Meet Carl Ferenbach, Who Traded Private Equity for Environmental Philanthropy and Maple Syrup

Carl Ferenbach is the cofounder of Boston-based private equity firm Berkshire Partners, currently holding about $11 billion in assets. But in his retirement, Ferenbach spends his days working in conservation, whether making large grants to the EDF or buying and restoring farms in Vermont.

Ferenbach is part of the club of big-time investment guys who struck it rich and then decided to devote their attention to environmental issues. And since these are go-big-or-go-home kinds of guys, that means going all-in. Ferenbach, for example, has been chairman of the board of the Environmental Defense Fund since 2008. He's also served on several other boards, including green groups like Climate Central. And he has three financial channels to support conservation projects.

Like fellow capitalists/environmentalists such as Tom Steyer and Larry Linden, he’s also a vocal proponent of making the business and finance worlds sustainable and socially responsible. He argues for the creation of a new social contract between business and government, redirecting the former's accumulated wealth to restore the foundations and services of the latter.

His financial support for the environment runs through three main projects, called the High Meadows Entities. Two of the three are funders, one giving mostly to the EDF in large sums, the other to smaller green causes in Vermont. And the third is pretty unique, because you gotta have a hobby, I guess. 

He and wife Judy own High Meadows Associates, which owns and operates farmland in Vermont, sustainably producing maple syrup, wood products and even grass for biofuel. Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor have their grassfed cattle; Judy and Carl Ferenbach have syrup

To date, HMA’s site states that they’ve conserved more than 700 acres of old farmland in Windham County, Vermont, buying up neglected land and restoring it to health for use in sustainable land management and farming. They work with the Vermont Land Trust to guarantee the properties will never be developed, and update facilities to be sustainable and more efficient.  

And, depending on the season, the farms sell their products—hay, maple syrup, timber, and in development, perennial grasses for use as heating fuel. 

Not quite the outcome you’d expect from a Harvard MBA, specialist in leveraged buyouts and former Marine. 

Read our full profile of Carl Ferenbach here