Obituary: Virginia M. Farley, 1955-2022 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Virginia M. Farley, 1955-2022 

Conservationist will be remembered for the legacy of farms, fields, streams and rivers that she protected all over Vermont

Virginia Farley - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Virginia Farley
Virginia M. Farley passed away on Thursday, February 24, 2022, in Berlin, Vt., at the age of 66. Virginia, or “V,” was born on September 8, 1955, in New York, N.Y. She was one of four daughters of Thomas Farley and Virginia Kane. Virginia spent many of her childhood summers living and working on a family farm in County Mayo, Ireland, an experience that shaped her philosophy of life and land, and influenced her field of study. In 1978 she received a BS in natural resource conservation from the University of Rhode Island and, in 1981, a master of studies in environmental law and policy from Vermont Law School, where she met her former husband, John "Jack" Byrne. Virginia had an immeasurable empathy for the planet and its natural wonders, so she pursued a career in land conservation and climate change efforts.

After serving on various planning commissions around New England and as a policy analyst, writer and editor for the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Virginia began her 20-year career with the Vermont Land Trust as the regional director. Through passion, determination and innovation, she helped conserve a vast amount of Vermont lands, rivers and streams still protected to this day. In the early 2000s, Virginia took her conservation influence one step further by embarking on a career with the National Park Service Conservation Study Institute as its leadership program director, a position she held for nearly 20 years. Additionally, she taught courses at the University of Vermont and Vermont Law School as an adjunct faculty member and consulted with nonprofit conservation organizations in her free time. She conducted workshops, courses and seminars on reflective conservation leadership, climate change, land conservation and sense of place. She also served as a board member on the Vermont Natural Resources Council for several years and completed the Donella Meadows Leadership Fellows program. During her time as a fellow, she developed a theory of change for conservation action and applied this theory to help foster emotional intelligence in dealing with climate change.

When Virginia wasn’t trying to save the planet and its natural resources, she could be found in the woods, hiking, cross-country skiing, kayaking or throwing down on the dance floor. She was a thread that wove many kindred spirits together, connected by a love for the land. Described by friends as feisty, sharp, playful, loving, motivated, insightful, artistic, innovative and persistent, Virginia always looked for unique ways to solve difficult problems.

She is survived by her daughter, Hilary Byrne; Hilary’s father, John Byrne; her two sisters, Connie Whittall and Cecelia Cummings; her nieces, Rean, Katie, Liz and Caleigh; and a ton of fierce friends. Virginia will always be remembered for the beautiful legacy of farms and fields and streams and rivers that she protected all over the state of Vermont.

Please look for information regarding a celebration of life in the form of “a party with dancing,” per Virginia’s wish, sometime in the spring. In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Vermont Land Trust in Virginia’s name.

Arrangements are in the care of Guare & Sons Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at guareandsons.com.
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