Those of us with Lens on the Land will miss Marshall terribly. As one of the leaders of our Shelburne Farms photography group, he was always kind, cheerful, and generous. We will treasure our memories of enjoying Shelburne Farms with him.
Remembering Marshall Webb
A Celebration of Life for Marshall was held on October 29, 2022 in the Breeding Barn. You can watch the full ceremony below. While you're here, please share a memory or reflection of Marshall in the comments at the bottom of this page. Gifts in Marshall's memory may be made to the Marshall Webb Climate Action Fund. Read about Shelburne Farms Climate Action initiatives that he helped make possible.
April 22, 1948 - August 11, 2022
Marshall Webb was the best of Shelburne Farms. He was passionate about this place, its purpose, and its broad community of people, and he served all three with quiet integrity and intelligence. Born and raised at Shelburne Farms, he loved it as his personal home and as his professional career, which began the day he and his siblings founded the education nonprofit in 1972. The impacts of that single act of generosity would ripple out over the next 50 years and beyond.
Marshall Webb with his family on the Inn South Porch, 1969. Not long after, he and his siblings would form the education nonprofit, using the farm as its campus. their father would later bequeath the property to the nonprofit. Left to Right (front row): Alec, Lisa, Robert; (middle row) Derick, Aileen, Elizabeth, Marshall's fiancée Emily Wadhams; (back row) Mary's fiancé David Phillips, Mary, Quentyn, Marshall. Photo: Clyde Smith
From the beginning, Marshall worked on the land; worked with his hands. He milked cows and hayed pastures for the young nonprofit, as he had since he was a boy. He led early camps in the Market Garden, and helped establish our cheesemaking operation, crafting some of our first cheddar. As Buildings and Grounds Manager, he painted, patched up, and repaired everything from aging windows to broken pipes. As he said in 2019, “You look at this place now, and it seems so solid and beautiful and everything is ship-shape. The programs are vibrant. But there was a time when absolutely nothing was certain.” Marshall made the organization’s success more certain.
Marshall and Bill Clapp pressing blocks of cheddar in Shelburne Farms’ original creamery, 1982.
Mostly, Marshall was in the woods that he loved. As our first Woodlands Manager, he tapped sugar maples and tended the boiling sap in our sugarhouse. He felled timber, then milled out beautifully grained boards, first for Lone Tree Lumber, and still today at the Farm Store. (He’d often show up in the office with sawdust in his hair, smelling of wood and the outdoors.) He charted and constructed our first walking trails, opening up this campus to thousands of people who would come to love it as he did. He pursued green certification for our woodlands, then managed them with great thoughtfulness and care. Marshall helped the nonprofit realize its vision of the farm as a true working landscape for learning–an enormous legacy.
The role suited him. Few knew this property as intimately or loved it more. From a lifetime dedicated to these 1,400 acres, he was as much a part of this landscape as the sugar maples and shale. He wore his family lineage lightly–mostly shrugged it off–but his long years at the farm gave him endless stories to share, which he readily did with grace and humor. He was a bridge to the not-so-distant past, though his mind and heart were firmly fixed on the future.
Marshall’s generosity of spirit, deep connection to place, and playful soul were a model for his coworkers and pure magic to program participants and visitors. Over the years and with endless patience, he worked alongside and mentored so many staff in how to tap maple trees or run a chainsaw, then how to close the day with a fierce game of stickball. He met the world with a kindness and curiosity that fed and inspired all who knew him, and all who learned from him.
His curiosity and love for the natural world shined through in his photography, a passion sparked when he picked up his first brownie box camera in the 1950s. He was so attuned to light and atmosphere; to the grand viewscape as well as the details of the forest floor. His vision and talent brought the Shelburne Farms annual wall calendar to life in 2003, and the Lenses on the Land photography workshops in 2006. Both endeavors quietly encouraged everyone to look at the world more closely, care for it more deeply.
That was Marshall’s guiding force. Throughout his life, he led with a heart-felt love and concern for the planet, which the nonprofit channeled and shared. As a grandfather and as a citizen of this earth, he was a champion in the fight against global climate change. In his last role at Shelburne Farms, as Carbon Drawdown Coordinator, he spearheaded efforts to help the organization achieve carbon negative status by 2028–in what would have been his 80th year.
Marshall explains biochar to visiting educators, just one of the carbon drawdown solutions that he championed. photo: Bob Schatz.
The day that Marshall died–of a heart attack while swimming in Lake Champlain–the weather was volatile. But it ended, as stormy days often do, with an amazing series of natural wonders: a rainbow, a glowing sunset, and a super moon. Marshall would’ve photographed it all. And it was easy to believe that the universe was honoring him with the show. He was an original, and irreplaceable. Marshall’s legacy here has been profound.
For additional tributes to and remembrances of Marshall, please read:
- A birthday on Earth Day: The life and legacy of Shelburne Farms’ Marshall Webb, VT Digger
- Obituary: Marshall Canfield Webb, Seven Days
- The comments shared below. Feel free to add your own.
Gifts in Marshall's memory may be made to the Marshall Webb Climate Action Fund.
To all the shelburne farms family. It is a terrible thing to lose someone as special as this man. I worked for and along side Marshall for eight years. He was a mentor and a friend. Being an employee of his gave me many of the skills that I have today and he and many of you on the farms were a direct influence on who I am today.
God bless you all. Comfort eachother in this time of a great loss.
Millie, That is so true. I loved those weekend workshops with Marshall. He will definitely be missed.
You were a great man, and you made a tremendous impression on me. I will never forget the times we shared together cutting Rock Maple trees at Shelburne Farms. I was so proud to burn that wood in my stove.
Also, I'm so fortunate that after 10 years I was able to chat with you this summer. Of course, I was delighted to cross paths with you, especially to find you on tractor just after you finished cutting hay.
rest among your trees my friend,
You were as nice a person as they come...positive, loving, quietly intelligent, and the best of humans. We once worked on a display for the Farm Barn together and you brought beautiful cherry, hickory, maple, ash and pine slabs to my studio for fabrication. Such a wonderful experience it was for both of us. God Bless You!
So deeply sorry to hear about this loss, but rest assured that Marshall's legacy will live on with the gift that is the Farms - the place he devoted so much of his life and passion to. All of Shelburne and beyond will be forever grateful.
A light has gone out for Shelburne Farms and everyone who care about the Earth and all that inhabit it. But in the quenching of this flame, we can now see the light from the thousands of other flames Marshall lit in each of us to carry on the timeless work. Let's all remember his actions, his infectious smile and his spirit.
I had the pleasure of taking part in the first several Lenses on the Land retreats that Marshall hosted. We also got together a few times in the evening to photograph the farm at sunset. He was such a kind, gentle person who loved sharing the farm with others. Rest in peace Marshall.
So sorry to learn about this. My husband Bob Downing and I send our deepest condolences. I did not know Marshall personally but have always loved his photographs. We are so grateful for everything he contributed to such a special place that does so much good for the world.
There must be hundreds of us, thousands maybe, who have been inspired by Marshall’s work ethic, his passion for wood, his artistic eye, his indomitable optimism, and his love of a good, dirty job. Of the many moments we shared, my favorite memories are of working together on his desperately dangerous portable sawmill, grinding away at red pine and spruce logs to create the Children’s Farmyard. He loved that mill because it was clever, practical, and just a little bit dangerous. Like him. The inspiration he has been to generations of worker bees like me will ripple outward for ages and ages to come. His life was truly a good job done.
... thank you for that beautiful tribute and for sharing. There are so many special sentiments for this remarkable soul...
So very sad to hear this news. He was a special and amazing person, for sure. My kids and I are so sorry, so sad. Sending love to his family and friends.
it saddens us to hear of Marshalls passing he was always a champion of the Green Mountain Draft Horse Assocation and our events at the farm. On behave of GMDHA please know that you are in our thoughts.
I was so blessed to have been raised on Shelburne Farms. Marshall, you were always so dashing and handsome. I write this to you now knowing that you are aware.
When I learned of Marshall's passing I was shocked; is was so unbelievable. All I can say is that now he is with his wonderful loved ones that passed on before him.
God bless you Marshall, prayers being said for your loved ones you leave behind.
I think the Earth said goodbye to Marshall Thursday night with an incredible sunset over Lake Champlain, a rainbow in front of the Green Mountains and the rise of the Super Moon.
I have just woken up to this awful news. What can you say about Marshall, no superlatives seem enough. Marshall was a force of nature, a phenomenon. He had an aura about him like no other human being I have ever come across. Anyone who has been fortunate enough to meet him or spend time with him would feel that too. He was the kindest, gentlest and most philosophical man I have ever met in my life. When I arrived at Shelburne Farms in 1987 to become the Chef at the Inn I was fortunate enough to live with Marshall for several months before my apartment was finished. That period had a profound effect on my life. I learnt from Marshall what it was like to be a loving, caring and decent human being and how to get the most out of life whilst respecting our natural surroundings and fellow human beings. Marshall was one of a kind and a truly special person. Shelburne Farms, Vermont, Scotland and the world mourns the passing of the most wonderful man I ever met. My thoughts go out to his family, friends and everyone in the Shelburne Farms community. An awful day.
So many memories, so many thoughts, and so many descriptive words, the one that comes to the forefront is beloved. This horrifically tragic event took away Marshall's life, but his legacy will be long felt, his legacy for the earth, for the Farms and above all for the thousands of lives he touched. His quiet, beautiful nature always there to help, irreplaceable! His talent and vision, photographs, woodworking, all live on. He generously helped me create a beautiful memorial service for Martin, always there to problem solve and be creative. His delightful smile, laugh and spirit made everything seem brighter. For his family, Katie, children, brothers and sisters, friends and co-workers, the loss is unimaginable and I send you love and healing thoughts. Marshall, you are beloved.
so sorry to hear of your lost to your family and friends.he will be missed for many year to come...He was so thoughtful no matter who you were.I enjoyed very much talking to him when working;I alway was impress with the way he cared about the tree and all the projects he did with them.The benches are so peaceful to sit on and checkout all the wonderful veiw.i alway like to see him bringing his grand kids to the playroom at the inn.all my heart any prays go out to his family and friends at shelburne farm.so sad that life takes the good ones before there time..
Marshall put a Scythe in my hands and taught me how to use it. I learned about his tragic death early Friday morning just as I began scything the Solar Orchard. Marshall embodied environmentalism and the wonders and miracles of Nature like no other person. I can imagine Marshall and Henry David Thoreau and John Muir together, sharing stories, as the greatest of pals. The brilliance of Marshall's life will always shine upon Shelburne Farms.
There are no words to fully express the shining soul we knew as Marshall Webb. He truly was a Renaissance Man. His infectious laugh, unceasing willingness to do right and do it well will live on in all those who were lucky to have meet, known, and worked alongside this gentle trickster-philosopher. He was taken from us far too early. Prayers of solace and comfort for his family and large circle of dear friends. His Presence will live on in the fields and forests of Shelburne Farms, a place that he was born to save, savor and serve.
Thank you Sally for your lovely tribute to Marshall. Your words brought tears to my eyes. You described the blessing we felt from knowing him, and appreciating his boyish charm, magic smile, and willingness to help and make life better for so many.
I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Marshall's death. Of all my clients, he was the one who most embodied my dreams for a more sustainable existence. He was a joy to work with, particularly since we shared so many common goals. As I slowly phase into retirement, he was the client and friend I hoped to keep "forever".
Few will remember me from working in the kitchen in the Big House over the ‘88 and ‘89 seasons, except perhaps David Taylor (hi - it’s “Noddy!”), but I want to share how in my life Marshall was a beacon of kindness, a teacher of environmental stewardship, and a guide for human decency. Since hearing of his passing, the world really feels to me like it isn’t the same, but I can’t think of a better way for us all to pay homage to his legacy by each of us striving to propagate the positive impact he had on all of us to others.
Always a smile and a friendly hello when I would visit the farms. Your many talents were noticed.
Shelburne Farms is a better place because of you.
Rest well Marshall Webb.
Marshall I remember as if yesterday from Wesleyan University, some months on the road in Europe in ‘69 and various trips to Shelburne when we all were young. He was wry, perceptive, adventurous and ever selfless in his friendships. Such a pleasure and honor to have known him and his family and shared in his larger-than-life world.
The "Best of the Best!" My friend now and forever. Marshall Webb. Rest in peace buddy and light up the Heavens with your great smile and your bright spirit. You will be missed.
It is hard to imagine my beloved Shelburne Farms without Marshall. I can hear his laughter, look at the photos on the calendars, give witness to his hard work and know the he was always there in times of need. He was truly one in a million.
I just moved to Shelburne in February. I was looking for some wood to build a table. At the welcome center I was connected to Marshall. A moment that will forever change my life. We met in April and worked together every week since prepping wood for display.
He met me with a smile every day and a new story about the farm. He was blessed with quiet charisma. What wonderful human being with such a positive outlook. Marshall … you will never be forgotten.
Marshall, you taught me how to speak to an introvert. You taught me that skiing on Vermont ice was character building. You introduced me to bourbon and maple syrup. You taught me how to smile more. Some day, we will be together again.
The planet lost a creative action-oriented leader and advocate with Marshall's passing. As he lived fully it was a shock but not a surprise that Marshall Webb died while out on Lake Champlain enjoying an August day with his grandkids. Peach picking here was on his agenda for this week. Marshall was a champion for climate change action, carbon sequestration and a deeply committed lover and steward of the landscape, particularly Shelburne Farms. We had a day together here at Broad Reach Farm last October working on our landscape. He remarked that we did pretty good for a pair of oldsters. I honor Marshall and cherish good memories of our collaborations over two decades for the enrichment of the Shelburne Farms landscape.
Marshall, long time friend, supporter, board member alum, encourager, documenter, artist, did essential stuff quietly, effectively, well, without drama, gone too soon, there is so much more to do, so much harder without you :((
Marshall, I really cannot find the words to express what you meant to so many, including myself. I met Marshall and we started our journey thru photography and friendship. We started doing yearly weekend seminars for RI school of design and then extending the model with the Lens of the Land sessions. Marshall was the gracious host, gracing us with his generous nature and smile. Every new person instantly felt welcomed and comfortable. Thru the years, we learned so much of the history of the farm, his history, and more important to begin to see the farm thru his eyes. My last moments with Marshall, was just he and I on a summer full moon night, and us joking that it was a lot better then our usual February full moon night as we took photos of moon rising over the breeding barn. Every image now I see of the farm, I will be reminded of Marshall and his wonderful soul.
I'm so sorry to learn of Marshall Webb's death. Shelburne Farms has been a magic place for my daughter and me for decades, a place where we walk, talk and connect. It's a glorious tribute to the foresight and caring of the Webb family. How wonderful it would be if every person who has enjoyed the Farm would do something today, and something more tomorrow, and something every day, to support the cause of saving the environment!
Though I have spent very little time personally withMarshall, it brought me to tears to hear of his passing. Somehow I knew that I was in the presence of a human being who recognized the value of life. He was the first one to introduce me to Shelburne Farms even though my cousin Megan Webb I’ve been going there since since her college days. He will certainly be missed and appreciated.
Driving onto the Farms the end of last week to wind the 1715 clock at the Inn, knowing Marshall was not here, was very sad for me. Marshall taught me all about the early Breeding Barns. He spoke about the 1957 fire at the former Shepherd’s Cottage where Veterinary Miller’s 1891 horse hospital had been located. At age 9 his father took him to this fire site the morning after. He spent time with me and his “vault of wood” which he had collected from the time of the 1998 ice storm. He shared every aspect of today’s Breeding Barn which gave me the basis I used during the tours I had the pleasure of doing. All of this was passed to me with his big smile. A few weeks ago while at the Breeding Barn I had left my keys at home and I borrowed his keys. These were classic because he carried them in his pocket daily for years. They were so worn you had to know the trick to make them work. I will miss him very much.
As a researcher at Rich Earth Institute in Brattleboro, I invited Marshall to serve as an advisor for a USDA funded grant project under their "novel approaches in sustainable agriculture" program which involved using biochar and human urine for farm applications. He accepted right away and offered his insights and suggestions, answering many questions for me as we worked on that grant application. We got that grant, and then I asked him for a letter of support for another even more "novel" grant application. Again he responded at once with a letter exuberantly explaining why this type of research is important. Although I hadn't met him in person, I appreciated his enthusiasm, warmth, support, and attitude of curiosity and openness to new ideas. His death is such a loss to so many, as I am learning today by reading all these comments. We at Rich Earth are grateful for the brief interaction we had, and will surely carry his inspiration with us going forward.
Tragic, and so saddening! Marshall was a friend, colleague and one of energetic members of an incredible family. I got to know him well during my days at UVM, 1981-89, when I was responsible for the use of Southern Acres Farm and subsequently some and on Shelburne Farms. I got to know Marshall and Alex and all the others very well when I was involved in the group that put together the revision of Shelburne Farms, and especially the renovation of the Inn. In addition, Marshall's interest in biochar and environmental innovations was constant and infective to all who were around him!
I share the loss of Marshall with his family and send them my thoughts and prayers.
Leonard S Bull
It's been a couple of weeks since I learned of Marshall's passing. It's still hard to find the words to express all he meant to me, and my gratitude for all he brought to the world. From 2001-13, Marshall was a phenomenal co-worker, mentor and visionary leader. It felt like we were also kindred spirits, which is a gift I think he shared with many others, no matter how brief their encounter. We seemed to share an irrepressible drive to "make the world the way the world is made", as Edith Cobb writes in the Ecology of Childhood. That's a bit of a pretzel for one's mind. But it means, for instance, that it made total and perfect sense that our summer camp program use composting toilets as soon as remotely feasible. Why not start with a 5 gallon bucket? Marshall was the guy who volunteered to regularly pick up this vessel of "deposits" and transport it in the back of his truck to a main sewer cover in front of the Farm Barn. I joined him for moral support, having made my own deposits in the project. You might ask - weren't there more important projects (and perfectly good working flush toilets to use)? No and not ideal - because we really wanted to be in relationship to the place, at a level of belonging that even meant that one's own waste belonged and was to be celebrated here. Other times we simply egged each other on from the sanctuary of his tower office in the Farm Barn. Marshall always with a glint in his eye. Could we fell a tree with kids? Absolutely. Could we get a tour of the solar panels? Of course! He also had bigger fish to fry: like how to get compost toilets into the plan for the Residential Learning Center at the old dairy barn on southern acres. On that count he followed through for school and summer programs with three beautiful compost toilet installations made by Yestermorrow, each in a key location around the property. We also installed a biochar kitchen in one of them.
But in between the grandiose and dirty jobs, he was also just as decent and generous a person as I know. He many times accepted an invitation to hang out with 10-12 year old campers who were staying overnight on the property and regale them with stories. He taught them roof ball at the Coach Barn. How to play stick ball at the old farm dump, now the stick ball field. And how to appreciate character wood and the humming life of a well-traveled and well-loved forest. In 2014 I left SF to work for the Renaissance School in the Farm Barn. Marshall remained a perfect ally and "agent in the field" - opening up trees for tapping that these year-round students could monitor separately than the public program. In later years he helped me document the learning classroom structures on the property to use at other organizations. Some ideas came to fruition and others didn't. It was always about the striving. In 2019 I invited Marshall for a visit to North Country School in Lake Placid NY where I was living and working. We bonded over a vision for a school program that combined the latest science on drawing down carbon - "Project Drawdown" - with the latest science for behavioral change and positive cultural evolution - "Prosocial". And of course to see the human urine compost program in development. We missed each other on subsequent visits to Shelburne Farms (the pandemic of course slowing things down). But one such visitor was a public high school senior from Lake Placid who wanted to see our "Drawdown School" come to life, and who fell instantly in love with the vision and feel of Shelburne Farms. Less than 12 months later she pitched a proposal to the board of a large land-based foundation in her hometown to create their own version. The board said yes.
Marshall renounced his life as a prince in my book when he and his siblings asked for the non-profit to inherit the Farm instead of themselves. In doing so, they have created a cultural inheritance system for us all. I can think of no greater tribute to Marshall's life than to keep on making and striving and passing it on.
Your kind waves and stewardship will be remembered Marshall. The farm has long been a place of fond memories for myself and my children, and we thank you. God bless and bright travels my friend.
Truly a great soul.
Shelburne Farms was my second home; my children both attended the Renaissance School, I ran there daily, and only have beautiful, special memories of the farm. Marshall's smile and kindness will always be remembered. I too was shocked when I heard of his passing; way too young! My heart aches for his family and all that know him. May he rest in peace. Thank you to Shelburne Farms, Marshall and all the beauty you provide for so many.
Such generosity of spirit and without pretense. While doing my thesis on agrarian heritage and education, I had the profound luck to interview him and glean from his passion for place, the unique realm of conservation, of man and landscape. He was such a gift.
In 1972 fellow gardeners and I brought bushels of vegetables to the Farm's Canning Center that Marshall started in the Farm Barn. It was an amazingly joyous and productive day that my friends and I will never forget. Just one of his creative ways of building community and demonstrating by his actions what can be accopmlished. His heart and mind touched so many.
He was the Harvest Moon over Shelburne Farm.
The culture of Shelburne Farms is so clearly reflective of the kindness, thoughtfulness, and passion of its founders. Marshall is a man with whom I knew well but few words passed. We shared common experiences: summer mornings before the crowds at the Farmyard, brief walks on wooded paths, and entire days of haying the most picturesque fields in the world. In my thirty years connected to Shelburne Farms, if I ever heard footsteps on the trails, a voice in the woods, or gravel crunching in the Breeding Barn, my presumption (and it was often right) was it must be Marshall. His legacy is towering and lives in Shelburne Farms, an institution whose mission is all the more globally important today, but his presence is missed.
In 1979 I began playing at Shelburne Farms with the Vermont Symphony. My children, ages 5 and 10, played in the inn dressing rooms and in the library. Later, when the inn was opened we loved staying there overnight. We always considered Shelburne Farms our 2nd home. When my daughter began making Stuck in Vermont videos for 7 Days, she always enjoyed interviewing Marshall and others who were part of the Farms. Shelburne Farms is an amazing creation. We've also been to many classes there. But when we simply want to enjoy the lake and the woods, we come to Shelburne Farms to relax and be part of it. Thanks to Marshall and to everyone else who is responsible for this grand adventure!
I am still trying to process Marshall’s passing, two weeks after the fact. The evening of the 11th over the lake was truly beautiful; I agree that it was Earth’s way of acknowledging Marshall’s passing. He left this world the way he should have and is laid to rest overseeing the land and the water he loved. While I did not know Marshall well personally, I was always struck by his gentleness, kindly manner and lack of pretention. He and his Shelburne Farms family enabled our son and daughter-in-law to be married there during the pandemic; my wife and I will be forever grateful to this gesture of grace and compassion, attributes which I know Marshall embodied.
After reading these tributes, I will think of Marshall's spirit as I enjoy the land that he curated with grace and commitment. Thank you Marshall.
I was so shocked to hear about Marshall. It is a huge loss for the Shelburne Farms community and family. It,s hard for me to imagine the farm without him. He was such a huge part of everything that makes Shelburne Farms what it is today. He will be more than missed. His memory will live on for years to come.
For me I feel blessed to have known him. The ten years that I spent working and playing with him on the farm will always be a part of me. From camping at Lake Lila, to water skiing at sunset, and stick ball of course, to building trails all winter, and working together to keep the Inn ship shape, and so much more. So many memory’s. He will always have a place in my heart.
I moved to the USA from Canada on 4th of July 1976, which was a memorable day for many people. But most memorable for me was being welcomed by Marshall Webb. He was a quiet man but his smile and laughter said more than words. He was authentic, clever and the type of person who made others feel at ease. I move into the small house on the water on Shelburne farm where he and Emily spent winters and they moved to the "Big House" in the summer time. I met him and talked with him many times during my six month stay on the farm and will never forget his charm, generosity and smile.He4 was abrilliant, energetic man who truly lived in the way.he beleived as a conservationist and a sustainable farmer and woodsman. We are was saddened to hear of his passing. The world needs more Marsall Webs and he will be missed by many who will try to follow his example.