Many have been waiting a long time to ensure preservation of Pitney Farm in Saratoga. After plans fell through for Saratoga PLAN to purchase the property last spring, a new group has stepped forward and bought the farm.
The Pitney Meadows Community Farm (PMCF) group, a nonprofit, has signed a contract of sale with the Pitney family and is looking at a December 15th closing date.
Saratoga Springs City Council has contributed $1.13 million towards the purchase; this money came from the Open Space Bond Fund. Now, PMCF has $2.2 million towards their $3.1 million goal. The group is aiming to raise an additional $300,000 to complete the purchase, plus $600,000 for the beginning of the improvements to the property and a required stewardship fund.
The City Council has also placed a conservation easement on the farm – what this easement means is that the landowners and the government have agreed to limit the uses on this land in order to protect it for conservation reasons.
PMCF was started by former Granville farmer Michael Kilpatrick and Pleasant Valley Farm owners Sandy Arnold and Paul Arnold to protect the land and prevent commercial development.
Pitney Farm has been owned by the Pitney family since 1862.
The conservation easement for the farm has been worded as such: to be preserved for “agriculture, forestry, wildlife habitat, water resource protection, educational, and other open space purposes,” according to the Times Union.
PMCF is planning on having a nature trail, community gardens, a year-round farmers’ hub, a farm apprenticeship program, and a commercial kitchen. The group is also working to make the property an extension of Saratoga’s Greenbelt Trail, by either securing an abandoned railroad right of way that crosses the property, or by establishing another route.
Education will also be a huge component of Pitney Farm. Specifically, the group hopes to have a teaching and training program not unlike the one at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown; Stone Barns is an incredible four-season agriculture and education center.
“We think that this could be an amazing resource for students from first grade through high school,” Matt Kopans, Director of Community Outreach and Development of the Waldorf School of Saratoga Springs, told WAMC. “We try to focus on experimental learning in our communities, and this becomes like a whole new classroom for many of our students.”
In addition to the Waldorf School, Saratoga Springs High School will also benefit from Pitney Farm – the property will be made available for students for their cross-country running and skiing teams.
While many individuals and organizations within Saratoga responded favorably to the securing of Pitney Farm, there were some reservations about the decision to bar recreational fields on the property.
Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco pointed out that space for available fields in Saratoga is dwindling significantly. According to WAMC, Scirocco supports the easement and has faith in the PMCF, but was unhappy with the approval process.
“We are making decisions that impact all future generations with a week for review,” Scirocco told WAMC. “That’s not transparent or good government, it’s a rush job.”
Mayor Joanne Yepsen acknowledged Scirocco’s concern, but countered with the fact that negotiations on the farm have been in the works for two years.
With the farm purchased and the conservation easement in place, PMCF can forge on with their plans to educate young people, preserve open space, and to basically utilize the property to the best of its abilities.
“Now the hard work really begins,” Yepsen told the Times Union.