate, as Vermonters with more modest incomes more often live in housing that is both expensive to heat and vulnerable to the impact of storm water erosion and flooding.
As the High Meadows Fund articulates its mission and strategy for grantmaking going forward, the Board recognizes the fluidity of this process. We review our objectives annually, leave room for the new and unexpected each year, and use what we learn to influence broader policy and market activity in our fields of interest.
Our most recent 990 filing is available here, for 2015.