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Saratoga Springs land trust drops out of Pitney project

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Saratoga Springs land trust drops out of Pitney project

A plan to convert Saratoga Springs’ Pitney Farm into a community farm remains in place even after no
Saratoga Springs land trust drops out of Pitney project
Pitney Farm in Saratoga Springs on West Avenue shown on Monday afternoon, April 25, 2016.
Photographer: Erica Miller

A plan to convert Saratoga Springs’ Pitney Farm into a community farm remains in place even after nonprofit land trust Saratoga PLAN on Monday announced it was withdrawing from the project.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the city still intends to move forward with a $1.2 million conservation easement to purchase the development rights on the farm, protecting it against future construction.

And a group of farmers that originally approached the Pitney family with the community farm idea plans to create a new nonprofit that would lead the effort to ultimately purchase the farm and create a place for farm education programs, test plots, a farmers’ market and more.

“We fully intend to finish the job,” said Sandy Arnold, of Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle. Arnold, along with Michael Kilpatrick of Kilpatrick Family Farm in Middle Granville, originally approached the Pitney family about trying to create the community farm a few years ago.

Saratoga PLAN later joined the project with the aim of raising money to purchase the farm from the Pitneys. The nonprofit raised more than $1.5 million for the project, according to a statement posted to its website Monday.

Kathy Pitney said she and her family still hoped to see the farm preserved and used for community and educational purposes. She said the end goal would be to sell the property to a nonprofit that could carry out that mission.

“Our original vision has not changed. … ” Pitney said. “We feel that we have good partners to work toward our vision.”

That vision — which has been touted under the name Community Farms at Pitney Meadows — would include a year-round site for a farmers’ market and farm store; a teaching and training farm, where people could learn how to be profitable farmers and create test plots; opportunities to lease small parcels; and biking and hiking trails, Arnold said.

The 166-acre farm 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.

Arnold said she was optimistic that donors who had originally given money to PLAN for the project would be willing to repurpose their contributions to a new nonprofit set up to move ahead with the community farm. She said the group would likely have more details about that nonprofit in May.

But PLAN organized the fundraising effort and donations were made to that organization. The PLAN statement said donors could “help cover the costs incurred to date, repurpose their gift for other important conservation initiatives … or request a refund of their donation.”

PLAN Executive Director Maria Trabka didn’t respond to a message Monday evening.

The negotiations between the Pitneys and PLAN fell through over the specifics of the conservation easement. Pitney and Yepsen didn’t comment on what specifically the points of contention were, but PLAN’s statement suggests it had to do with long-term protection of the property.

“The partners were unable to find a balance between permanent land protection and adequate flexibility for future farmers with which all parties felt comfortable,” according to the statement.

Yepsen said the overall vision of the community farm remained in place and that the city continued to work on the specifics of the conservation easement. She said a revised proposal would soon go before the open space committee and ultimately the city council.

“The important piece is that this land will be conserved by Saratoga Springs for farmers to come and train from maybe all over the world,” Yepsen said.

PLAN also expressed hope that the community farm would ultimately come to fruition and said it “remains eager to provide resources and services to ensure that this land remains a working farm.”

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected] or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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