Select Page

Meet the VACD Team


Jill Arace
Executive Director

Jill has nearly thirty years of non-profit management and sustainable development experience, mostly overseas. She lived and worked in Thailand and Cambodia for eleven years, managing relief and development programs for several organizations. She returned to the US to attend graduate school, where she earned two masters degrees – one in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, and the other in Economics from Boston University. After graduate school, Jill moved to one of her favorite places – Vermont – where she worked for eleven years at the Institute for Sustainable Communities managing civic participation and sustainable development programs. After traveling the world, Jill began learning more about conservation and community development in Vermont and in the beautiful Mad River Valley, where she lives and facilitates sustainable agriculture initiatives. Jill is particularly interested in supporting local food production and building bridges between different segments of the community. 

Jeff Farber
Conservation Programs Manager
Jeff has had a long and varied career of non-profit administration, project management, and conservation activities. He has served on the Middlesex Planning Commission for the past five years, is restoring a forgotten farm apple orchard, raising organic fruits and vegetables and managing the woodlot on his 10 acres. Before coming to VACD in 2008, Jeff served on the staff of UVM's Division of Continuing Education, where he designed and managed distance learning programs for post-graduate professionals. Jeff is also a self-employed media producer developing award-winning documentary films and projects focusing on conservation and social change issues. He brings a wide range of managerial experiences and a strong commitment to conservation work to his position as VACD's Technical Programs Manager.
Carrie Youngblood
Office Manager

The manager and bookkeeper of our virtual office is the current business office manager of Black River Design Architects. Carrie Youngblood is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has lived in Vermont for more than 30 years. Her previous office/financial positions have included the non-profits Downstreet Housing, VPIRG, Heaton Woods Assisted Living Facility, and Turtle Island Children's Center, as well as four years at Solar Works (now Real Good Solar). Carrie lives in Montpelier and is active in the United Church of Christ, currently a member of Bethany Church, Montpelier, and is serving on the Board of Directors of the Vermont Conference, where she will be Moderator of the 2024 Annual Meeting. She is also the Treasurer of the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and sings in the Vermont Philharmonic Chorus. 

Troy Dare
Rural Fire Protection Program Manager

Born and raised in Rockland, Maine, Troy grew up enjoying life on the ocean as a Rockland High School Tiger dabbling in cross country, track, drama and other theater groups. He also developed a strong passion for guitar and music. After high school he attended Vermont Technical College majoring in Civil Engineering Technology. In the summer months he worked as a Stern-man on a few lobster boats and played guitar in a few professional rock bands. During his senior year at VTC, Troy did work-study for the Vermont Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D) Councils Vermont Rural Fire Protection Task Force on the Rural Fire Protection initiative. In the spring of 1998, the VT Legislature started funding the Dry Hydrant Grant Program and Troy has worked as the Engineering Technician for that program for 15 years until the RC&D's closed their doors in 2013. Troy has now moved on to become the Rural Fire Protection Program Manager for the VACD to continue the Dry Hydrant Grant Program and help evolve the Rural Fire Protection Program to another level of service & support for Vermont communities & Fire Departments. To date, Troy has helped install nearly 1200 dry hydrants in 235 towns and communities across the state. In 2017, Troy’s daughter Joule Loretta Dare was born and, in the Fall of 2018, he bought a house in Sumner Maine.

Emily Nummer
Agriculture Programs Manager

Emily was born and raised in Michigan, and took advantage of the state’s natural beauty as soon as she could crawl. She participated in her first citizen science conservation project in 3rd grade, when she went on daily hikes to identify frog and toad calls. While studying at the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute in Chiang Mai, Thailand, Emily discovered her passion for agroecology. This passion grew while she worked as a farmhand on a Certified Naturally Grown vegetable CSA farm. In her previous role as Director of Education at BaySail, Emily worked with conservation districts to deliver water quality outreach and education programs onboard tall ships sailing the Great Lakes. A lover of interdisciplinary learning, Emily’s background in sociology and psychology complements her M.S. in natural resource management, allowing her to effectively connect with and support land stewards. Emily lives with her partner, two dogs, three cats, and countless houseplants. She loves swing dancing and quilting, and is venturing into the world of roller derby. She enjoys all outdoor activities, but feels particularly at home on a sailboat or kayak.

Alli Lewis
Vermont Agricultural Water Quality Partnership Coordinator

A native Vermonter, Alli was privileged to enjoy her childhood growing up in the Green Mountain State. While camping, hiking, traipsing through bogs and catching frogs, she developed a deep connection to place. Though trips abroad were enticing, Alli always wanted to return to the state she called home. She earned Bachelor’s degrees in Integrated Environmental Science and Wellness and Alternative Medicine from Johnson State College. Her passion for the environment led her to work in hazardous waste remediation, collaborate with farmers on water quality projects as a VACD agricultural resource specialist, and coordinate the NRCS-supported Lake Champlain Regional Conservation Partnership Program and other water quality grants through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Clean Water Initiative Program. As a mother, she strives to live in close relationship to the land and those who inhabit it, so that her son may develop the same awe, respect and commitment to the special place that Vermont is.

Molly Varner
Communications Coordinator

Molly received a B.S. in Marketing Management from Syracuse University in 2008 and is currently one course from completing her Master's in Environmental Science and Policy at Johns Hopkins University. Molly joined the Grand Isle County Natural Resource Conservation District as Project Manager in March and has been combining her business acumen with recent training in conservation to expand the role of the district within the community. Inspired by the unique landscape and culture of the Champlain Islands, Molly hopes to bring new energy and light to issues challenging the county, such as water quality, and aquatic and terrestrial invasives. Her fellow Vermont districts, VACD, and NRCC have guided her through the state's conservation landscape, helping her to now support each in the role of Communications Coordinator. She's looking forward to reinventing her marketing skills to serve an eco-conscious audience. In her short time in Vermont, she's developed a deep connection to the Green Mountain State, spending her free time hiking, discovering new swimming holes, and enjoying the local culture. She is committed to enhancing the vitality of Vermont through both positions.

Clare Ireland
Finance Manager

After graduating from Beloit College with Bachelor of Arts degrees in philosophy and political science, Clare spent four years with an AmeriCorps program as a conservation crew leader and wildland firefighter in Missouri and Montana. During this time, she also acted as an emergency response coordinator, providing leadership in volunteer and data management in the wake of natural disasters across the United States. In 2015, Clare joined the L-A-D Foundation where she managed human resources, finances, and outreach initiatives for one of Missouri’s largest conservation nonprofits. Despite her field-based background, she is, in fact, a “numbers person” who loves the problem-solving power of a beautifully designed spreadsheet. A St. Louis native, Clare married a New Englander in 2017, and both she and her husband are excited to be brand new Vermonters. Outside of work, Clare enjoys hiking, wood working, gardening, and playing old-time fiddle.

Jess Miller
Grants & Finance Specialist

Jessica’s career began in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, where for two years she led a citizen science program that monitored aquatic macroinvertebrates. A caddisfly lumbering along a stream bed never failed to leave her agape, and she found a home in the quirky and curious human communities that form around natural history. She went on to monitor rare moths in New England pine barrens and wild bees in mid-Atlantic farms; when she returned to school, Jess investigated the impact of mowing regimes on the butterfly diversity of Champlain Valley hayfields. Her career took an administrative turn, and for the last decade Jessica has worked in business, state government and nonprofit administration, mastering strategies for knowledge management and process improvement. She joined VACD in 2022 eager to use the skills and insights of this work to streamline grant administration. Jess is an avid home herbalist and open to trades for intel on secret swimming holes.

Lina Smith
Grants & Finance Specialist

The daughter of Canadian immigrants who moved to Vermont to have a better life, Lina was born and raised on a dairy farm in New Haven Junction, VT. There, she learned the value of hard work and developed a deep appreciation and love for Vermont. After attending college and moving to Montana for a few years, she returned home and worked as operations manager for a small cottage industry which brought her to the Northeast Kingdom employing home knitters to make specialty sweaters. Other jobs included raising two children, school secretary, managing her own specialty sweater business and working as a freelance bookkeeper for area businesses before being elected Town Clerk and Treasurer for the Town of Walden where she served for 20 years. She loves any activity that will allow her to be outside. Walking/hiking, gardening and building things as well as singing, reading, being creative and at the top of the list is spending time with family.


Meet the VACD Technical Staff


Michelle Smith
Conservation Planner (Rutland)

Michelle joined VACD in the summer of 2011 as a CREP planner and is now working as a Land Treatment Planner. Prior to her role with VACD, Michelle worked as a ConservationGIS Technician with USDA Farm Service Agency for more than four years where she gained extensive experience in GIS and conservation programs. Michelle is a MA native but has been living in Vermont for over thirteen years. She earned her undergraduate degree at Green Mountain College in environmental studies with double minors in biology and geology. As a graduate student, Michelle studied environmental sciences with a focus in conservation biology. She attributes her life-long love of the environment largely to her parents, who always encouraged her to explore the outdoors through backpacking, hiking, and family canoe trips.

Caitlin Silber
Programs Assistant (St. Albans)

Raised on Long Island, New York, Caitlin spent summers vacationing with her family in Northern Vermont. The mature forests, unique landscape and beauty of the Green Mountain State solidified that Vermont is where she wanted to live. After years designing jewelry for clients and graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Art from Adelphi University, Caitlin moved to Vermont and in following years finished her Graduate Degree from the Gemological Institute of America to elevate her long-standing career in the Fine Jewelry industry. Though she thoroughly enjoyed the building of connections to Vermont through its community members, she ultimately knew she needed to make a larger impact for VT residents and their future.

Caitlin went on to work with the Vermont State Parks, Forests & Recreation; learning that conservation of the waters and land of the state she calls “Home” are essential. With allotted down time in winter, Caitlin and her partner Chris traveled to the islands of Hawai’i through the WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) program, working to stabilize fragile local food systems as well as implementing organic and sustainable farming practices. Learning from the Pacific Island peoples about issues surrounding cultural justice and equality was a life altering experience that she will always be grateful for.

Her studies of Agroforestry, Permaculture sciences and organic farm management led to working with a local VT Industrial Hemp farm, applying these methodologies and gaining experience in low-impact monocrop farming. Becoming familiar with the programs in Vermont that assist farmers and the general population with their goals, while also protecting the natural resources that make our state so special, directed Caitlin to the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts. She is super excited to continue making a huge difference! In her downtime, she enjoys hiking with her partner, tending her gardens, collecting rocks and minerals, family & friends, live music and cooking

Will Ebby
GIS / sUAV / Resource Support Technician

Originally from outside of Philadelphia, Will is a recent graduate of Middlebury College where he majored in Conservation Biology. After graduating in 2022, Will worked remotely for the USFS Southern Regional Office as a Cartographic Technician. Will is extremely excited to join the VACD and NRCS GIS team and is looking forward to meeting everyone! Outside of work, Will can be found skiing, hiking, and exploring Vermont.

Amanda Harris
Conservation Program Assistant (St. Johnsbury)

Amanda was born and raised in Vermont, and grew up in the Champlain Islands. She always had a love for the outdoors, and enjoyed exploring mountainous and natural places. On the other side of Lake Champlain she would visit my paternal grandparents in the Adirondacks of New York. Back across the state and over the Green Mountains she would visit her maternal grandparents in the Northeast Kingdom. The more time she spent visiting and learning about these special places, the more her love for them and the natural world grew, along with her drive to conserve and protect them.

After graduating from Castleton University in 2019 with a Bachelors in Ecological Studies and a Minor in Women's and Gender Studies, Amanda worked for the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation seasonally for four years. Three of those years spent as an Assistant Manager for the State Parks. Over that span of time she worked at Grand Isle, Kill Kare, and Brighton State Parks. The urge to work more closely with conservation efforts, protecting, and improving natural resources lead her to VACD. She looks forward to the new experiences to come, and making a difference in conservation in Vermont.

Amanda enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, gardening, and nature/wildlife photography. She now resides in the Northeast Kingdom with her cat Mavis.

Evan Foster
GIS Technician

Evan was born and raised in rural Massachusetts where he experienced the natural world at a young age. He attended UVM and graduated in May 2020 with a degree in Environmental Sciences and a minor in Geospatial Technologies. During his time as an undergraduate, Evan took full advantage of everything that UVM had to offer including working for the Spatial Analysis Lab where he gained valuable GIS experience. Evanwas fortunate enough to study abroad in northern Mongolia where he spent 4 months conducting research in partnership with the local rangers on conservation efforts in a protected area. Following graduation, he completed an AmeriCorps term with the Attleboro Land Trust where he assisted with land stewardship and community engagement efforts. This is where Evan's passion for conservation work developed. Having spent a year away from Vermont, he decided to come back and complete another AmeriCorps term with the Vermont Land Trust. He gained valuable experience learning about conservation easements and restoration work happening across the state of Vermont. When Evan isn't in the office, he loves spending his time outside skiing, hiking, climbing, and canoeing.

Luc Burnier
GIS/sUAV Resource Support Technician
Born and raised in Vermont, Luc graduated from UVM in 2021 with a degree in Geography and Geospatial Technologies. During his time as an undergrad, he was able to participate in an erosion mitigation research project in collaboration with VTrans. Since then, Luc has been able to start my own drone business for real estate photography and have done GIS volunteer work for his local town's planning commission. He's quite passionate about landscape photography, playing/listening to music, backcountry skiing, and traveling. As a GIS/sUAV Resource Support Technician at VACD, Luc looks forward to understanding the possibilities of implementing conservation practices with UAV and GIS technology.