The City Council on Tuesday officially approved spending $1.2 million to permanently preserve the 166-acre Pitney Farm for agricultural uses.
The money is coming from the city’s open space fund, and is a critical part of the $3.1 million needed to purchase and preserve the property on West Avenue.
The organizers of the Pitney Meadows Community Farm plan to close on the property in mid-December and start the process of turning it into a large, community-supported farm and agricultural resource center, with trails for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.
Pitney Meadows now has $2.2 million of its $3.1 million funding goal. The team behind the project plans to raise an additional $300,000 to complete the purchase, plus $600,000 for first-phase improvements to the property and a stewardship fund.
City officials have wanted to preserve the property for agriculture or open space since the 1990s.
“Now the hard work really begins,” said Mayor Joanne Yepsen.
The property has been in the Pitney family since 1862. The city resolution allows the farm to be used for “agricultural, forestry, wildlife habitat, water resource protection, educational and other open space purposes.”
Pitney Meadows President Sandy Arnold said the land could be incorporated into the city’s planned Greenbelt Trail, perhaps using an abandoned railroad right-of-way that crosses the property.
The farm will also be made available to Saratoga Springs High School for use by its cross-country running and skiing teams.
People who donate at least $2,500 by Dec. 31 will be named “Founding Patrons,” with their names listed on a plaque on the silo. They will also be invited to a free annual founders’ event.
The project has received broad public support and has the continued support of the land preservation group Saratoga PLAN, which was initially involved but last spring dropped out of the project.
“Most importantly, the Pitney Farm will continue to feed us and secure a local supply of food,” wrote Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN, and Jaclyn Hakes, chairwoman of the organization’s board of directors. “Farmland is becoming a scarcer commodity at the same time that New York State farms are able to supply only enough food for 30 percent of the state’s population. The use of this land for agriculture will only increase in value over time.”
The plan is for Pitney Meadows to offer educational programs and inter-generational community engagement opportunities, including a community garden, a children’s garden, a year-round farmers’ hub, a farm apprenticeship program and a commercial kitchen.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.