Saratoga County

Saratoga PLAN eyes Pitney Farm

A nonprofit land trust plans to buy the highly visible Pitney Farm on Saratoga’s West Side and turn
A farm off West Avenue in Saratoga Springs has been sold to a developer Thursday, March 26, 2015.
A farm off West Avenue in Saratoga Springs has been sold to a developer Thursday, March 26, 2015.

A nonprofit land trust plans to buy the highly visible Pitney Farm on Saratoga’s West Side and turn it into a “community farm,” officials announced Thursday.

Saratoga PLAN has reached an agreement with the Pitney family to purchase the 166-acre farm on West Avenue, one of the last active farms in the city, for $1.75 million.

Its barns and a 120-acre cornfield lie just off busy West Avenue, providing an open view to the west. It is close to the YMCA, Saratoga Springs High School and Saratoga Spa State Park.

The acquisition will preserve the land permanently as open space, something the city’s open space plans have recommended since the 1990s.

“This has been an extreme priority for many, many years,” said Mayor Joanne Yepsen.

The plan is to turn the farm into a permanent site for the Saratoga Farmers’ Market and also a training place for new farmers — a combination that may be unique in the country.

“There are parts of our vision all over the U.S.,” said Michael Kilpatrick, a Granville vegetable grower who first approached the family with the idea about five years ago.

The land has been appraised at $2.42 million, though the Pitneys are expected to take only $1.75 million.

The city will be asked to pay for development rights to the land — worth roughly $1.2 million — from its open space fund. Saratoga PLAN would then purchase the deed at about 25 percent of the total value, or about $600,000.

Yepsen said there’s about $1.2 million available under a 2002 city open space bond issue. She said she supports the purchase, though it will need City Council approval.

“I love the idea of the ‘country in the city.’ It will be as popular as ‘The City in the Country,’ ” Yepsen said, referring to one of the city’s identifying slogans.

Saratoga PLAN said it will seek loans and grants. It also needs money for transaction costs and a stewardship fund to take care of the land.

“We haven’t completed all the calculations, but it will be a big capital campaign,” said Saratoga PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka.

The purchase is expected to close in the fall.

The Pitney family has wanted the land, which has been in the family 150 years, to remain agricultural and has rejected a number of offers from developers.

“If this effort is successful, it will ensure that the farm that has been in our family since the late 1800s will continue to be a vital agricultural resource for the city of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County,” said family spokeswoman Kathy Pitney.

The land has been used for growing vegetables for the former Pitney Hotel on Grand Avenue, the Pitney’s Meadow Dairy Farm and a horse boarding operation. Bill Pitney, Kathy’s brother, said it was the site of an airplane landing strip before the Saratoga County Airport was established after World War II. It is currently being leased to a local egg operation for growing feed corn.

Trabka said the location could serve the regional agricultural industry with a year-round farmers market site, agricultural training farm, distribution center and processing/training kitchen.

“The site lends itself to all kinds of agricultural pursuits and community activities,” Trabka said.

The 166 acres includes the farmhouse and barns, 120 acres of open field between West Avenue and Geyser Brook and 36 acres of woodland on the west side of the CP Rail railroad tracks, north of the Grande Industrial Park.

Kilpatrick and vegetable farmer Sandy Arnold of Argyle, both of whom sell at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, said the market needs a permanent winter home, and there’s a general need for facilities to train a new generation of farmers.

“In the next 15 years, the number of farmers will plunge by a quarter with farmers retiring. We need to train new farmers,” Kilpatrick said.

Saratoga Institute, a nonprofit organization that nurtures startup nonprofits, will serve as the umbrella organization for developing plans for the land.

“Over the next year, we will be gathering input through a facilitated process to bring out ideas and construct a feasible plan of action,” said Barbara Glaser, founder and a board member of the Saratoga Institute.

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